Ross Hunter on Doris Day - from her book — Doris Day Her Own Story
When I produced Pillow Talk, I had a hell of a time getting it done, and then I had a hell of a time getting anyone to book it. For Doris, it was an enormous departure from the kind of films she’d been doing for a dozen years. A sophisticated sex comedy. Doris hadn’t a clue as to her potential as a sex image and no one realized that under all those dirndls lurked one of the wildest asses in Hollywood.
I came right out and told her. “You are sexy, Doris, and it’s about time you dealt with it.”
"Oh, Ross, cut it out, I’m just the old-fashioned, peanut-butter girl next door, and you know it."
"Now, listen, if you allow me to get Jean Louis to do your clothes, I mean a really sensational wardrobe that will show off that wild fanny of yours, and get some wonderful makeup on you, and chic you up and get a great hairdo that lifts you, why, every secretary and every house-wife will say, ‘Look at that — look what Doris has done to herself. Maybe I can do the same thing.’ "
I felt it was essential for Doris to change her image if she was going to survive as a top star. She had been the girl next door for too many years, with her freckles and blousy dresses, nondescript hairdo, down-to-earth personality, but what had happened in her decade of stardom was that moviegoing women had become more sophisticated and had invaded Doris’ world, so now it was necessary for Doris to step up a few rungs to lead them into a much more sophisticated and sexier playground. The barometer of all this was to be found in Doris’ box office, which had suddenly fallen off.
Once Doris decided to make the movie, she characteristically threw herself into it. And so did Rock Hudson, who also began with misgivings about making this kind of picture. But the real convincing was needed after the picture was made.
No one wanted to book it. It was a period when everybody was doing war pictures, Westerns, or never-never spectaculars. The big movie chains all sadly told me, after seeing the picture, that sophisticated comedies like Pillow Talk went out with William Powell. They also said that Doris and Rock were things of the past who had been overtaken by the newer stars. Well, my theory is that there’s no such thing as a dated actor, and I knew very well that the performances in that picture were as up-to-the-minute as anything then being shown on the screen. In fact, ahead of the minute.
Finally, after weeks and weeks of turndowns everywhere, I induced Sol Schwartz, who owned the Palace Theatre on Broadway, to book the picture for a two-week run. That’s all it needed. The public found it was starved for romantic comedy and all those theater owners who had turned me down now had to close their deals on my terms. It was a bonanza for Doris and me — critically, and in the bank, where bonanzas count the most.