Sep. 12, 2007
Lover Come Back (1961)
Grade: 58/100

Director: Delbert Mann
Stars: Rock Hudson, Doris Day, Tony Randall

What it's about. Rock Hudson and Doris Day work at competing advertising firms on Madison Avenue. Each is a day-to-day manager, but not the boss. Hudson and Day have different strategies to win accounts. Day believes in designing a superior ad campaign. Hudson believes in conning clients, and "entertaining" them with wine and women. Hudson's strategy is predictably more successful, which makes Day furious.

She is determined to win the next big account for grabs, even if it means competing with Hudson on his own terms. A new mysterious product, VIP, is the subject of a heavy advertising campaign. Day tries to land the account, even though no one knows what the product is. She begins to date whom she believes to be the owner and inventor of VIP, Dr. Linus Tyler, unaware that he is being impersonated by VIP's true originator, Rock Hudson. The guileful Hudson continues to make a fool of Day throughout the film, practically to the point where she surrenders her most sacrosanct possession, her virginity.

A ridiculous series of scenes close the film, and ensure its conformity to the Hollywood Production Code. These hurt the movie slightly, but the first hour is often both clever and amusing.

Tony Randall has a supporting role as Hudson's sissy and easily manipulated employer. Other familiar faces from sitcoms of the era include Ann B. Davis, Joe Flynn, Jack Albertson, and Donna Douglas. Edie Adams has early scenes as Hudson's useful and ambitious bimbo.

How others will see it. Lover Come Back falls into the "dated" category, meaning that no contemporary film viewer can take Day's character (not to mention her singing style) seriously. The corporate jungle is about winning, and not fighting fair.

The same goes for dating. Day adores the project of turning (what she believes to be) the reticent and innocent Hudson into her notion of the Perfect Man, a polite and well-trained tall, dark, and dreamy social escort who suddenly turns into a bedroom tiger when the lights are out. Today's jaded audience will no longer accept well mannered lovers, in public or in private. Be yourself, even if it means releasing your inner Ugly American.

Nonetheless, the cynic will cherish the character played by Hudson, a con artist so capable that he completely snows Doris Day right out of her job. If only the movie was allowed to complete its theme, which means Randall and Hudson celebrating another triumph while Day fumes her way back to Omaha, Nebraska, where its small-time market ensures the would-be sharks are only minnows. Alas, instead we get redemption for Day, and weddings and pregnancies so dubious they could only happen on a movie screen.