Bright Lights Film Journal

Between a Rock and a Soft Place: Queering/Queered Heterosexuality in “Career Girl” Films of the 1950s and ’60s

Tony Randall, Doris Day, and Rock Hudson in Pillow Talk

“Perhaps Hollywood, in trying to engage in queer possibilities for its narratives and with its audiences, could only put up a resistance to the binaries in the dominant culture through humor.”

 * * *

Between the mid-1950s and mid- to late 1960s, the social role of women underwent a significant shift, especially in terms of their place in the workforce and their position within the traditional American family, the former directly impacting the latter. In the post-war years, the ideological/cultural project of the United States was to reintegrate the men returned from the battlefield into their former position as chief breadwinner and to return the women who had provided labor for war production back into the home. However, the doors of all those kitchens and laundry rooms and nurseries and bedrooms had been opened and could not be closed. Likewise, the war veterans having experienced both foreign cultures and intense homosocial and, often, homosexual relationships could not simply be returned to a sharply delineated social sphere based on the pre-war model. In the post-war U.S., male and female roles were polarized along the line of sexual difference and biology. Gender roles were organized in such a way that masculinity was aligned with biological maleness and femininity with the female-sexed body.

In her 1980 article “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence,” Adrienne Rich examines the socialization process that has worked to channel women, at home and in the workplace, toward heterosexuality. She looks to the “economic imperative to heterosexuality and marriage and to the sanctions imposed against single women” as a way of situating societal gendering within a larger economic framework. Further, Steven Cohan’s examination of “sex and the single man” (267) notes that the “representation of bachelorhood in the fifties condensed the culture’s deepest anxieties about the stability, coherence, and normality of heterosexual maleness, underscoring the homophobia that positioned ‘masculinity’ in strict oppositions to ‘femininity’ “ (266). Taken together, these two approaches point to the institutional maintenance of heterosexuality as the norm by which both single women and men could be incorporated into an economic model of separate spheres of labor (such as the home and the office)

However, this model of separateness also implies an opposite: a space where there is no separateness. Heterosexuality is often defined by its perceived opposite, homosexuality, in much the same way that masculinity is situated against femininity. These polarizations, when collapsed, give way to a queer space. Alexander Doty addresses the concept of “queer” as an umbrella term that “might be used to describe the intersection or combination of more than one established ‘non-straight’ sexuality or gender position in a spectator, a text, or a personality” (The Oxford Guide to Film Studies 149). According to Barbara Creed, “Queer theory argues for plurality and multiplicity. It asks us to rethink the nature of sexual identity; to pay attention to the borders and margins” (163). In so doing, we can account both for texts and for spectators that operate outside the dominant readings/positions that straight culture assumes. The marginality Creed describes is a place for “queer” as both a noun and a verb. Doty establishes queer as “a consciously chosen ‘site of resistance’ and a ‘location of radical openness and possibility’“ (Making Things Perfectly Queer 3). Such resistance also plays out as Annette Schlichter, in “Contesting ‘Straights’: ‘Lesbians,’ ‘Queer Heterosexuals’ and the Critique of Heteronormativity,” explores the ways in which “queerings of straightness provide a form of opposition against [. . .] the binary of homosexuality/heterosexuality, which is foundational of normative culture” (193). With all this in mind, I will now look at a series of films that marks the transition between two seemingly polarized eras, the repressed ’50s and the swinging ’60s to see if there is an overlap where separateness between male/female, heterosexuality/homosexuality, and masculine/feminine is indeed collapsed by queerness

