Rock Hudson & Doris Day: Hollywood’s Golden CoupleJune 5, 2010 2 Comments
It was in 1959, when Hollywood’s hunkiest leading man of over 40 pictures, Rock Hudson was first paired by Universal Pictures with the wholesome girl-next-door, Doris Day.
Doris Day and Rock Hudson’s first movie together was ‘Pillow Talk‘. The making of the feature film enabled the two stars, who had barely met before, to really get to know each other. This was a dream come true for Rock as he had been a massive fan of Doris [or "Eunice" as he would call her] since her big-band days when he was serving in the Navy.
“It was evening, and we passed under the Golden Gate Bridge…its lights went on, and the voice of Doris Day began singing ‘Sentimental Journey’ over the loud-speakers. Well, that was the saddest bunch of sailors you ever saw. She had the whole ship in tears, including me. Fifteen years later, Doris and I worked together for the first time in Pillow Talk and by way of contrast, it was laughter all the way…” – Rock Hudson
‘Pillow Talk’ was originally titled ‘The Way The Wind Blows’ but producer Ross Hunter took the decision to rename it after he heard Doris Day’s catchy new song “Pillow Talk” which he believed had hit-making potential. The film also had all the ingredients of being a big crowd pleaser as it had a very entertaining storyline. It told the tale of two strangers who share the same phone [party] line. Confrontations follow with the two very opposite personalities falling out. Things quickly however change once Rock’s character discovers exactly who he is fueding with and more to the point how beautiful she is. The very colourful “will they, won’t they get together” moments keep audiences glued to their seats until the end of the fast paced romantic-comedy.
“Before we got under way, I had some apprehensions. I had never played comedy before, and here I was, thrown together with one of Hollywood’s most accomplished comediennes…but the best acting lesson came from Doris – her sense of timing, her instincts – I just kept my eyes open and copied her. I don’t really know what makes a movie team….I’d say, first of all, the two people have to truly like each other, as Doris and I did, for that shines through…” – Rock Hudson
The Hudson-Day on-screen magic enchanted critics and movie lovers alike ensuring ‘Pillow Talk’ the #1 spot at box-offices around the world. Doris Day was also nominated for her role in the picture as ‘Best Actress’ by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences but quite surprisingly the top award eluded her. The movie did however receive winning Oscars for ‘Best Story’ and ‘Best Screenplay’.
The runaway success of ‘Pillow Talk’ was also the saving grace of Doris Day’s film career as although her last two pictures had failed to attract audiences in their masses her reinvention as a strong, vibrant and sexy career women ensured Hollywood’s bright spotlight was again pointed in her direction. Doris Day was back at the top of her game and proclaimed as a #1 box office attraction. This multi-million dollar trend was something Doris remarkably was able to sustain for a further 5 years!
“This girl has never had an acting lesson in her life but she draws on a wellspring of emotion and experience that makes her one of the finest instinctive actresses in the world.” – Michael Gordon (Director of Pillow Talk)
Hollywood’s golden couple were re-united again in the smash 1961 movie ‘Lover Come Back‘ featuring yet another catchy title tune by Frank de Vol which beautifully complimented the movie’s playful Oscar nominated script and screenplay. Doris played yet another independent career woman whilst Rock caused mischief as another cad. The characters may have seemed familiar but the story was fresh. It revolved around two characters who worked for rival Madison Avenue advertising companies. A battle eventually began over a non-existent product and a whole lot of laughs followed.
The third and final Hudson-Day picture ‘Send Me No Flowers‘ boasted a title song penned by pop maestros Burt Bacharach and Hal David but it received a very luke-warm response on release. In this 1964 movie, Rock plays a hypochondriac who mistakenly thought he was on his death bed and so began the quest to find his wife the perfect replacement husband. The film’s downfall was its timing as it arrived at a time when American was experiencing a sexual revolution leaving slap-stick “sexless” comedies very much out in the cold.
Doris Day and Rock Hudson were never destined to re-unite again on the big screen but their years of working together had ensured a very firm friendship. The pair did on occasions though collaborate for television. In 1971, Doris took great pleasure in welcoming her pal on stage as a special guest for her CBS television musical extravaganza, ‘The Doris Mary Anne Kappelhoff Special’.
By the mid-1970s, Doris had decided for a multitude of reasons to depart Hollywood and move out to the picturesque surroundings of Carmel. She took a step back from her busy Hollywood career and turned her attention to animal welfare work. The prospect therefore of further Hudson-Day reunions were slim.
In 1985, Doris was finally enticed to return to American television when she was offered a new series for the Christian Broadcast Network titled ‘Doris Day’s Best Friends’. The show’s appeal for Doris was it would centre around animal welfare issues but also offer her an opportunity to call on many of her old Hollywood friends who would join her for a chat. Doris of course wasted no time in contacting dearest Rock who was invited to join her on the debut show and also the press conference launch.
Doris was not however prepared for what she was about to discover, as after years of not seeing Rock, he arrived looking physically ill and a mere shadow of his former self. Something was apparently very wrong and clear for everyone involved with the show to see.
Rock, whose real life had been masqueraded by his strong heterosexual roles on film was in fact a gay man who was now dying from an unfathomable new virus called AIDS.
“…She asked me if I would speak to him and move him to a guest cottage or property. She was gonna make chicken soup for the next 5 years if that’s what it took she’d do anything to nurse him back to health….” – Terry Melcher (Doris’s Son)
Rock Hudson’s last public appearance was ironically to be with Doris Day on her last ever mainstream show. They fondly reminisced of their many happy times shared – the good old days. “I miss those laughs we used to have” Doris exclaimed. “Oh me too” Rock replied.
Immediately after the show’s taping Rock headed for treatment. He boarded a plane for Paris in which he collapsed. Two months later to everyone’s dismay he passed away at the age of only 60. The episode with Rock was televised after Rock’s death accompanied by a tearjearking tribute from Doris:
“I had to have Rock Hudson as my first guest so I called him and he said “I’ll be there…you can count on me” & that was the truth! All his friends and there were so many could always count on him. He didn’t talk about his illness any time…I can only tell you my friends it was a heartbreaking time for me without my faith I would be a lot sadder than I am today. I know that life is eternal and that something good is gonna come from this experience. Anyway let’s think of him with laughter ‘cause he was so funny!” – Doris Day
‘Discovering Doris’ can not think of a nicer way to spend an evening than in the company of a Doris Day and Rock Hudson movie. These are movies which have retained their charm and universal appeal after decades. Enjoy!