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Saturday, 10 December 2011

Sealing the deal (Lover Come Back)

The world of advertising can be a fiercely competitive one. It was so fifty years ago, and it continues to be even that today. And like always, and in every field, there are those who pocket the pie honestly, through hard work and diligence. But most often than not, as Delbert Mann shows in Lover Come Back, the 'drones' win them all through manipulation, back-scratching and underhand means. Sometimes their ways and antics ensure they come up trumps and land up with all the accounts, thus leaving the 'workers' gasp and mull over what went wrong with their straight strategy. Well, if you are competing against the veteran Jerry Webster, you might as well twiddle your thumb and keep mulling over. This ad executive is too fast for anybody. Lies, depravity or deceit, this man knows how to pacify clients like it's nobody's business. And Carol Templeton will soon realise that she is indeed dealing with a tough, albeit contorted, nut.

Even though Pillow Talk is the most well known of the Doris Day-Rock Hudson-Tony Randall romantic comedies, I have a soft spot for Lover Come Back, simply because it packs it a lot more punch than the 1959 film. This 1961 romance set against the cut-throat world of advertising professionals is clever, well-drafted and fast paced. It's got some awesome one-liners that are rib-tickling yet true, it is sexist but in a subtle way and obviously shows that not everything in the advertising world is done scrupulously. But instead of harping on the dishonesty of ad executives to land up million dollar deals, it casts a light air on the phenomenon and extracts laughter from the audience. When Jerry Webster (Rock Hudson) manipulates a situation to his advantage to gull J Paxton Miller (Jack Oakie), it is but obvious that he is being a calculative monster. But then what does he do if the old Miller drinks like a fish, is fascinated by gorgeous bunnies and loves a 'Roman orgy' in his hotel suite. Carol Templeton (Doris Day) may have been burning the midnight oil to grab the deal, but she is too slow for Webster's standards. This guy is not the 'common cold' for no good reason. His manoeuvrings and methods may draw flak but they are bang on when it comes to hitting the nail on the head. The ad world is mercenary and competitive and Webster sure has some 'fine' tricks up his sleeves.
Lover Come Back and Pillow Talk share a theme. The lead lady is duped by the leading man time and again ad before she knows it, she is head-over-heels in love with him. He feigns a fake identity before her because he knows that the moment she learns who he really is, she would run or curse him to the teeth. So, he puts up a charade of being someone who he is absolutely not and impresses her with his false personality of Dr Linus Tyler (originally played by Jack Kruschen. This guy is a loony). Result: The lady finds this disguise a charming one. She compares this man to the man who she so hates and melts at the sight of him. But just when it is time for some mellow moments, the lady is shaken from her stupor by a foreign agent and she promises revenge. But love balks in the way, the manipulative playboy (in the case of Pillow Talk) or the conniving ad professional (in Lover Come Back) is a changed soul and will do anything to win back the lady's love. They unite and we go home happy. With Doris Day's jaunty songs (the title track here and Should I surrender) ringing in our heads.
The script here is fabulous (I still do not comprehend why the film didn't do as well as the previous one). Apart from the romantic angle (which of course is slightly connived), the situations are very funny and apt to highlight what goes on in ad offices. Head long battles to win deals, filming footage for saturation campaigns, softening clients by 'loading' them with pretty girls and snatching good kickers from opponents. Mann has it all set in here. His Jerry Webster is the wild ad executive who'd rather seal the deal with his wild ways than word too hard unnecessarily. He is too worldly wise and has learned the game through experience. And when push comes to shove, he can even invent products when the advertisement for it is a success with buyers. Well that's when VIP is born.
On the other hand, Carol, the rookie, thinks that honesty and integrity are the only means to achieving success. She is diligent, bright and talented. But she is yet to learn the real ropes.But oh how I love the power game between Jerry Webster and Carol Templeton. Both drive each other up the wall and both gibe each other hell. It's funny and extremely engaging. Sexual innuendos and puns are all in place here. The omnipresent two elderlies harp on the raunchy lifestyle of Webster, tagging him a thorough winner amongst ladies, something they can never be. And when he does not even shave, they say, "When does he get the time to!" Hilarious.
Yes, the film is filled with the sex jokes but in a subtle way. Like when Rebel Davis (Edie Adams) goes to testify before the ad council against Jerry Webster, she tries to motivate the council by showing off her 'trophies". Outrageous lines and dialogues follow. Bawdy sometimes, but quite rib-tickling!!
And then there's Peter Ramsey (Tony Randall) who grudges his wealth. Being analysed by a shrink, he grumbles because he is fortunate for having born rich. Raised by a martinet father, his self esteem and confidence has hit rock bottom and you should see what he does to gain them back. Please watch him closely. His antics are too funny to be spoken of. I loved Tony Randall here. He is in command of his act and is the comedian with panache. Wish we had more such films with this deadly trio. They make 90 minutes swish by so fast!
Doris Day is glamorous, sensible, cute, funny and lovely in Lover Come Back. Even when she is in a huff due to anger, she looks radiant. Her blue eyes sparkle and her button nose perks up. She is such a sweet sensation in those stylish costumes. I must admit that she had an awesome flair for comedy. A gorgeous performer I tell you. And so good opposite the dishy Hudson.
Yes, dishy, very dishy. Good enough to serve on a plate. Even with a beard he is gorgeous. And when he pummels at us with those deadly one-liners that daft at our heart, you know this is one mean man who can wreak havoc on your senses, surely and steadily...


  1. You are right. This film packs a punch. And a deadly one --- Rock Hudson --- at that. Frame after frame it's a one man show. His eyes whisper, his sinews talk and his frame hulks over everyone. Add to that the subtle humour that permeates every shot, and there you get a quintessential Hollywood romcom of the Fifties.
    An afterthought: Would Rock Hudson been a smoldering 007? He was at the peak of his acting prowess in the early Sixties and he was of an Irish-English descent. Hmm?

  2. @Netdhaba: Yes, yes, very yes. HE would have burned the screen. Why didn't the casting directors consult us?!?!? :(

  3. Perhaps one reason they didn't consider Rock Hudson as a 007 was because, though he was of Irish-english descent, he did have a very pronounced American accent - maybe they didn't think he'd be able to pull it off. But oh, just the mere thought of Hudson as Bond is enough to make me go weak at the knees! :-D

    I like Lover Come Back more than Pillow Talk, too - much more fun.

  4. @Dustedoff: I bet Madhu!! Oh God, I've been watching some of his films made in the mid-50s and you can imagine how my insides (read heart and soul) are churning!!! In the words of Jan Morrow, "What a marvellous looking man!"

  5. I watched this recently, and found it very entertaining. :-)
    Rock Hudson's simple/innocent man act was so funny. The expression in his eyes was hilarious.
    Thanks for recommending it.