For the purposes of this study, I will be doing two things: looking for moments in which heterosexuality is queered in the following films and, also, queerly reading their representations of heteronormativity. Heterosexuality cannot always be defined as heteronormative as it may take “many, sometimes contradictory forms” (Sullivan 132) in ways that “denaturalize” (Sullivan 133) or queer it. This series of films represents a rupture in those gender roles I describe above in that they all foreground the Career Girl as their archetype. She is already in a queer space because she has vacated the dominant culture’s notion of traditional femininity by leaving the domestic sphere in favor of the business world, a site occupied (pre-war) by men. These films (not to overwork a cliché) ride a tide between the post-war era and second-wave feminism that marks a social shift in labor and gender formations. The films under discussion here span roughly the decade from the mid-’50s to the mid-’60s and include Three Coins in the Fountain (1954), The Best of Everything (1959), Pillow Talk (1959), Lover Come Back (1961), and Valley of the Dolls (1967). I would suggest that these films also allow alternative readings of heteronormative masculinity, especially in terms of the “privilege” associated with the social/cultural place of heterosexuality (Sullivan 132). Men, as much as women, were shoe-horned into often ill-fitting identities of both gender and sexuality. As I read specific moments in these films, I will ask these questions: Are there any explicit or implicit queer suggestions within the text (dialogue, mise-en-scène, plot, etc.)? Are there any disruptions to straight heterosexuality that indicate its opposite, and is either possibility viewed negatively within the text? If so, what does it mean politically to make strange the depiction of heterosexuality, considering the dominant heterosexualizing project of this era? How are both the male and female characters set up for compulsive heterosexuality through the conflation of work as a conduit for romance and its “natural” outcome, family life? I will move chronologically through the films as I seek answers to these questions. In this way, an evolution (or perhaps its lack?) in the cinematic depiction of gender and sexual identity might present itself through either queer moments or a queer reading

The first film, Three Coins in the Fountain (1954), was directed by Jean Negulesco and stars Dorothy McGuire, Jean Peters, and Maggie McNamara as its female leads and Clifton Webb, Louis Jourdan, and Rossano Brazzi as their male counterparts. The plot follows three American women working as secretaries in Rome. Three heterosexual couples are quickly set up as the narrative begins to split into their respective stories, with very little interaction between them. Maria (McNamara), a newly arrived secretary, immediately sets her sight on Jourdan’s Prince Dino de Cessi, a wealthy bachelor who lives with his mother in an imposing palazzo overlooking the city. Anita (Peters) is about to return to the States when she accepts a casual invitation to a family gathering by an Italian co-worker (Brazzi) who has been secretly in love with her for two years. Frances (McGuire) has lived in Rome for 15 years as the constant companion/assistant to reclusive author John Frederick Shadwell (Webb)

In this film, two of the three central romantic pairings have queer elements. The Maria/Dino relationship can be read queerly in terms of the male character, played by Louis Jourdan, who, it must be said, is prettier than his love interest in this film. Their relationship is established from the start as one of performance (as are many within this series of films). Maria wages a campaign of theatrics in order to snag him. She fills a little black book with details on his favorite food, wine, art, and music gleaned from the service personnel at all of his usual haunts, then pretends to share them. His love for opera and his virtuosity as a piccolo player might be seen as markers of, if not homosexuality, then queerness. The other girls warn Maria of his reputation as a playboy, but his living arrangements and the centrality of his mother within those arrangements would seem to trouble that hyper-heterosexualized model of masculine performance. His attraction to Maria is centered on her (feigned) intellectual and culinary interests rather than on her appearance, which is decidedly boyish (a ponytail, unadorned skirt ensembles, a waifish figure). This suggests a cerebral, not erotic, relationship and could be read as a cover for his non-normative sexuality

Three Coins in the Fountain

A similar dynamic is even more pronounced in the relationship between the writer, Shadwell, and his assistant, Frances. Clifton Webb’s real-life homosexuality seems to inform his characterization in this film through specific elements of performance and costuming. He is never seen in public without a sleek black walking stick (a prop that recurs in Tony Randall’s character in Lover Come Back), white gloves, and a white carnation in his lapel. He has a rather affected British accent, despite being identified within the narrative as an American (and despite the actor himself being American). He is an older man, elegant and solitary, except for his friendship with Prince de Cessi and his close working relationship with Frances, upon whom he declares himself to be utterly dependent. The romantic coupling of Shadwell and Frances is established first as comfortably professional; then, when she announces her imminent return to America, as abruptly heterosexualized. He proposes to her using the words “companionship,” “respect,” “comfort,” and tops it off by saying, “You’re the only woman I know to whom I’d make such a rash offer.” Webb’s line reading here subtly emphasizes the word “woman,” allowing queer spectators (even in 1954) to find a space for a non-straight heterosexuality. The two agree to marry, “based on friendship.” In addition, this couple is set apart from the other two in the film by the fact that they never share an onscreen kiss.

