Editorial: We’ll Always Have the Laughs

Doris Day and Clark Gable in ”Teacher’s Pet”, 1958, directed by George Seaton | Perlberg-Seaton Productions


The Editorial: thoughts, short stories
or essays about the world of cinema

She is one of my favourite Hitchcock heroines. Doris Day is not the typical cool Hitchcockian blonde in peril. Day’s character of Jo McKenna in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) is resourceful, self-reliant, grounded, warm, and a rare non-morally ambiguous character in a Hitchcock film. And she did a marvelous job in the movie.

But I’m not going to talk about The Man Who Knew Too Much. I’m going to talk about another one of my favourite films with her. Teacher’s Pet (1958). One of my favourite comedies of all time. I’ve probably seen it ten times and I still laugh out loud every time I watch it.

I don’t think I can fully express how much I love a good comedy. And how much a good comedy can do for someone. And how much I hate that it’s so hard to find a good comedy nowadays. Teacher’s Pet, directed by George Seaton, is one of those comedies and it’s also one of both Doris Day’s and Clark Gable’s best movies. A comedy with class, spirited, sensible, light hearted as well as thought-provoking, belly-laughs funny, with great character development, in which good humour (when humour meant subtle innuendos and looks instead of sex jokes all over the place) comes together with a good life lesson. And it is a battle of the sexes in which both female and male characters get fair treatment and an understanding point of view – and I’m all for it.

Clark Gable plays Jim Gannon, a self-educated, hard-hearted newspaper editor, who hates the educated and despises journalism schools. That’s until he meets professor Erica Stone (Doris Day), the daughter of a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and who teaches a class in journalism. Intrigued by her, Gannon masquerades as a novice in her class, and soon, becoming attracted to her, begins a campaign to romance Erica. Gig Young, in one of those great supporting roles that are indispensable in a good movie, portrays a handsome, sharp-tailored, self-confident young psychologist, dr. Hugo Pine, who seems to know everything, plays his competitor in winning Erica’s heart. The film gets better and better as it unfolds. And did I say how funny it is? Just watch this sequence – Erica’s reaction is priceless. Day (strong, funny, intelligent, sharply dressed, warm) and Gable (rugged, hard-boiled, magnetic) were such a great unexpected match, they brought the best humour out of each other.

Doris Day was a voice of reason and humanity during the AIDS epidemic. She was also a life-long advocate for animal rights. She was the real thing when so few people did those things because they really meant it. As a musician, she had the kind of voice that “belonged in the company of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra”, as bandleader Les Brown, with whom she sang for some years, said. And, first and foremost, she always dignified and epitomised the professionalism of an actor. Doris Day was a great comedic actor, but what I will also remember is Doris Day-the person’s effusive positive look, despite a personal life marked with disappointments and pain. That’s style. That’s class. That’s the greatest life lesson.

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