Sunday, July 17, 2016

Send Me No Flowers

I recently had the chance to watch Send Me No Flowers off of my DVR. It's available on a pretty low-cost DVD if you want to watch it yourself, so I have no qualms about doing a full-length post even though I don't think it's coming up on TV any time soon.

Rock Hudson plays George Kimball, happily married to Judy (Doris Day), and living the upper-middle-class suburban life of the early 1960s: they live in a big house; he commutes to work; she's a housewife and plays at the bridge club and country club, all the while gossiping with the other women about what's going on in their neighborhood. George, for his part, is a hypochondriac, as we see at the beginning since he takes a whole bunch of pills and worries about his health.

This idyllic life is about to come to a screeching halt. George, once again fearing that he's sick, decides to go see his doctor, Dr. Morrissey (Edward Andrews). Morrissey examines George and tells George that he's just fine. George, while he's putting his clothes back on after the examination, overhears Morrissey talking with his secretary. George hears Morrissey saying that a patient has a bad ticker and is therefore terminally ill, only having months to live. This still being the 1960s, however, it's best not to tell the patient. (See The Firemen's Ball.) George, unsurprisingly, assumes that what he's overheard is about him.

The first thing he does it tell his best friend and next-door neighbor Arnold (Tony Randall) that he's going to die. And then he has to come up with a plan for putting his affairs in order. Most importantly, this means making sure that Judy is going to be OK after he dies. There's not just the matter of finances -- after all, how is a housewife going to keep up the payments on that big house -- but the idea that she's going to need a new husband. But must importantly, George doesn't want Judy to know that he is, in fact, dying.

Arnold reacts to all of this by turning to the bottle; Judy doesn't get why her husband is acting like even more of a headcase than before. When Judy's old college flame Bert (Clint Walker) shows up at the country club and George seems more than happy for her to spend time with him, she doesn't get it. Until she sees George talking with another woman from the neighborhood who's getting a divorce. Obviously, George has been cheating on her! So now George has to tell her the truth about the fact that he's dying, only of course Judy finds out that it's not the truth.

All of this is supposed to be a comedy, mind you. But to be honest, I found all of it much too wacky. Rock Hudson is just too irritating as the hypochondriac; I wanted Judy or Arnold to smack the crap out of him. Doris Day is too perky; also, the script calls her to stop on a dime and do a 180 in her feelings toward her husband on multiple occasions. Those sudden changes of emotion are implausible and make Judy come across as almost mentally unstable. Tony Randall overplays the drunk and makes his character unappealing.

The one thing I did enjoy about Send Me No Flowers was the cinematography; I've always been a sucker for the set design that's actually of that time period (as opposed to latter-day stuff trying to be retro, which always looks phony). One thing I particularly liked were the brick-red appliances in Arnold's kitchen, the refrigerator and the oven built into the wall. But that's pretty thin gruel for actually watching a whole movie like this.

Still, there are a lot of people who really seem to like Send Me No Flowers. So I think this is definitely one where you'll want to watch and judge for yourself.

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