Three Coins in the Fountain positions three career girls within a working environment in a few early scenes in the film and then abandons it to follow them through the various sites of their romantic entanglements. This would suggest that careers for women are merely launching pads for their real purpose: marriage. Adrienne Rich notes that women in the workplace “learn to behave in a complaisantly and ingratiatingly heterosexual manner because they discover this is their true qualification for employment” (624). However, the film offers a possible queering of that dominant cultural imperative by depicting three relationships that offer only instability and uncertain futures to their participants. Webb’s character is diagnosed with an inoperable cancer, leaving Frances to an eventual widowhood. Maria’s relationship with the wandering Prince would seem to be headed for infidelity, whether of the straight or non-straight variety. And Anita’s romance with the humble translator Giorgio (Brazzi) is marred from the start by his noticeable poverty, a condition described as untenable in the girls’ first scene in the office. Poor Italian men are considered a no-go among the typing pool. The other male love interests, the Prince and the writer, have distinctly non-normative masculinities. These aspects of the romantic couples in the film would seem to be disruptions to successful heterosexuality yet are treated as a happy ending, with all six characters cavorting in front of the Trevi Fountain, where wishes come true, according to the film’s primary thesis (and theme song)

Baker, Lange, and Parker in The Best of Everything

The next film, The Best of Everything (also directed by Negulesco) takes place in Manhattan. Three young women, Caroline Bender (Hope Lange), April Morrison (Diane Baker), and Gregg Adams (Suzy Parker), share an apartment and work as secretaries at Fabian Publishing. All the editors in the company are male, with the exception of Amanda Farrow (Joan Crawford), and that imbalance plays out across the disconnect that the film establishes between work and gender. Amanda is older, unmarried, and hard-edged. Caroline is framed from the beginning as a potential heir to the older woman, who is perceived within the diegesis as having chosen a professional life over marriage and children and, as a result, has forsaken her femininity. An editor, Mike Rice (Stephen Boyd), who befriends Caroline accuses her at one point of immersing herself in work because “being a woman is too painful” so she’s not going to be one. The alignment of Farrow and Caroline may mark more than a hierarchy of professional status. For the queer reader, their ultimate roles as the only two female editors, a position of masculinity at Fabian (with editors’ offices delineated around the perimeter of the set) and their single status at the end of the film suggest a lesbian space. The possibility of a butch-femme reading here is facilitated by the performances of Lange and Crawford: the former, demure; the latter, aggressive. Although Caroline is ostensibly paired with Mike, and though they do share one bout of drunken kissing, she does not end up in his arms as the credits roll. The one time he refers to their relationship, he calls her “friend,” and, in the final shot, they merely walk arm-in-arm out of the frame.

Suggestions of queerness are also apparent in another of the film’s couplings: Gregg and David. This relationship is situated around the theatrical stage. Gregg is an actress (who works part-time at Fabian’s) and David (Louis Jourdan, again) is a director who, like his earlier character (Prince de Cessi), has a reputation as a womanizer. He begins his affair with Gregg with the words, “Act One, Scene One,” indicating the performativity of the heterosexual dating ritual he is enacting with her as well as its impermanent nature. Gregg begins the film as an independent creature of pleasure. She says that, like a man, she wants only “to be free, have no ties, to have and to hold, and then let go.” The latter part of this phrase is echoed verbatim by David later in the film as he ends their relationship, aligning them both, through dialogue, as similarly gendered. The rupture occurs not in their mutual maleness (cemented by their masculine names) but when Gregg abandons it in favor of behavior that is more in line with what society deems “feminine.” She becomes jealous, possessive, irrational, emotional, and dependent. The director shoots her with a canted camera angle (the only time this device is employed in the film) as she obsessively waits outside his apartment and spies at him from his fire escape, indicating the unnatural turn her affections have taken. Since she falls to her death from that fire escape soon thereafter (when her high heel gets caught in the grating!), we can read their relationship as being successful only as long as it remained queer.

