Send Me No Flowers (1964)

Every now and then, I come across a film that makes me wish there were more like it. This is one of those: full of laughs, very enjoyable and utterly repeatable.
Doris Day and Rock Hudson had already starred in two fabulous romantic comedies—Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back—before they worked together for the last time in Send Me No Flowers. Unlike the two earlier films (which had very similar plots: girl falls for a guy who’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing), this one isn’t a romantic comedy per se; more an out-and-out comedy. But yes, there’s plenty of love and affection, and Hudson and Day look gorgeous together!

Rock Hudson and Doris Day in Send Me No Flowers

George Kimball (Hudson) is a HYPOCHONDRIAC. Yes, I’d have left it with just the capital H, but this guy takes the cake. He’s obsessed.

George at the medicine cabinet

His wife Judy (Day) is part resigned, part indulgent, and part just plain miffed. She spends her time replacing his sleeping pills with placebos and trying to get George to eat something other than just a handful of pills for breakfast.

Judy and George at breakfast

George has recently been through a complete physical examination (and has received a clean bill of health), but he has his doubts. His doctor, Ralph Morrisey (Edward Andrews) is unsympathetic, and flatly tells George that the chest pain he’s complaining of is indigestion. George is sceptical, but obediently takes the pills Ralph gives him. He goes off into the adjoining bathroom for a glass of water to wash down the pills.

George meets his doctor, Ralph Morrisey

While George is in the bathroom, Ralph receives a phone call from another doctor. They begin discussing the case of an elderly patient, and it emerges that the man doesn’t have more than a few weeks to live. Ralph tells the other doctor, “No, no, I’m not gonna tell him; I think he’s better off not knowing about it.”

Ralph discusses a patient who's near death - and George overhears

George overhears this, and jumps to the obvious conclusion: it’s him with a mere matter of weeks to live. He tries to winkle the truth out of Ralph, but Ralph is adamant: there’s nothing wrong with George. But yes, Ralph does admit that he wouldn’t tell a man death was imminent if he knew that the man’s affairs were in order—as he knows George’s are.

Ralph reassures George that he's in fine health

George is devastated, and confides in his best friend and neighbour Arnold Nash (Tony Randall). Arnold takes it very hard, and hits the bottle even harder. Over the next couple of days, he offers to help George anyway he can—he even begins drafting a eulogy, so that George can listen to a dry run while he’s still alive.

George discusses his impending death with Arnold

But George’s biggest worry isn’t the eulogy; it’s Judy. What’ll happen to her? She’s completely dependent on George to handle all her finances, her insurance, even to keep track of how much she’s spending on groceries—and when George tries to persuade her to go to night school to learn basic accounting, she laughs it off. George decides there’s only one thing for it: Judy must remarry. But of course, being so concerned about Judy, he doesn’t tell her that he’s going to cop it soon.

George tries to get Judy to take stock

Meanwhile, George also has to attend to the more practical side of dying. He goes off to buy a cemetery plot at a place called Green Hills, and meets the macabre Mr Akins (Paul Lynde), who takes delight in selling `great views’ and presumably high premium final resting places. A thousand dollars down payment, and George can literally rest easy.

Mr Akins sells George a cemetery plot

Back to equally serious work: finding a suitable second husband for Judy. While Judy goes golfing, Arnold and George make a list of eligible bachelors in the neighbourhood, and start doing their homework. The man must be able to provide for Judy; he must be a decent, honest sort, and good-looking (I can understand that: if I had a husband who looked like Rock Hudson, I don’t think I’d settle for a Mickey Rooney sequel).

Arnold and George discuss possible candidates

Judy is blissfully unaware of these shenanigans as she tees off. Shortly after, she runs into a serious bit of trouble: her golf cart runs away with her, and she careens all across the course before a rider on a horse scoops her up. It turns out Judy’s knight in shining armour is Bert Power (Clint Walker), Judy’s old college sweetheart. George, Judy, Bert and Arnold get together for lunch, and in the course of the conversation, it turns out Bert’s an oil baron—and a bachelor.

Bert appears on the scene

Arnold pounces on the obvious: Bert is the man Judy must marry once poor George has kicked the bucket. A little bit of convincing, and George is rooting for the idea as well—so much so that he invites Bert to join them for dance and dinner at the club. That evening, he makes it a point to ensure Judy dances only with Bert (who, by the way, has two left feet). Not surprisingly, Judy’s pretty annoyed by this, and puzzled too.

Judy is miffed at George pushing her onto Bert

At the club, George runs into Linda Bullard (Patricia Barry), a neighbour who’s headed for a divorce. Linda’s out on a date with the sleazy Winston Burr (Hal March), a lecher who preys on women in shaky marriages. George knows what a slimeball Winston is, so he takes it upon himself to warn Linda. Linda’s very grateful—so grateful, in fact, that she kisses George. And guess who comes by right then?

Judy comes upon Linda kissing George

Now Judy thinks she knows why George has been pushing her in Bert’s direction all evening: because he wants the field clear for himself. He’s having an affair. Judy sees red, and—but that would be telling. Let me just leave it at this: the film goes on a roller coaster ride of absolutely hilarious twists and turns, with one mad scene after the other. By the end of it, if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably want to see it all over again from the beginning.

