This was the second of three huge successes Universal had with Doris Day, Rock Hudson and Tony Randall. All three romantic comedies had fresh scripts. But, besides the romance, "Lover Come Back" has some very good satire. It spoofs the advertising industry in the U.S.; and, the buying public – for its gullibility. It also pokes fun at the rich, the field of psychoanalysis, the single male lifestyle of Madison Avenue, and the naiveté of clean-cut young women who come to New York to compete 'in a man's world.'
And, this film uses another comedy vehicle. Two sober and well-behaved out-of-towner men are in New York for some sort of professional or business convention. They are on the spot various times when Jerry Webster, played by Rock Hudson, happens to be with or leaving a different woman. Their scenes are thrice funny. They comment as though they are seeing a super ladies' man in action. The sight gag itself is funny, and a deeper humor is in their false assumptions of what led up to that moment.
The sight gags and lines are evenly and deliciously interspersed throughout the film. Here are some favorites that are sure to bring a laugh to anyone who watches this film. Peter Ramsey (Tony Randall) pulls up to a building entrance in a limo and gets out. A cabbie pulls in behind, honks and yells at him to move out of the cab parking spot. Ramsey says, "How would you like a fat lip?" The cabbie figures he can take on the fancy dressed dandy. He says, "Fine!" and gets out of his cab. Ramsey says to his chauffeur, "Harrison, give him a fat lip." The huge hulk of a chauffeur gets out of the limo, and the cabbie says, "OK, so park there."
Ramsey is in Webster's apartment, and is telling him about his psychoanalyst. Ramsey says, "That man has worked miracles for me. Miracles! You know, everyone should go through analysis." Webster replies, "Not everyone can afford it." Looking out the window, Ramsey says, "Mmmm. That's the tragedy of it. Look at those poor people. They go through life contented, happy, laughing
never knowing how sick they are."
Randall and Hudson are in their ad agency office. Ramsey says, "Dad will kill me." Webster replies, "Your dad's dead and gone." Ramsey says, "No he's not. He's around some place. He wouldn't go away and leave this business with someone like me."
Doctor Linus Tyler, played by Jack Krukschen, says to Webster, "Here in the comfort and security of my laboratory, I'm very happy and content. And I have the companionship of the one person worthy of my company – myself." Later, Webster is mistaken by Carol Templeton, played by Doris Day, to be Linus Tyler. He continues the ruse, and the two are at dinner. Webster says, "Miss Templeton, as my uncle the missionary used to say, 'If though canst not speak well of a man, speak not at all." Templeton says, "You make me feel ashamed of myself." Then later, Webster says, "As my father, the philosopher, used to say, 'Knock at my door, and I shall let you in.'" Templeton replies, "Doctor Tyler, I'm knocking." Webster says, "Miss Templeton, I'm taking you in."
Still later, Hudson and Day are walking outside and talking. Webster says, "But then, one night I remembered the words of my grandfather, the philanthropist, 'The joy of living is the joy of giving.'" Templeton says, "Oh, my, what a magnificent family. Missionary, philanthropist
" Webster interrupts, "Yes!" Templeton continues, "
philosopher, doctor." Webster asks, "Doctor?" Templeton replies, "You!" Webster says, "Oh yes, me. When you said doctor, I could only think of my brother, the jungle surgeon. He was the real doctor." Templeton asks, "Was?" Webster says, "Yes! He went into the interior to treat this tribe of sick natives, got them back on their feet, restored their health and appetites, discovered too late they were cannibals." The look of disbelief on Day's face will give the grumpiest movie buff a side-splitting laugh. "Oh, how awful," she says. Webster replies, "Yes. His last words were, 'Better me than Schweitzer.'"
Many more great lines are peppered throughout the film. The ending is a real hoot. And, there's one subtle scene that is one of the most clever visual analogies ever caught on film. It is in the backdrop for a scene with the two leads. They are visiting an aquarium, and as they talk, they move from one viewing window to another. We see a fish being attracted by something fluttering in the water. Templeton says to Webster; "A woman instinctively senses when a man can be trusted. And you, doctor, can be trusted." In the background, a camouflage fish in a split second chomps the fish that had been attracted by its fluttering tassel. The camouflage fish gulps a couple times to swallow its prey; and Webster chokes a little and touches his throat. "Excuse me," he says, as they walk away.
There is considerable adult innuendo in this film, but no visual raciness. It's clean enough for families, but kids aren't likely to understand or appreciate much of the dialog. "Lover Come Back" is a very funny, entertaining, mature and adult spoof and romantic comedy. It's still as funny today as it was in the mid-twentieth century.