In Pillow Talk (released in 1959, the same year as The Best of Everything), there are many queer possibilities, notably explored by Steven Cohan, who has closely analyzed the film through its set design, characterizations, and the extra-diegetic star text of Rock Hudson.1 In this, and in the other Doris Day-Rock Hudson film included here, I will first focus on the dynamic between the conventionally masculine male lead and his more ambiguously gendered male sidekick, played by Tony Randall

Hudson and Randall in Lover Come Back

Kathrina Glitre discusses both Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back and remarks that both films “repeatedly place Hudson and Randall in queer positions” (159). Lover Come Back (1961) features two men who might be read as an alternative, queer couple alongside the dominant coupling of Day-Hudson. Pete Ramsey (Randall) is both employer and friend to Jerry Webster (Hudson) and, in their first scene, enacts multiple queer moments with him. Pete enters the bedroom where Jerry is sleeping and pokes him in the backside with his shiny black walking stick, a prop that plays a prominent part in the scene. Jerry, annoyed, rolls over, grabs the stick in both hands and, in a show of manly strength, breaks it in two. Later, when Pete wields what’s left of the stick toward him again, Jerry breaks that piece in two as well. This repeated passing of the stick between them might allow them to be read textually as two gay men, especially as this takes place in a bedroom. With the extra-textual ambiguity of Tony Randall’s offscreen sexuality alongside the (now) known gay identity of Rock Hudson, this scene takes on additional nuance; another aspect might be Hudson’s closeted homosexuality and Hollywood’s strict repression of it. Glitre makes note of the symbolism of the cane scene in terms of Pete’s dialogue: “Do you realize what you just broke? My psychiatrist gave me that to build up my confidence.” Thus, she writes, “’Normative’ masculinity is again linked to phallic potency” (177). Later in the scene, Jerry bends forward while still in his pajamas and Pete, standing right behind him, also bends forward and then picks a bit of lint off his back. Then they have breakfast together.

A queer (or gay) reader of this film might focus on the trajectory of these two male characters and enjoy its suggestion of an underlying romantic/sexual component to their relationship. Pete invites Jerry up to his father’s Canadian hunting cabin where they can do nothing but “relax.” The following scene is of the two of them, sporting identical beards, in a canoe together while Pete bellows out the mating call of the moose, not to kill it but to photograph it, which somewhat negates the heteronormatively masculine concept of the “hunting lodge.” The naturalized, outdoor setting, popular in the fifties as a way for “real men” to escape their urban, grey flannel-suited lives, is queered in Lover Come Back. Elsewhere in the film, there is a scene in which Jerry tries to clean Pete’s face after it’s been dyed by an enormous purple explosion outside a chemistry lab. Director Delbert Mann situates the camera behind Pete and shoots upward from a low angle as Jerry cradles one side of his head in his right hand and rubs at his cheek with the other. The angle emphasizes the dominant presence of Rock Hudson, the curving physicality of his hands, and the passive, receptive quality of Tony Randall’s character. It’s a moment that skirts real tenderness, and the length of the scene, over the course of two different camera set-ups, highlights its potential for deeper meanings, to both the characters and to the queerly-positioned spectator. After this face-cleaning, Jerry invites Pete to stay overnight, saying he “can even have the bed.” According to Glitre, the “homosocial bonds between Randall’s and Hudson’s characters encourage a degree of queerness” and that, although the queer possibilities of these scenes are “not made explicit by the plot” (178), they do nevertheless provide an “interrogation of compulsory heterosexuality” (179).

