TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Movie "Pillow Talk"

Movie "Pillow Talk"
13 Mar 2006 12:16:55 -0800

TCM cable showed the film "Pillow Talk" the other night. It's a
romantic comedy from 1959 with Rock Hudson and Doris Day. Because of
high demand, Hudson and Day are forced to share a party line. Hudson
is a playboy with the women and Day is mad she can't use her phone
since he's always talking to girls on it, plus she doesn't like his
playboy lifestyle.

The normally excellent TCM moderator said not to ask why those two
couldn't afford private telephone lines. He missed the point, stated
early in the movie, that the telephone company was short on capacity
and there was a waiting list for private lines.

During the 1950s this was a problem in many parts of the country.
There was considerable new construction of homes which required new
exchanges and many people who once had party lines now wanted private
lines. Further, people who never had a phone before now could afford
one and that added to demand.

I'm curious as to how many romances developed over sharing a party
line. I suppose here and there a few may have happened. But in all
the telephone lore I've heard, however, it seemed people only
complained about the other party sharing their line--that they tied it
up too much or listened in. One person told his father had his
employer tell the phoneco he was a critical worker on call (somewhat
true) to get a private line and get out of the nuisance.

As to the movie, and other similar movies of that time frame, I must
admit I didn't care for it. The movie was full of extremely subtle
sex references which were never stated. Rather, the accompanying
music made sounds to indicate it was something naughty. (I can't
describe the sounds, but it was something like a snicker or one person
elbowing another discretely, kind of from a sax or clarionet.) What
bothered me was the big pretense the actors made (like Doris Day)
about being absolutely prim and proper and never ever doing anything
that would be "embarassing" or improper, or even looking or suggesting
impropriety. Then there'd be a "wink wink" by the guys. I guess the
overt hyprocracy--suggesting sex but pretending it wasn't there and
keeping up a proper facade--irritated me. (There was another film
with Doris Day and Cary Grant that was heavilly loaded in this regard,

An excellent movie of that time, The Apartment, was partly based on
that attitude, but handled it very differently and didn't dwell on the
sexual aspect. It pretty much accepted the parties were having sex,
and rather dealt with issues -- were the married men lonely or just
scum cheaters. (As an aside, The Apartment accurately depicted the
flashing lights of the six button key set).

Now I don't mean to suggest they go to today's opposite extreme where
actors and actresses go on TV talk shows and brag about sexual
conquests -- A is having B's baby but dating C who is still married to D
who is also involved with A.

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: My dear departed grandmother, bless her
soul, dead now since 1978 told me about party lines and the old biddies
here in Independence/Coffeyville who had them during the 1930-40's. They
would set their phone in or upon a galvanized wash tub, then go out to
sit on the front porch on a hot summer night. Sooner or later, they
would hear the 'ticking' and 'clattering' of that wash tub as the bell
clapper on the phone would make a single strike. (Recall please that
party lines often used a system where the desired phone would ring
normally, but the other phones on the line [with their bell ringing
clappers on a different frequency] would just make a sort of feeble
'tick sound' once and then stay silent. The old witches would be out
on their front porch trying to stay cool; one of them would hear that
greatly amplfied [by comparison because of the galvanized wash tub]
'tick sound', excuse herself and slip inside to quietly pick up the
reciever and see _who_ had called, _who_ they were talking to, and
_what about_. They'd sit in there quietly listening to the others, and
only occassionally would another one of the biddies happen to notice
she was being spied on and angrily tell the others to get off the
line. PAT]

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