I unashamedly admit it…I love Doris Day! I love her voice and her bubbly personality in films such as PILLOW TALK. It’s shocking to think that something like this was once considered sophisticated humor, but the pairing of Doris and Rock Hudson led to a string of successful sex comedies that lasted for years.
Doris stars as interior decorator Jan Morrow while Hudson is Broadway songwriter Brad Allen. The two share a party phone line much to the dismay of Jan since Brad is always on the phone seducing countless women with the same song. Producer Tony Randall, Brad’s employer, wants to marry Jan. Once Brad meets Jan, he changes his name and accent to that of a visiting Texan who is much more charming than “Brad” seems to be. Complications arise but it’s all harmless and everything works out in the end. Today, the film plays out like an extended stale sitcom, but the chemistry between Doris and Rocky still sparkles, ably supported by old pros like Randall and Thelma Ritter. Frank DeVol’s lighthearted score perfectly complements the sometimes witty banter.
For better or worse, DeVol’s music is a prime example of Mickey-Mousing in comedic scoring. There’s nothing particularly subtle about it, especially now after decades of TV sitcom scoring, much of it scored by DeVol himself (including classics like Family Affair, My Three Sons and The Brady Bunch). But perhaps it seemed fresher back then. Then again, maybe not. Still, DeVol scores the picture with a deft, sure hand that today’s comedy film composers would do wise to emulate.
DeVol had arranged for Doris before and he knows just how to score the music so that her voice is showcased to its best effect. In addition to the popular title song (written by Buddy Pepper and Inez James), DeVol weaves in melodies from various songs sung throughout the film, including the appropriately smarmy “Inspiration” for each of Brad’s conquests (changing the name of the female for each girl), as well as songs by Joe Lubin and I.J. Roth—“I Need No Atmosphere,” “You Lied,” “Possess Me”–and the camp classic “Roly-Poly,” by Elsa Doran and Sol Lake.
The score is pleasant and tuneful, but its Oscar nomination still makes me do a double take. No matter how cleverly scored, the music is just not in the same league as the other four nominees–BEN-HUR (Miklos Rozsa, the winner), THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK (Alfred Newman), THE NUN’S STORY (Franz Waxman) and ON THE BEACH (Ernest Gold). And that doesn’t even take into account the omission of Bernard Herrmann’s NORTH BY NORTHWEST from the ten finalists! The nomination no doubt came from the popularity of the film and the title song’s hit status on the singles chart.
Back in 1996, before expanded editions of scores were the norm, Bear Family Records of Germany released the soundtrack in a beautifully packaged 2-CD set with loads of extras, which included a 12” x 12”, 60-page color booklet with the entire Oscar-winning script (yes, you read that right–Oscar-WINNING script!). Surprisingly, it’s still in print. PILLOW TALK, the film and the score, may not be high art, but it’s light, pleasant, harmless fun.