They also offer the chance to see the relationship between Jerry and Carol Templeton (Day) in terms of queer heterosexuality, especially through the cross-dressing scene in which Jerry wears a cultural signifier of femininity: the mink coat. Glitre notes that “mink coats operate as complex signs, therefore, loaded not only with connotations of luxury, wealth and extravagance, but also symbolic associations with female sexuality. . .” (150). Two older, out-of-town businessmen have repeatedly encountered Jerry enjoying his dalliances with an endless procession of beautiful women and admired the “masculine virility” (Glitre 169) these moments implied. However, after Carol has dumped him naked in the country, he must make his way back to the city and enter his apartment building in a borrowed mink coat. When the two men see him, the camera uses a point-of-view shot from their perspective to watch him walk across the lobby, thus situating us with them as they perceive him as feminized. Traditional gaze theory would support this reading. The desired female object of the masculine subject’s desiring gaze is queered in this scene. Glitre notes that the astonishment of the two businessmen “stems primarily from the visual undermining of Jerry’s masculine identity in relation to both femininity and ‘homosexuality’“ (169). I would also suggest that the p.o.v. shot could be seen to denaturalize the traditional masculinity of the cinematic apparatus of looking. The object of the gaze is queered within the text and then queered again through the film’s formal device

Kathrina Glitre further negotiates the queer enactments within both Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back as she asserts that such moments of “masquerade [are] not only about disrupting masculine identity, but also about becoming an object of female desire” (151). So, when Rock Hudson, the premier “beefcake” (Glitre 151) sex-symbol of 1950s cinema, appears onscreen nude except for a swath of shiny mink and, in Pillow Talk, smoothly acts out behaviors coded as homosexual (interest in fabric swatches and recipes, an extended pinkie, closeness to his mother), the concept of a monolithic heterosexuality is problematized. The courtly, ambiguously gendered Texan, Rex Stetson, as the flip-side of the id-driven playboy Brad Allen (both played by Rock Hudson) forms with Allen not two separate personas but the multivalent nature of the character’s sexual identity. The “plurality and multiplicity” (163) envisioned by Barbara Creed are at work in the Rex/Brad hybrid. Steven Cohan writes:

Rex does not register as queer simply because Brad drops several homophobic clues in Jan’s path. Rather, Brad’s masquerading as Rex evokes a sense of the ongoing gender performance that was expected of closeted gay men in the fifties, when a bachelor like Rex often had to pretend he was another guy: someone virile and outwardly heterosexual, someone just like Brad. (289)

Day and Hudson in Lover Come Back

So, with Jan (Doris Day) falling in love with the queerly positioned Rex/Brad character, the film queers dominant culture’s notion of a stable, fixed heterosexuality. One scene that might illustrate this point is the one in which Jan’s maid, Alma (Thelma Ritter), goes out with Brad (the most determinedly heterosexual version of the character) to a bar. He wants information about how he might win Jan back after she has dumped him for lying to her about who he was (or did he?). Here, a tiny little woman, 20 years his senior,2 out-performs the strapping, 6’4” stud at drinking, a rite of manhood since time immemorial. The film further aligns these two characters through the Bloody Marys that are concocted for them as a cure for their respective hangovers. If Brad is subordinated by Jan’s employee, what does that say about his economic position in relation to Jan? Is the “economic imperative to heterosexuality” (Rich 267) channeling Brad and Jan into an unambiguously “straight” marriage? If the career girl, like the playboy, was a source of cultural anxiety about gender roles in this era, then Jan Morrow – more than any other female character across this series of films – marks out her place within the contested (and gendered) territory of economic success. Steven Cohan states that “Jan’s significance for the battle of the sexes is that she appropriates for femininity what the culture had accepted, in large part through the influence of Playboy magazine, as a proper sexual identity for the bachelor” (281). The film depicts a woman appropriating masculinity and a man whose macho posture is tempered by an ambiguous sexuality – thus is a queer heterosexuality suggested. Within a conventionally heterosexual genre like the romantic comedy, Pillow Talk offers a “site of resistance” (Doty 3) for the queer reader. “Romance is made ridiculous” (Glitre 163) in this film and, in doing so undercuts straight expectations of coherent gender roles.

