Approved. This is the one that is far more acceptable than the other Rock Hudson / Doris Day movies I've been writing about lately. Golly, I'll go as far as to say that this movie is wholesome. There's a lot of alcoholism jokes and there's a bit of morbid humor throughout. Similarly, while there aren't any actual affairs, the jokes often revolve around someone potentially having an affair. Still, genuinely approved.
DIRECTOR: Norman Jewison
See, this is the movie I was looking for. I thought that I would have to write off the whole box set. After Lover Come Back simply duplicated Pillow Talk, I had such criminally low expectations for this movie. Instead, I ended up having a really good time. I will go as far as to say that there's really nothing wrong with this movie. But when there's nothing really wrong with a movie, it makes it really hard to gripe about in any meaningful way, which leaves the future of this blog entry a mystery.
I don't know what flipped in me that required a movie to be so darned wholesome. I suppose it is just the acknowledgement that poor behavior should be somehow punished. Maybe I'm wired to old time rules of unity in theater. I have expectations that probably mirror Aristotle's. But there is something extremely encouraging and wonderful about seeing Rock Hudson and Doris Day married at the beginning of a film. Instead of seeing two people treat each other poorly for the vast majority of a film, starting of the film in defense of marriage is a welcome change. With the films about bachelors acting badly, there aren't exactly stakes to the narrative. Really, the stakes fall upon the audience, who want to leave a movie feeling happy knowing that these two will live happily ever after. But by placing these two characters in a healthy and loving marriage, we now have something to lose. It is doubly more interesting because there really isn't a villain to the piece. The conflict exists in the dramatic irony of the situation.
I actually wanted to show my juniors this movie to teach about the role of dramatic irony. Because we know the situation that George has fundamentally misunderstood, we hold onto a little secret. Like many of Shakespeare's comedies, the film really has to balance what it can and can't do to keep the plates spinning in the air. Sometimes it gets a little thin with the hoops that the characters have to jump through to keep the charade going, but it never really feels belabored. Part of me thinks that it is because Send Me No Flowers is adapted from a stage play. There's something very tightly crafted about the whole thing. I won't say that it is high art. But I will say that the film rarely goes for the cheap laugh. Instead, there's a Rube Goldbergian element to the film that keeps the film super interesting. I actually expected there to be one more Jenga piece pulled out at the end with Judy's discovery of the family plot that George paid for. It's this great moment of revelation for her to realize that her husband is a real mensch, but I thought that the movie was going to take a darker turn when Judy would misunderstand that George was going to have her and her lover killed in a murder / suicide. Maybe if I made the film, I couldn't have gotten it approved.
Like I mentioned (and ideally, you might be reading this from the Collections page) I'm watching these movies from the Rock Hudson / Doris Day Comedy Collection. The funny thing is that Tony Randall doesn't really get his due, does he? As much as we're rooting for the protagonists, Rock Hudson and Doris Day, Tony Randall is always third billing in these movies and he kind of deserves a little bit of attention. I could have sworn that he was in something like I Dream of Jeannie with Paul Lynde or something, but I digress. It's so odd that these stories couldn't really exist without the Tony Randall archetype to make them actually pretty darned funny. I have to stress that Tony Randall keeps playing variations on the same character over-and-over. These are characters that don't really exist in the world. Basically, with these situation comedies, we need that character to make things worse and worse. They have to somehow earn the absolute trust of the protagonists, but offer the worst advice time and time again. These are the characters, even when they are being no-goodniks, garner our sympathies. Because as much as we love the comedic timing of Rock Hudson or Doris Day, Tony Randall is where it is at.
Send Me No Flowers is what I hoped the whole box set was going to be. I wanted this box set to be bubble gum wholesomeness. I wanted The Comedy of Errors where things were good until a fundamental element of the plot was misunderstood and then everything spiraled out of control. This is the movie I wanted and I'm glad that I now own it. It almost makes the whole box set worth it.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.