Hudson and Day's Sex and the City, '50s-style.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that 1959's Pillow Talk is a romantic comedy that reflects its period's attitudes toward women, sexuality, and what was perceived as funny. Popular, even iconic, this film is packed with sexual innuendo and coy double meanings. While there is no overt sexual activity, other than some passionate kissing and a young man feebly trying to force his attention on the leading lady, the story is about relationships -- both those that are purely sexual and those that are romantic. More decades-old values onscreen: a featured player with a chronic hangover is seen as humorous, as are several scenes in which characters get very, very drunk; women are referred to as "girls"; homosexuality and obesity are mocked; there's no ethnic diversity; characters smoke; and the glamorous wardrobe includes lots of fur.
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What's the Story?
Strong cocktails, lots of dating and sex talk, and a single woman living in the city: No, it's not Sex and the City. It's PILLOW TALK. Jan Morrow (Doris Day) is a smashingly dressed single career woman in New York City desperate for her own phone line. As it is, she must share her line, which she uses for work, with suave lothario Brad Allen (Rock Hudson), who sings the same song to every woman who calls him cooing at every hour. (Today's teens, contantly glued to their individual cell phones, may have a hard time imagining a time when unrelated people had to share a "party" line.) By the time Brad sees Jan, out on a grudging date with a pushy, amorous 21-year-old man, she already hates him. But Brad is determined to have Jan as a conquest, too. So he comes up with an alter-ego -- the sweet-tempered oil magnate, Rex Stetson -- and suddenly finds he has more than a simple conquest on his mind. After falling for her, will he be able to right his wrongs, say goodbye to his throngs of ladies, and convince Jan that she's the only woman for him?
Is It Any Good?
From a distance of decades, Pillow Talk is smart and funny with its send-up of modern masculine norms. And Rock Hudson gets the best of this film. Not only does he get to play two totally different characters, but he's clearly having fun. And the viewer does, too, as he plays mind games with Jan, both as Brad and as Rex.
But there's no getting around the underlying sexism of the film -- that all Jan needs is some sex to make her not care anymore about her stupid business and phone time. Still, Doris Day's charm, superb comic timing, chaste sex appeal, and dazzling costumes shine through, and kids will find Pillow Talk and its absurd situations entertaining.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how films of this ear are fun but depict prejudice against different groups. Do you ignore the racism, sexism, and fat-phobia of the film and only look at the comic storyline?
How much do you know about the '50s? What has changed? How have romantic comedies changed?
Have you seen other Doris Day movies? Do you find them fun even though the attitudes in them are dated?
- In theaters: October 7, 1959
- On DVD or streaming: April 6, 2004
- Cast: Doris Day, Rock Hudson, Tony Randall
- Director: Michael Gordon
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 103 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: April 23, 2022
Our Editors Recommend
The Philadelphia Story
'40s screwball romance still charms; lots of drinking.
Bringing Up Baby
Classic screwball comedy with loads of tame laughs.
It Happened One Night
Still one of the best screwball comedies.
For kids who love romance and comedy
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