In the 1967 film Valley of the Dolls, adapted from the best-selling novel by Jacqueline Susann, three women negotiate the working world and the hetero romances that the culture deems normative within it. Does this film depart from the models of sexuality that characterize the films of an earlier decade? Does it locate the margins of gender coherency and then queer (or allow to be queered) those positions? Anne (Barbara Parkins), Neely (Patty Duke), and Jennifer (Sharon Tate) converge on the world of Broadway as Anne gets a job at a talent agency and Neely and Jennifer are both rehearsing in the same musical show as older stage veteran Helen Lawson (Susan Hayward). Heterosexuality does not work out for any of these characters, and, although (as in Lover Come Back) the plot does not explicitly suggest non-straight identities for them, the Neely character provides an example of the film’s possibilities for a queer space. In an early scene in a nightclub, the camera picks up Jennifer (Tate) entering with an older man. Her white gown exposes her tanned shoulders and bare back and catches the light as she walks across the room. All gazes converge on her. Neely sighs, “She’s lovely. I’ll bet 100 beads pop off every time she moves.” The camera then lingers on Mel and Neely as they stare at Jennifer with identical expressions. The object of the gaze, in this case, makes strange the eroticizing gaze as female. That act of looking takes on additional layers of queerness when, later, Neely describes for Mel her longing for such an audience: “I feel like they were taking me in their arms and holding me. It’s like when you put your hands on me, only it was double triple.” Since the audience is composed of both male and female, this sets Neely up as receptive to queerness. Doty describes “queer reception” as being able to “stand outside the relatively clear-cut and essentializing categories of sexual identity under which most people function” (Something Queer Here 15), and this is clearly where Neely is positioned within the film text. During a montage depicting her rise to the top, we see a series of still shots of her in drag, costumed in a man’s formal tuxedo not unlike the one worn by Marlene Dietrich in Morocco (1930). While she does not kiss another woman on the mouth as Dietrich does, neither does she kiss the two men who flank her in the shots, both identically attired.

Valley of the Dolls does depart from the implied suggestion of homosexuality that occurred in films of the previous decade, through the Tony Randall characters in particular, by deliberately naming a male within the film as gay. The references are uniformly derogatory, with none of the positive traits and interactions and “radical openness” (Doty 3) made possible in Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back. Neely’s (now) husband, Mel, has grown bitter about the negative changes his wife’s personality has undergone during her career success. He rails about the time she spends with costume designer Ted Casablanca (Alexander Davion), declaring that “only in Hollywood do women faint because some queer deigns to design their clothes.” This gay character becomes a pivot point around which Neely rotates on a downward spiral of pills (“dolls”), booze, and generally bad behavior. After her husband leaves her, she marries Casablanca, an event that later prompts a catfight with Helen Lawson in the ladies’ room of an elegant hotel in New York. The film seems to take pleasure in having its characters spit out the words “fag” and “faggot” with venomous exaggeration, especially from the mouth of former child star Patty Duke. Even with the long, slow death of the Production Code, screenwriters still had not found breathing room for the nuance of human sexuality that we can detect in the older films described above. While Tony Randall created “the potential for a queer love triangle” (Glitre 177) and all its attendant polymorphous possibilities around himself, Rock Hudson, and Doris Day, Ted Casablanca is merely a cipher at the center of spectacular excess: women fighting, wigs being torn off and thrown in toilets, hysterically gendered melodrama writ large. On the other hand, such excess might, in itself, signal something being repressed. Helen Lawson tries to maneuver around Neely in the washroom, saying, “I have a man waiting for me,” to which Neely responds that this would be quite a change from all the “fags” that usually accompany her – again, biting out the word with percussive contempt. Lawson, clearly relishing her gotcha moment sneers, “At least I never married one.” So, in the theatrical, over-the-top girlfight fight that ensues, what is being repressed? In whom? By whom?

