Send Me No Flowers (1964)
Written Julius J. Epstein
Directed by Norman Jewison
Norman Jewison isn’t a name you hear listed among the great film auteurs, and for the most part, he was fairly a journeyman filmmaker. A studio paid him, and he made the movie. But in doing that, he still managed to make each picture feel special. You could never tie him into a single genre or style. Jewison just made good movies. He was born in Toronto, Ontario, in 1926, and despite his last name, his family is not of Jewish descent. He served in the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II. After being discharged, he wandered through the American South, where he witnessed acts of segregation that would impact film projects he chose later in his career. Back in Toronto, Jewison got his bachelor’s degree and worked on a variety of theatrical productions. He eventually became part of the crew that launched CBC Television, working as an assistant director.
Jewison’s work at the CBC was so well-regarded he was snatched up by NBC and uprooted his wife and three children to move to New York City. He worked with performers like Jackie Gleason and Harry Belafonte while producing lots of musical and variety programs for the network. His film career began with pictures that resembled sitcoms, light comedies, often based on middling Broadway plays. Most of them starred Doris Day, a Hollywood star whose box office success was at its height in the 1950s & 60s. Send Me No Flowers is considered the peak of Jewison’s collaboration with Doris Day and pairs her with regular co-star Rock Hudson.
George Kimball (Hudson) is a hypochondriac who lives with his wife Judy (Day) in the suburbs. During a visit with his doctor, George overhears a conversation about a terminal patient and mistakingly believes they are talking about him. He doesn’t want to worry Judy and confides in his neighbor, Arnold (Tony Randall), to help George see to his affairs. One of George’s most significant worries is how Judy will care for herself when he passes, and so he and Arnold strike out to find her a new husband. Things go awry when she runs into her old college beau Bert Power who she is smitten over. George becomes immediately jealous. However, it becomes even more complicated when George learns one of his friends has lascivious intentions with a newly divorced neighbor and tries to warn the woman. It’s your typical misunderstanding-based comedy you’d find in a show like Laverne & Shirley.
Send Me No Flowers is by no means an amazing picture or anything out of the ordinary. It is a fascinating glimpse at what middle-of-the-road comedic film fare was like during a specific time. I was surprised at how indistinguishable the tone and production value of this movie was compared to television comedies of the 1960s and 70s. I have kept trying to figure out what the draw to go see a film like this was when what was on the television was so similar. I can only surmise that it was in color, which not everyone had on their televisions at the time. Also, the cast were people you wouldn’t see on weekly television shows. Rock Hudson certainly wasn’t going to have a sitcom at this time. It should be noted that Doris Day did eventually go into television after learning one of her late husband’s business partners had lost her earnings, leaving her in debt.
Your viewing experience watching this movie will be completely pleasant. The picture looks good, and the actors are very talented. They have decent comedic timing. I never found myself falling over with laughter, but I guess that’s why they call them “light comedies”? I don’t think I’ve ever really seen Rock Hudson or Doris Day before in a movie despite hearing about them for a long time. It was interesting to see why they got paired so often; they had fantastic chemistry. I also enjoyed Tony Randall as Arnold. I always think of The Odd Couple when I see him but have discovered he had an earlier career as a supporting character to the duo of Hudson & Day in several films. Bonus, Paul Lynde has a small role as a funeral home director and does an incredible job with the part.