They sent a woman. That’s like sending a marshmallow to put out a bonfire.

Doris Day and Rock Hudson

Pillow Talk (1959)

Starring the inimitable Rock Hudson and the immaculately-coiffed Doris Day, ‘Pillow Talk’ has been a favorite of mine since the awkward teenage years… How I longed to be as effortlessly graceful as Jan Morrow, or as confident and charming as Brad Allen! The movie centers around Jan and Brad being forced to share a party line – such a foreign concept nowadays, but hear me out: Brad is a womanizing song-writer who monopolizes their shared telephone line, preventing interior decorator Jan from making or receiving any important calls. Whilst on the line, they bicker, banter, and eventually come to a compromise: the phone is his from the hour to the half-hour, and hers for the remainder of the time. However, once Brad sees what a knockout she is in real life, all bets are off!

Not to be forgotten is the powerful supporting cast of Tony Randall and Thelma Ritter. Tony plays Brad’s friend and financial backer Jonathan Forbes, who is hopelessly in love with Jan although she does not return the sentiment. He has a number of fantastically funny one-liners and plays against both Rock and Doris beautifully. In fact they worked so well together that all three of them went on to make two additional movies together: ‘Lover Come Back’ and ‘Send Me No Flowers’. The best scene is when he realizes he’s just inadvertently sent Brad and Jan off to his summer house in Connecticut together, when his original goal was to separate them:

Receptionist: She’s just gone to Connecticut for the weekend.
Jonathan (surprised): Connecticut?
Receptionist: There’s no phone number, but I have a forwarding address.
Jonathan (with realization and dread): 241 Stonybrook Road?
Receptionist: Why, yes sir!
Jonathan: And you let her go?
Receptionist: Well, uh… it wasn’t my place…
Jonathan: No, it’s my place. And I helped him pack!

Thelma Ritter is incomparable as Jan’s hard-drinking housekeeper who loves to listen in on Brad’s phone calls with his many female friends, and dish out advice to Jan and Brad alike. She can drink anyone under the table, and does so with great comedic effect. Here’s her exchange with Brad when he plies her with alcohol to try and get back on Jan’s good side:

Brad: Couldn’t we stop in and have a drink somewhere?
Alma: Oh no, I don’t usually, ah, um… well, I might have one just to be sociable.
Brad: Good! I know a nice little bar right down the street.
Alma: I know a better one.

Rock Hudson and Thelma Ritter

“I stayed with her through a bottle of scotch, but I lost her halfway through the vodka.”

With it’s light double entendres and playful split-screen flirtations, ‘Pillow Talk’ is nothing earth-shattering, but I love it anyways. The plot is relatively simple: they start out loathing each other, he pretends to be someone else to get close to her, she finds out, and then they fall in love anyway. Here, the only difference is that Jan gets a bit of her own back after learning of the deception, in the form of Brad’s hideously decorated apartment. It’s nice to see that she doesn’t just take it all lying down, and it’s also great fun to see Brad’s expression when he goes to the apartment for the first time.

I also like the fact that Jan is a hard-working career woman with a life of her own. In fact she even turns down Jonathan’s fancy gifts (a car!) and multiple offers of marriage in favor of holding out for true love – the 50s equivalent of “having it all”? And yes, there are some aspersions cast on Jan due to the stigma of being a single woman, but hell, that still exists today! And she’s so bright and bubbly that none of it really bothers her anyway.

[Hmm, now that I think about it, Brad was probably pretty rich as well – he did manage an extended stay at a hotel in downtown NYC just for the purposes of keeping up his ruse with Jan, after all!]

Although it’s not really a musical, there are still a few songs in the movie… They do break up the pace of the story a bit, but they’re tolerable because Doris Day had such a lovely voice. My favorite is Roly Poly, about a rather rotund Romeo – how can you not love that? Rock Hudson gets to hum a few bars as well, with his multiple renditions of “You Are My Inspiration” – in both English and French, no less! So much fun.

There’s also a very forward-looking doctor who refuses to rule out the possibility of male pregnancy when Brad mistakenly steps into a gynecologist’s office to hide from Jan – that always makes me laugh and strikes me as heartwarmingly open-minded for the time period 😀

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Bottom line, it’s light-hearted fare but thoroughly entertaining. The chemistry between Rock and Doris is certainly there, albeit not exactly sexual in nature – it’s more like you can see the genuine affection and appreciation the two had for each other, and that makes all the difference. If you liked this movie, check out Down With Love starring Ewan McGregor and Renee Zellweger. It’s a modern homage to this exact genre, complete with fabulous outfits, brightly colored sets, and zippy songs, right down to the neurotic, slightly effeminate best friend (David Hyde Pierce). It’s cute, but nothing will ever touch the original. Cheers!

