Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Doris Day in Pillow Talk

Actress/singer Doris Day received her only Best Actress nomination to date for playing Jan Marrow, an interior decorator falling for Rock Hudson in the comedy Pillow Talk. This nomination is very much debated on forums as Doris Day was nominated for her comedy performance, while Marilyn Monroe was snubbed for her work in Some Like It Hot. I think that it is not worth arguing about this as I think they were both nomination-worthy. I think Day was not favored to win, however I believe she received many votes for she was a huge star giving a great comedy performance.

Pillow Talk is a GENIOUS romantic comedy about... sex. I think it's very brave for it's time as it nearly openly discusses this subject which was considered immoral to talk about in movies. No wonder that the brilliant, hilarious and HYSTERICAL screenplay won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar (in fact, this is one of the most deserved wins in this category). The acting is top-class in Pillow Talk including the always amazing Rock Hudson giving a great comedy performance and the supporting cast: Tony Randall and Thelma Ritter are so insanely funny, I think both deserved to win a supporting Oscar (even though I did not use to appreciate Ritter in this).And yes, there's the always charming Doris Day who's simply excellent and almost pitch-perfect as a woman having "bedroom problems".

Comedy performances are extremely hard to judge. You have to turn off your snobism, but also your enthusiasm. They are easy to be loved, but easy to be disliked too. Actually, when comedy acting is great, it seems better than acting in a serious, heavy drama, let's just face it. So I remain very sober while reviewing Day, who left a huge impact on me with her acting.

I don't really know her work (besides this one), however I find her to be immensly talented and a magnificently shining personality (that's why she must have been very difficult to work with, I have a feeling). And this charm (and her sense of humor) always helps her a lot during the movie. She's a professional entertainer knowing exactly when and how to do things to make the audience laugh. She's always in charge of the character technically as her acting mostly technical and you can see how carefully worked on and excellently crafted her peformance realy is.

Her line-readings are quite simply hysterical and she's probably the only one of her generation who could deliver the silliest sentences this very funny way (e.g. "don't mind my mind"). When I saw her being that brilliant in this, Irene Dunne, Rosalind Russell and Jean Arthur came to my mind. Day (just like the previously mentioned ladies) kicks ass in these battle of sexes comedies. She's the cheeky, confident and yet charming girl living next door, who turns from the sour spinster to be a passionate woman.

Jan is a single woman and she says she likes it. We immediately know that naturally she doesn't, but Day never shows us the loneliness or isolation of her. She never lets her performance be serious, but she takes the comedy part of it more than seriously. Comedy is very hard to do as you need very much discipline and a skill of timing. Day's timing is more than wonderful: her lines blow up like fireworks and you just can't help bursting out in laughing.

Although she does not have the best jokes she gets the most out of her material. Her crying scene is the best part of her performance and it's really laugh-out-loud funny. Nobody (except for Jean Arthur) can cause as much laughter with crying as Doris Day. That sequence is nearly divine and should be taught at acting classes (I hope it is).

This performance is unfortunately not without it's flaw. Although it's great that she never lets drama get into the movie, she sometimes overdid the mannerisms of this spinster character. It does not help either that sometimes she's outdone by her brilliant co-stars. Although these are not serious problems, they ruin the whole picture a bit unfortunately.

Nevertheless, this was probably, not probably, definitely the most enjoyable nominated performance of the five, however it had some minor flaws which did not damage her overall achievement, only cooled my enthusiasm. It's no big deal however to declare that right now I've just scene one of the greatest comedy performances ever. Excellent job.
What do you think?


Louis Morgan said...

Well I'll predict

1.Katharine Hepburn
2.Audrey Hepburn
3.Simone Signoret
4.Doris Day
5.Elizabeth Taylor

joe burns said...

Same guess as Louis. I thought you would give her a five, but I guess not. Can you do 2002 next?

Celso said...

Wow, Doris in front of Liz?
I guess nobody saw it coming!
But it's a delightful surprise!

dinasztie said...

2002 is possible, but now I have to do a year which I can finish quickly. But after that it can be 2002.

St. Alban's Liberal Catholic Church said...

PILLOW TALK co-star Tony Randall said that Doris was a "brilliant" actress, the finest actress he had ever worked with. Jack Lemmon, who costarred with Doris in IT HAPPENED TO JANE, said the same thing. Richard Harris, who costarred with Doris in CAPRICE, said he learned more about comedy from her while they were filming than he could have learned in four years at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in Lonson.

Doris said, "Comedy is the most serious drama you'll ever see."

And if you want to see the other side of this incredibly talented lady, watch her in Alfred Hitchcock's "THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH." (1956) The Motion Picture Academy REALLY got it wrong by not even nominating Doris for her performance.