Duke and Ted Casablanca in Valley of the Dolls

Eric Savoy, in his essay on Doris Day and queer performativity, describes “the cinematic moment in which performative excesses undermine and destabilize the rigid, normative intentions of narrative trajectory” (167). In Dolls, the Neely character enacts queer possibilities in those textual moments I have mentioned here, but also offers the same gender incoherence that we see in all of these films. As such, “queer performativity within mainstream cinema is almost always far in excess of the heterosexualizing strategies of containment and remains in suspension, as ideologically fissuring and problematic” (Savoy 167). Oddly enough, in both The Best of Everything and Valley of the Dolls, the two female characters who most convey this queer positioning, Gregg and Neely, have pivotal scenes in and around garbage cans. Gregg digs through David’s trash, even taking it home with her as she careens toward obsession, and Neely winds up alone in an alley, screeching at the sky, “I’m Neely O’Hara!” and framed in an extreme high-angle shot alongside garbage cans

How can we situate these moments with those from the other three films (Three Coins in the Fountain, Pillow Talk, and Lover Come Back)? Might genre have anything to do with the films’ capacity to successfully (and happily) rupture the coherent gender norms on which compulsory heterosexuality depends? Both Glitre and Savoy situate the sex comedy and the musical comedy western, respectively, as generic sites for queer possibilities. The only two films in this sample that allow the queerly positioned characters (and, by extension, readers) a happy ending are the comedies. No one ends up without a friend in the world. No one fails miserably. There are no fatal drug overdoses (Valley of the Dolls), no miscarriages by sports car (The Best of Everything), and no terminal illness (Three Coins in the Fountain). Perhaps Hollywood, in trying to engage in queer possibilities for its narratives and with its audiences, could only put up a resistance to the binaries in the dominant culture through humor. The playboy and the career girl, then, far from merely reflecting society’s anxieties about coherent gender roles, decisively contributed to them. And, rather than negotiate the spheres of work and home separately, they conflate them, thereby collapsing the gendered identities associated with them. Together with their ambiguously gendered partners, they form a queer triangle of possibilities. It is no accident that, in Pillow Talk, Brad, Jan, and Jonathan all converge at a place called The Hidden Door. And open it

Works Cited

Cohan, Steven. Masked Men: Masculinity and the Movies in the Fifties. Indiana University Press: Bloomington, 1997.

Creed, Barbara. “Queer Theory and Its Discontents: Queer Desires, Queer Cinema.” Australian Women: Contemporary Feminist Thought. Eds. Norma Grieve and Ailsa Burns. Oxford University Press: Melbourne, 1994.

Doty, Alexander. Making Things Perfectly Queer. University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis, 1993.

––– . “Queer Theory.” The Oxford Guide to Film Studies. Eds. John Hill and Pamela Church Gibson. Oxford University Press: Oxford, 1998.

Glitre, Kathrina. Hollywood Romantic Comedy: State of the Union 1934-65. Manchester University Press: Manchester, 2006.

Rich, Adrienne. “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence.” Signs 5.4 (Summer 1980): 631-60.

Savoy, Eric. “’That Ain’t All She Ain’t’: Doris Day and Queer Performativity.” Out Takes: Essays on Queer Theory and Film. Ed. Ellis Hanson. Duke University Press: Durham, 1999.

Schlichter, Annette. “Contesting ‘Straights’: ‘Lesbians,’ ‘Queer Heterosexuals’ and the Critique of Heteronormativity.” Journal of Lesbian Studies 11:3/4 (2007), 189-201.

  1. In Masked Men: Masculinity and the Movies in the Fifties, Cohan does close analysis of the gender and sexuality implications in Pillow Talk []
  2. Rock Hudson was born in 1925 and Thelma Ritter in 1905. []