Cocktail #1: Pillow Talk

From Imbibe Magazine, the soothing chamomile and dreamy, floral notes of the Creme Yvette make this drink the perfect nightcap. Just right for cuddling up by a roaring fire with someone who’s totally playing you 😛

  • 2 oz chamomile-infused pisco
  • 3/4 oz simple syrup
  • 3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 oz creme de violette

Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a coupe glass.

For the chamomile-infused pisco, the directions say to add 2 tbl dried chamomile to a 750-ml bottle of pisco, infuse overnight and strain into a clean bottle before using. I only did 1 tea bag in 6 oz of pisco, and left it for about 5 hours, swirling occasionally. I did a 6 oz batch of gin as well, and it began to develop a slightly bitter flavor after the same amount of time so I just took both tea bags out (although my assumption is that the pisco could have withstood a touch more steeping than the gin). Your mileage may vary – as with all infusions, make sure to taste at regular intervals.

Cocktail #2: Pink Petticoat

We recently had a delicious cocktail at Jose Andres’ barmini called the Cross Eyed Mary. It consisted of demerara rum, honey, lemon, absinthe, and a smooth, velvety passion fruit foam floating on top. The foam itself was a bit tart, yet mostly sweet, and provided a delicious balance to the alcohol lurking below. The fun part was trying to get a good bit of both the foam and the cocktail in each sip! Here’s a take on this concept with raspberry espuma (fancy-ass word for foam) atop white rum, simple syrup, lime, and Cointreau. Enjoy!

For the raspberry espuma, I used Ferran Adria’s recipe from iSi’s cookbook, The Trick with the Whip, but you can also approximate the recipe from a blog called The Winter Guest. You’ll need either gelatin sheets or plain old Knox gelatin powder. I got my sheets from Modernist Pantry and they’re the Silver Grade 160 Bloom kind; I wasn’t sure exactly how much I needed so I just used one sheet and it turned out fine. Next time I’m making a bigger batch though, this was only enough for about 2-3 cocktails.

1. Soak the gelatin sheet in cold water.

2. In a blender, combine the following ingredients and blend until pureed:

  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 oz Cointreau

3. Strain the mixture into a pot and discard seeds. Over medium heat, slowly bring the mixture to 140 degrees F and stir in the gelatin sheet (remove excess water from gelatin first). Mine dissolved pretty quickly but you might want to whisk quickly to make sure it’s all incorporated. Let cool and then transfer to iSi container. Charge with one cream charger, shake vigorously, and chill until needed.

For the alcohol base, I did a riff on the My Sharona cocktail from Serious Eats. Since my raspberry foam ended up a bit tart, I upped the sugar content in the drink and cut back on the acidity. You may want to adjust to your needs if your foam is sweeter.

Shake the following ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice:

  • 1 & 1/2 oz white rum
  • 3/4 oz simple syrup
  • 1/4 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 oz Cointreau

Strain into a coupe glass, top with a healthy dose of the raspberry espuma, and garnish with a fresh raspberry or two. Delicious! Not too sweet, the color is absolutely gorgeous (perfectly pink, just like Jan’s apartment), and the plump foamy topper reminds me of a soft pillowy cloud… just right for our subject material!

Bonus Cocktail! Honey Lamb

While searching for Doris Day-related libations, I came across another fun ‘cocktails + movies’ blog: Cinema Sips! The author has created a tasty and refreshing beverage in honor of Brad Allen Rex Stetson’s down home colloquialisms. For one serving, I used:

  • 1 oz grapefruit ginger honey syrup (get the recipe here – I cut everything in half except for the ginger because I’m a big ginger fan, and it made about 4 oz of syrup total)
  • 2 oz Absolut Ruby Red (in a teeny baby bottle because it takes me so long to get through “flavored” spirits… plus how adorable are miniature bottles? I should start a collection)
  • 4 oz Zevia grapefruit soda from Whole Foods (zero calorie and no weird aftertaste)

Build in a Collins glass, stir with ice, and garnish with grapefruit wedge.

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