Double Feature Showdown – Rock Hudson Vs. Cary Grant
In the 1960s, Doris Day made several movies that are often referred to as “sex comedies.” Relatively tame compared to what we see now, they were still very forthright in their discussion of sex and the single girl. There comes a point in each movie where Day’s character must decide if she is going to sleep with the male lead, and most of the story revolves around that decision. I’ve always found these movies interesting, because Day’s characters are usually thoughtful as well as pretty, and never shy away from discussing their own desires. Two of my favorite leading men, Rock Hudson (Lover Come Back) and Cary Grant (That Touch of Mink), go mano a mano with our fine lady, and in this episode of Double Feature Showdown, we will see not only which movie is better, but which leading man takes home the prize.
Lover Come Back (1961): The second of three Doris Day/Rock Hudson pairings, Lover Come Back is my favorite. Carol Templeton (Doris Day) is an up-and-coming ad executive who is eager to land a new customer, but is snaked out of the account by rival ad man Jerry Webster (Rock Hudson). Templeton has never met Webster, but is sick and tired of his using women, wine, and parties to entice clients to his firm. She decides to report him to the ad council, and Webster must scramble to convince dancer Rebel Davis (Edie Adams) not to testify against him. He creates a fake ad campaign for a product that does not exist (VIP) and casts Rebel as the “VIP Girl” to keep her quiet. Unfortunately, his inept boss Pete Ramsey (Tony Randall) releases the campaign to the public, and Webster quickly hires a scientist to create a product so the ad council does not discover his underhanded tactics. Meanwhile, Carol Templeton has discovered that Webster is representing this new product and becomes determined to win the account for her company. She approaches the man she thinks is the scientist in charge of the product, Dr. Linus Tyler—but who is, in fact, Jerry Templeton. In trying to land the account, she falls for Dr. Tyler’s simple charms, while Webster does his best to keep her in the dark regarding his identity. (And tries to get her into bed.)
I like this movie a lot (although there is one really good reason why I shouldn’t, but we’ll get to that in a minute.) Doris Day’s roles in the early sixties are really interesting, and this one is no exception. She’s a career woman who is not a prude, although no one can accuse her of being “easy.” She is good at her job, willing to aggressively pursue new clients, and is not afraid to make the first move with a man she is in love with. She’s got it going on. And Rock Hudson, while somewhat wooden in more serious roles, is charming and relaxed here. And very, very creepy. Trying to get someone to sleep with you while you are pretending to be someone else is icky, and if you succeed, can be considered rape. But—and I’m sure this is a huge shocker—he does not succeed. (Although I’m not going to tell you what actually does happen. Watch the movie.)
That Touch of Mink (1962): Unemployed Cathy Timberlake (Doris Day) is on her way to pick up her unemployment check, when she is splashed with mud by the car of wealthy businessman Philip Shayne (Cary Grant). He does not stop to apologize, and when given the opportunity to confront him by Shane’s assistant Roger (Gig Young), she jumps at the chance. Turns out, Philip Shayne is just dreamy and the two end up spending the day together, flying from meeting to meeting across the country. At the end of the day, Shayne asks Cathy if she would like to go to Bermuda with him, and then Europe. She mistakes this for a marriage proposal, which Shane quickly corrects; his intentions are purely nefarious (in a good-natured, honest sort of way). She doesn’t think she is that kind of girl, but when push comes to shove, she accepts his offer and travels to Bermuda with him. It is clear to both parties involved,that sex is on the table, and when evening comes, she comes down with a hysterically induced rash and their trip is cut short. Cathy is completely embarrassed, and the rest of the film deals with her efforts to figure out what she really wants and what the best way to get it might be.
This is a more sedate movie than Lover Come Back, with fewer sexual innuendo and double entendres, but still a lot of fun. Cathy Timberlake is a fairly conventional heroine, but she has plenty of sass and an awesome roommate/best friend played by Audrey Meadows. She’s not really successful career-wise, and is fairly traditional with her “wait until marriage” attitude, but she is willing to question herself to discover if she really wants this. (She does.) Philip Shayne is great because he is forthright about what he wants, and is good-looking, smart, and interesting. Also, you know, Cary Grant is just funny and charming with perfect comedy timing. (I’m getting daydreamy just thinking about him.) It’s hard to go wrong with these two leads. Also very funny is Gig Young as Philip’s assistant, who feels he has compromised his integrity by making so much money, and thus works very hard to undermine Philip whenever he can.
The Victor: Deciding between these two films was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I prefer the Doris Day character from Lover Come Back, because I feel like she is the more interesting woman making more complex decisions, but Cary Grant easily wins out over Rock Hudson for best hero. Not just because he is Cary Grant—I also ADORE Rock Hudson—but because his character is not a creepy creeper. I liked Philip Shayne’s honesty, his understanding that his offer to Cathy might not be up her alley, and his willingness to let her make that decision for herself, make him the superior man. Both movies have amazingly funny supporting characters (it would be wrong to choose between Tony Randall and Gig Young) and an engaging honesty about sex. But, in the end, I enjoyed Lover Come Back a little more. That Touch of Mink is a great movie, but Lover Come Back is a lot more fun. Yes, Jerry Webster is despicable, but I can recognize that and still love this movie. I wouldn’t want to date him, but I sure enjoy watching Rock Hudson play the hell out of him. Both movies are a lot of fun and perfect for watching on a Sunday morning.
Availability: That Touch of Mink is currently out of print on DVD, but is available at Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and Scarecrow Video. Lover Come Back is in print and available at Netflix, Amazon, and Scarecrow, as well.