What I liked about this film:
Everything. But, very especially, Tony Randall. Of the three Hudson-Day-Randall comedies, I think this is the one that gives Randall the meatiest role. He has some great lines, and that spaced-out, completely intoxicated look can crack me up any time!
Rock Hudson and Doris Day. They are sooo good together. Maybe they don’t look as picture-perfect here as they did in the two earlier films, but they still look awesome, and their acting is super.

What I didn’t like:
If I were to actually write something here, it would be the result of nitpicking, which I’m not going to do. So let’s just say there’s nothing I didn’t like about Send Me No Flowers. Yes, Bert was a duffer and Winston Burr was despicable and Mr Akins was a pain in the you-know-where, but that’s what those characters were; the film wouldn’t have been what it was without them.

Highly recommended. This is part of my `Counter the Blues’ collection.

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15 thoughts on “Send Me No Flowers (1964)

  1. This is my favorite of the three Hudson-Day comedies. The other two were rather sexist and though I can take a lot of sexism when it comes in the shape of Rock Hudson, its still rather surplus to requirements! This one has way better gender relations and the comedy is awesome. I saw its Hindi remake – Meri Biwi Ki Shaadi – first (there was actually a DD serial starring Dinesh Thakur, as well, loooong ago) and was so excited to discover Rock Hudson in the original! :-) This is way better than the Hindi version though – that got a bit serious toward the end and Deven Varma wasnt a patch on Tony Randall.

  2. Yes, even though Lover Come Back and Pillow Talk were fun (and Rock Hudson was oh so gorgeous!), they were pretty sexist – this one has a lot more laughs going for it. I haven’t seen Meri Biwi Ki Shaadi, but if it was a remake of Send Me No Flowers, I can imagine it would’ve taken a lot of effort to match this film! By the way, do you remember which DD serial that was? I’ve been trying to think, but can’t for the life of me recall – even though I usually have a good memory for DD programmes (they were all one got to see once upon a time!)

  3. No, I cant recall the the name. It was aired on afternoon TV when DD first started weekday afternoon service (back in late 80s) and starred Dinesh Thakur and Minakshi Thakur. And I just realised that Tony Randall’s role was done by Ashok Saraf (not Deven Varma) in the Hindi version – no wonder it wasnt that memorable. Besides Amol Palekar, though great, can never ever, ever, make up for Rock Hudson! :-D So, its just as well that you didnt catch it.

  4. Oh, okay. And yes, Amol Palekar, though excellent, was definitely not quite in the same league as Rock Hudson!
    I wish there was some way of seeing some of those old DD programmes again… some of them, like Wagle ki Duniya, Farmaan, Trishna, Kashmakash, and Byomkesh Bakshi were awesome. The only DVDs or VCDs of any programmes I’ve come across were Malgudi Days and Mirza Ghalib.

  5. Old DD programs. Sigh… I’d love to have them too. I saw Byomkesh Bakshi up for online viewing on divx/stage 6 a while ago. So its DVD must be out. Flop Show (Jaspal Bhatti’s hilarious comedy show) was on youtube, Fauji and Kachhi Dhoop are up for free viewing on rajshri.com and I found the DVDs for Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi and Gulzar’s Om Puri-starrer Kirdaar. But there are so many others I want that none of the online sources have even heard of. Apart from the ones you mention, I’d like Nukkad, Intezaar, and Kakkaji Kahin too, but online searches reveal NOTHING! :-(

  6. Thank you for all those leads: you are so good!
    I am going to start searching for Byomkesh Bakshi right off – and Flop Show (I adored that: Jaspal Bhatti was just awesome!). I liked Nukkad and Kakkaji Kahin too, though somehow Intezaar seems to have just slipped out of recall – can’t for the life of me remember what it was. I liked Karamchand too, with Pankaj Kapur in his carrot-chewing avatar!

  7. Yes, he’s so absolutely brilliant, isn’t he? Even though he has a very small role in Send Me No Flowers, he’s very good – had me giggling all the time he was on screen!

  8. Intezaar starred Pawan Malhotra and Sushma Prakash and was a 13 episode series. She is the station-master’s (Rajendra Gupta) bereaved daughter mourning the loss of her lover, and he is the assistant station master, in a small town. They of course, fall for each other! Alongside their romance, there are also stories of the townspeople in a very Nukkad-like storytelling and most of the cast were Nukkad alumni. It was lovely, but nobody seems to have heard of it on the world wide web! :-(

  9. Okay, now that you say it, I think I remember snatches of Intezaar… I seem to remember the railway platform! I liked Pawan Malhotra a lot, and this sounds like something that would have appealed to me. I’m sure I saw this, but it’s a little misty right now.

    BTW: Thanks once again for the Flop Show tip. I saw the telephone episode after all these years and found it as hilarious as when I’d first seen it!

  10. I’ll never forgive Rock Hudson for swapping spits with Susan Saint James. She didn’t deserve being exposed to A.I.D.S. unknowingly.

  11. Well, I’m not sure I’d be so critical, since Susan Saint James acted opposite Rock Hudson between 1971 and ’76 (I suppose you mean McMillan and Wife), whereas Rock was diagnosed with AIDS almost a decade later – in 1984.
    In any case, from what I’ve read, the chances of AIDS being transmitted through saliva are pretty minimal.

    Forgive him! ;-)

  12. Sushma Prakash went on to act in ‘Trikaal.’ Pawan Malhotra played the role of ‘Hari’ the ASM. The serial was shot at Vasind or one of the stations between Titwala and Kasara.

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