Send Me No Flowers (1964)

Directed by Norman Jewison

Synopsis

George Kimball (Rock Hudson), a hypochondriac, lives with his wife Judy (Doris Day) in the suburbs. Judy learns from the milkman that their neighbors, the Bullards, are getting a divorce, and shares the news with George.

Over lunch, George is appalled as a bachelor acquaintance, Winston Burr (Hal March), gleefully describes how he contacts women who are getting divorced and pretends to console them, hoping to seduce them while they are vulnerable.

George visits his doctor after experiencing chest pains. He overhears his doctor, Ralph Morrissey (Edward Andrews), discussing a patient who has just a few weeks to live. George assumes that Morrissey is talking about him and is distraught. On the train home he tells his friend, Arnold Nash (Tony Randall), that he will die soon. He has decided not to tell Judy, knowing it will upset her. Arnold solemnly assures George that he will deliver the eulogy at his funeral.

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Edward Andrews

That night, George dreams about Judy marrying Vito, an irresponsible young deliveryman more interested in her inheritance than love. He visits a funeral home operated by Mr. Akins (Paul Lynde) to buy a burial plot. He decides to find Judy a new husband and asks Arnold to help him.

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On a golf outing, Judy’s golf cart malfunctions and she is saved by her old college beau Bert Power (Clint Walker), now a Texas oil baron. George agrees with Arnold that Bert would be great husband for Judy. During an evening out, George forces Judy to dance and talk with Bert. When George runs into the newly divorced Linda Bullard (Patricia Barry), who is there with Winston, he takes her to the coat room and warns her about Winston’s intentions. She thanks him and kisses him in gratitude. When Judy sees them, she storms out, thinking that he is pushing her to spend time with Bert so that he can have an affair with Linda. George then tells Judy that he is dying.

Upset, Judy insists that George use a wheelchair. But when she sees Dr. Morrissey and he tells her that George is fine, she thinks George is lying to wriggle out of the consequences of his affair. She rolls him out of the house and locks him out, announcing her intention to divorce him. George spends the night at Arnold’s house, during which time George’s various demands and idiosyncrasies cause Arnold to strike, one by one, many of the complimentary remarks about George he had planned on making in his eulogy.

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The next day Judy leaves to buy a train ticket. George follows her to the train station and insists that he really is dying and tells her he has bought a burial plot. Thinking this is another lie, she goes home to get her bags. But when Mr. Akins delivers the burial contracts, she realizes that George was sincere all the time and forgives him.

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Oh Boy! Smooth!”

Author: Michael Coy (michael.coy@virgin.net) from London, England
12 February 2000

Another self-opinionated reviewer bites the dust. Having blithely pronounced “Lover Come Back” to be the best of the three Day-Hudson comedies without even having seen this one, I now willingly eat crow and and say I was wrong. “Send Me No Flowers” is the best. “It’s a honey!”

This is a wonderful suburban world of lawns and yards, bridge games and country clubs, commuter trains and divorce rumours. George Kimball (Rock) is a malade imaginaire, and Judy (Doris)is … well, blonde. Tony Randall is at his considerable best as the nerdy neighbour Arnold who gets entangled in the Kimballs’ misunderstandings, with delicious comic consequences. Paul Lynde turns in a marvellous cameo as Mister Akins of the funeral parlour, and the annoyingly perfect Bert Power is played with breezy confidence by Clint Walker, TV’s Cheyenne (the incidental music gives him a witty little cowboy theme).

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“My hypochondria has finally paid off,” announces George after hearing (and misconstruing) his doctor’s talk of impending mortality. Arnold prepares a eulogy which mentions George’s ‘unfailing good humour’, a phrase which could stand as the movie’s subtitle. Hudson is masterly as the doom-laden George, showing how assured he can be when the material is strong. This well-crafted script is derived from a Broadway play, and its quality shines through. Doris wears a very prominent wig and, in true Doris style, keeps her bra on under her negligee.

Made in 1962 when television had clearly won the battle against the cinema, the film uses TV’s ascendancy in a very knowing way in the opening gag.

Verdict – Near-faultless domestic comedy with great work by Hudson, Day, Randall and Lynde.

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Critical response

The film was the last comedy for Doris Day and Rock Hudson and received mixed reviews. In his review in the New York Times, Bosley Crowther called it “a beautiful farce situation” and added, “Julius Epstein has written it . . . with nimble inventiveness and style. And Norman Jewison has directed so that it stays within bounds of good taste, is never cruel or insensitive, and makes something good of every gag.”

Variety felt “[it] doesn’t carry the same voltage, either in laughs or originality, as Doris Day and Rock Hudson’s two previous entries.”

Time Out London calls it “probably the best of the Doris Day/Rock Hudson vehicles . . . nicely set in a pastel-coloured suburban dreamworld, but the ineradicable blandness gets you down in the end.”

Channel 4 says, “it would be churlish to complain that it is a little bland, fairly predictable and has an unsurprising happy ending. There’s enough humour in the ensuing misunderstandings and enough skill in the playing and direction to stifle not just criticism but even the odd yawn.”

Classic Comedy

20 August 2001 | by Mary (HolmeInPhilly) (Philadelphia, PA) – See all my reviews

I stumbled across this movie one morning. I don’t usually like comedies from this era, but I really liked this one. It is very cute and funny and just perfect. The three are a great team and Tony Randall is especially funny. I recommend it to all.

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Rock Hudson scores as a hypochondriac…

Author: Neil Doyle from U.S.A.
20 July 2003

Rock Hudson is in his element here–a situation comedy that’s got some clever lines built around the theme that he’s a hypochondriac who mistakenly believes he has only a few weeks to live–and wants to put certain issues in order believing that his wife needs another man as soon as he’s gone. The “other man” that he and Tony Randall choose turns out to be Clint Walker, his wife’s old flame from school days.

With the help of a fairly amusing script and some well played bits by Paul Lynde (as a dedicated undertaker) and Edward Andrews (as a doctor who thinks the specialists get all the breaks), Rock Hudson makes the most of his central role and actually gives the most polished comic performance of his career. Tony Randall does well as his gin-guzzling neighbor who promises to deliver a eulogy for him. And Doris Day (despite wearing what looks to be the worst looking wig since Barbara Stanwyck’s blonde hairdo in “Double Indemnity”) uses her own comic flair with style–but personally, I’ve enjoyed her much more in her other roles with Hudson, especially “Pillow Talk”. The focus here is on Hudson and he makes the most of a well-written comic role.

Since one of the writers on the script is Julius J. Epstein, it’s no wonder that there’s a fresh, smooth-flowing flavor to the proceedings. Not the kind of film you should go out of your way to catch, but it passes the time pleasantly. Epstein worked on some great scripts ranging from “The Strawberry Blonde” to “Light in the Piazza” and his deft writing style is evident here.

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