Posted on 6/18/13 10:06 PM
It's Okay to Rape Her If You're Hot
I remember really liking this movie when I was a kid. I strongly suspect this is because I didn't understand the implications. Also, I didn't remember how it ended, because even if you're too young to know what rape is, they go out of their way to explain kidnapping to you, when you're a child, and the idea that the cop wouldn't do anything for a woman being carried through the street in her pajamas saying she was being kidnapped is a pretty unpleasant one. I didn't much like Rock Hudson's character through most of the movie, but the idea that Doris Day would just swoon and forgive everything because he referred to marriage (yeah, spoiler, but who cares?) makes everything so much worse. I don't necessarily want her to end up with Tony Randall, but then, unlike essentially every other character in the movie, I don't have a problem with it if she wants to live alone.
Brad Allen (Hudson) and Jan Morrow (Day) share a party line. The phone company is working at increasing the number of individual lines offered, but not fast enough, and they're stuck with the party line after all. Brad uses it the whole time, talking to one woman after another--much to the amusement of Jan's maid, Alma (Thelma Ritter). Jan, a successful interior decorator, would very much like her own phone, but no dice. She's being pursued by client Jonathan Forbes (Randall), who also happens to be the friend and patron of Brad, who is a songwriter. Brad finally gets a look at Jan for the first time and decides that he's going to go after her, but he's smart enough to know that she hates him and has no interest in having anything to do with him. So, you know, he lies to her and claims to be a visiting oilman from Texas. She falls for him, just as he has planned, but Jonathan hires private detectives to get everything they can on the "oilman" who's wooing the woman he loves so that he can win her himself.
We're supposed to be laughing at the setup Brad has so that he can convert his apartment with the flick of a couple of switches into the ultimate seduction den, but the thing I found worrisome was that one of the things that switch does is lock the front door. A charitable interpretation would be that it's to keep people out, but how determined does he think people will be to get in? The whole thing is worrisome. It's one thing when it's the myriad women who are there willingly; I don't like that he's lying to them, but that's a lesser point. However, whichever side the lock is concerning, it leaves me with an uneasy feeling. (After all, most people knock and wait to be let in unless they think there's an emergency on the other side.) I don't think they even considered the possibility that women are being told to avoid the kind of man who would, well, turn off all the lights, play seductive music, and lock the door--and that it's her fault if she doesn't, not his for being that kind of person.
I have no doubt, too, that everyone expects Jan to quit her job as soon as she gets married--including her boss, Pierot (Marcel Dalio), who acknowledges that she's better at her job than he is. Everyone speaks disparagingly of the idea of a woman's being self-sufficient. There's always something missing. Alma drinks, not because she's an alcoholic, but because she has too much time and needs a man to take care of. The fact that Jan hates how much time Brad spends on the phone with women is obviously because she doesn't have a man of her own, not because he's an inconsiderate git. Come to that, the only man we see in her life is Jonathan, and she's not interested in her. She's repressed, not independent, and there's got to be a middle ground. However, the movie doesn't see one. Every independent woman is missing something. She can either be a prude or else live vicariously through other people. Or, there is a certain implication, both.
This movie was released at a time when most of the major successes were epics, Westerns, and musicals. Lighthearted romantic comedies weren't very common, and the studios thought they were on their way out. No one wanted to see William Powell and Myrna Loy anymore, right? But the nice, reassuring thing about Myrna Loy is the knowledge that she would have punched Brad. She wouldn't have stood for the nonsense he pulls on her, and when she does, she seems wrong, somehow. But Doris Day was considerably more inclined to put up with crap than Doris Day was. This all gets into cultural attitudes toward women. By the time Doris Day was a big movie star, women weren't supposed to want to be independent anymore. They were supposed to be looking for a marriage wherein they would be submissive to their husband, not the kind of partnership we used to see between William Powell and Myrna Loy. Rock Hudson is considered to be within his rights to force Doris Day to go to his apartment, and that wasn't seen as a problem at a time where there was no such thing as marital rape.