In Pillow Talk, communication through speech alone is heavily focused on. As a result, subtleties and changes in things like tone and word choice play important roles. Throughout the movie, characters either intentionally take advantage of this fact to manipulate the listener, or the listener makes assumptions on these factors of speech to draw sometimes inaccurate conclusions.
The most important and obvious example of this is Brad’s vocal transformation into a born and bred, deep-country Texan. Brad Allen was a suave, charming, fast-talking songwriter with a prominent and sometimes abrasive tone of voice. Rex, Brad’s romantic and gentlemanly alter-ego, however, is a chivalrous all-american man who speaks slowly, genuinely, and with an irresistible southern twang. Brad made an entirely new person, all by simply altering his voice.
The power of these changes truly comes to light in one simple scene. Jan hears the phone ringing, answers it, and is instantly spellbound when she hears Rex’s voice on the line. The conversation is then interrupted by another call. Jan answers, only to hear Brad speaking to her in his regular voice. Her loving and enchanted mood then rudely twists into loathing and frustration. Though talking to the same exact person, changes in tone and speech lead to misconceptions that evoke polar opposite emotional responses.
Another, less obvious, but still notable example of these misperceptions is found much earlier in the film. When serenading Yvette, one of Brad’s love interests, Brad’s call is interrupted by a begrudged Jan. By simply hearing an angry woman’s voice on the phone, Yvette assumes she is another one of Brad’s lovers, there to scold his infidelity. Yvette’s generalization of a likely scenario based on voice alone led to yet another misperception that did nothing but overcomplicate an already tense situation.
Voice is a very powerful tool, with the capacity to completely alter one’s understanding and conception of a situation. Pillow Talk is rife with manipulation, misdirection, and misunderstanding, all stemming from misperception by voice.