The romantic comedy Pillow Talk takes an in-depth look at the 1950’s culture, specifically how the introduction of the telephone affects the culture. The movie begins with interior decorator Jan Morrow trying to get through on her party line, which is always being used by the suave Brad Allen to court different women. However, when Brad sees Jan at a club, and realizes how beautiful she is, he convinces Jan that he is a rancher from Texas on a business trip in New York City. Then, as Brad continues to assume the role of a Texas rancher, Jan begins to fall in love with Brad, that is until she realizes that the her boyfriend was the same person as the womanizer living on her block.
Right before Jan realizes who the man she has been dating really is, Brad and Jan go to a bar called the “Hidden Door”, a small, redwood-lined piano bar in downtown Manhattan. The bar is filled with and endless amount of young white couples, all of which are ogling each other. Yet, Jan and Brad, wearing an elegant red satin dress and a fine tailored suit respectively, are the center of attention. The couple then begins to sing with the African American piano player and jazz band, and at that point, it doesn’t seem like the date can get any better, that is until Jonathan, Brad’s childhood friend, bursts in and tells Brad to leave Jan and to go to Connecticut to focus on his song writing.
Before Jonathan enters, the couple’s night at The Hidden Door looks to be a perfect date. The bar itself, with its old wood and African American band invites its occupants to retreat to a “simpler” time in the twenties and thirties. Compared to the rest of the sets, The Hidden Door is full of darker, more comfortable colors with accents of gold and silver, a stark comparison to the bright pinks and blues that fill Jan’s apartment and the walls of most houses in the 1950’s. Walking through the doors of the Hidden Door was like traveling back in time.
The reason why Brad takes Jan to the Hidden Door and not some other place is that it is beyond the reach of technology’s influence. There isn’t a phone in the entire building. In Jan’s life, the real Brad exists only on the phone, so by taking Jan to a place where the phone doesn’t exist, Brad hopes that his old past will be forgotten. Furthermore, this scene takes place at a point in the movie when Jan and Brad want to marry each other, but Brad realizes that he has to find a way to lose his identity of Brad the musician, and only be Brad (Rex) the rancher. Then Brad takes Jan to Jonathan’s cabin in Connecticut, another place where the telephone has no influence.
In Pillow Talk, the Hidden Door is the first place where the impact of the telephone is non-existent. The environment of the bar is one that invites its patrons to forget the impacts of a constantly changing society, and divulge in a simpler time. The bar has an elitist feel to it, which when coupled with the obvious segregation, lends itself to provide an environment in which the white male has all of the power. That is precisely why Brad takes Jan there; it is a place where Brad can tell Jan exactly who he is, or isn’t, and nothing else can challenge him otherwise.
Pillow Talk. Dir. Michael Gordon. Perf. Rock Hudson and Dorris Day. 1959. DVD.