Lover Come Back

Lover Come BackSynopsis: All is fair in love and advertising.

Rock Hudson and Doris Day are together again! Jerry Webster (Hudson) and Carol Templeton (Day) are rival Madison Avenue advertising executives who each dislike each other’s methods. After he steals a client out from under her cute little nose, revenge prompts her to infiltrate his secret “VIP” campaign in order to persuade the mystery product’s scientist to switch to her firm. Trouble is, the product is phony and the “scientist” is Jerry, who uses all his intelligence and charm to steal her heart in this outrageous comedy of mistaken identity, co-starring the ever-delightful Tony Randall.

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Lover Come Back 4.25

eyelights: Ann B. Davis. the recurring visiting businessmen gags.
eyesores: the over-the-top performances. the contrived plot. the trite dialogues. the many reheated elements from ‘Pillow Talk’.

“I told you sex would get you in nothing but trouble.”

‘Lover Come Back’  is a 1961 rom-com starring Doris Day, Rock Hudson and Tony Randall. It was co-written by Stanley Shapiro, one of the writers of ‘Pillow Talk‘, who also co-produced it with ‘Pillow Talk’ producer Martin Melcher. Clearly, they were trying to recreate the same magic.

But it didn’t work.

Although ‘Lover Come Back’ shares with ‘Pillow Talk’ its stars, a writer, a producer and a large number of plot points, it’s merely a poor carbon copy of the original. Whereas ‘Pillow Talk’ felt fresh and vibrant, this one is convoluted and sags beneath its many contrivances.

It doesn’t help that the stars are trying too hard to be funny. What made ‘Pillow Talk’ work was that they mostly served up naturalistic performances (with some notable exceptions). Here, Day does a bunch of googly eyes, Hudson plasters on a fake smile, and both hyperbole ceaselessly.

Only Tony Randall gets away with his performance, but strictly because the material is so trite that one is too stunned to pay attention to his lapses: all the one-liners and gags from the original film are essentially given a minor facelift and ported over to this one. They’re unmistakable.

It’s a wonder that ‘Pillow Talk’s other writers didn’t sue Shapiro.

The story this time revolves around two ad execs who work for competing agencies. Carol Templeton (Day) is the straight one, with the most reputable work ethic, but she loses a crucial client to Jerry Webster (Hudson), who takes shortcuts to success: by partying with his clients.

Naturally a rivalry begins and they try to outdo one another – with Templeton even lodging a complaint about Webster’s misconduct with the Ad Council. However, one day she mistakes him for the inventor of a much-sought after new product – one that she is trying to woo into her camp.

So Webster plays the part and takes advantage of her and her firm’s generosity. In the process, they spend a lot of time together and, lo and behold, they fall in love. But how can Jerry reveal Carol the truth without jeopardizing their nascent romance? Just how far is he willing to go?

What’s infuriating about this film is that the stories that Jerry tells Carol are so obviously invented off the cuff and full of crap that there’s no way anyone would believe them – especially not a sharp, business-savvy person like her. But she falls for every single line.

Everyone in this film is an idiot, really, aside for Jerry: Carol can’t seem to see through his outrageous lies, the ad council is easily manipulated by him, as are the girls he dates, as is Randall’s Pete Ramsey – his rich numbskull boss. Jerry is merely the sharpest pencil of the lot.

Which doesn’t mean that he’s not dull.

The best character of the bunch is Millie, Carol’s assistant, in this small cameo by Ann B. Davis (of ‘The Brady Bunch’ fame). Because, yes, Carol had to have a side-kick in this one too. In any case, she’s firm, sharp and witty, commanding the screen each of the few times that she’s on.

The only other noteworthy aspect of the picture was this recurring gag where two businessmen keep running into Jerry, are blown away by his many successes and comment on it to one another. It’s not particular clever or funny, but it was amusing to have this peanut gallery.

Beyond that, there’s not much to recommend ‘Lover Come Back’. It’s not a musical, which is a huge plus in my book (even though ‘Pillow Talk’s handful of songs fit in snuggly), but it does have two songs, including a blatant rip-off of ‘Pillow Talk’s “Possess Me”, in “Should I Surrender”.

‘Lover Come Back’ is exactly the kind of Hollywood rom-com tripe that I loathe. It’s not the genre that I hate (I have as much a romantic side as the next person, maybe more), it’s just that Hollywood turns it into cheese. Processed. In slices. And that stuff is utterly indigestible in most contexts.

If I had seen this film first instead of ‘Pillow Talk’ I would never have bothered to see the others – it is precisely what I was expecting when I sat down to see its predecessor. Thankfully, Day, Hudson and Randall would cleanse our palates by returning in the supremely superior ‘Send Me No Flowers’ in 1964.

Date of viewing: December 8, 2014

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