Play It Again – Lover Come Back

Play It Again Lover Come Back. Starring Doris Day, Rock Hudson, and Tony Randall. Directed by Delbert Mann. Rated G. By Jess Lomas.

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Play It Again is a weekly feature in which our classic-film connoisseurs revisit a revered motion picture from the annals of movie history, to see if it holds up… or if it has aged terribly. And yes, it takes its name from a famously misquoted Casablanca line (hey, whatever; it fits!). 

Before Don Draper made the yesteryear world of advertising popular in the hit television show Mad Men, Doris Day and Rock Hudson lifted the lid on sex and sexism in the boardroom with their 1961 comedy Lover Come Back. Directed by Delbert Mann (That Touch of Mink), the film was a welcome re-teaming of crowd favourites Day and Hudson. Screenwriter Stanley Shapiro, responsible for the duo’s previous hit Pillow Talk, returned with his signature wit, joined by television writer Paul Henning. Together they created an intelligent, uproarious battle of the sexes; albeit one that doesn’t stray too far beyond the lines of 1960’s decency: Day remains the perpetual virgin until she has that ring on her finger and the marriage certificate to prove it.

Set in the bustling metropolis of New York City, Carol Templeton (Day) and Jerry Webster (Hudson) work for rival advertising firms and loathe one another without having ever met. Webster prefers to wine and dine his potential clients, sealing the deal late at night with liquor and scantily clad dancers; Carol prefers honest and hard work, believing she will win clients with good ideas. Their paths cross when a mishap, courtesy of Webster’s boss Peter Ramsey (Tony Randall), leads to the invention of a fake product: VIP. Carol will do anything to win the account, including seducing the man she believes to be the inventor of the product, who turns out to be Webster taking her along for a ride.

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Of course, it wouldn’t be a Doris Day-Rock Hudson movie if love didn’t begin to blossom and while the romance is entirely predictable, it is no less enjoyable. The script is surprisingly sharp and despite several instances of hilariously outdated dialogue and ideas, it’s easy to get swept up in the charm of these comedy legends.

Day is delightful in her outlandish outfits, though it is Hudson, playing dual roles as the mischievous Webster and the wallflower scientist Dr. Tyler, who steals the show. Lover Come Back is a breezy comedy that is tame by today’s standards but still a delight to revisit.

4/5

Lover Come Back is available on DVD. It can also be streamed instantly on Quickflix PLAY.

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