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Send Me No Flowers
One of my favorite comedy flicks starring Rock Hudson and Doris Day is Send Me No Flowers, a 1964 Hollywood production that gets panned for all the wrong reasons. Sure, there are a few distasteful moments, or at least those moments used to be distasteful. After the past three years of the Big Pharma death parade of paranoia, the sensitive subject of a hypochondriac husband buying funeral plots for his wife and her next husband (to be chosen by the dying spouse), that touchy topic is, once again, a laughing matter.
As adolescents, my two children immensely enjoyed the satiric truths of this movie. They viewed with sardonic humor the realities of the early 1960s, ricocheting off of that manufactured Blob, the ever-intruding Nanny State of the 2000s, especially in California. The opening dream-scene of the protagonist and his chronic ailments — fixed by the ever-ready and even better pharmacological remedies, such as Garbagine — put my kids in purple-pill giggle-stitches!
That visually stimulating celluloid setting helped me, Home-schooler Mom, to grant those learning moments of compare-and-contrast to my offspring. I explained the inexorably increasing distance between the traditional but vanishing image of Doctor Hippocrates and the ghastly reality of Dr. Rx-Fast:
The Virtue-Signaling Medicos, insulated by the profitable PR myths and lucrative shibboleths of the Nanny State Doctors and their Managed Care Body-Counters.
This movie was produced in 1964, concurrent with the great, not-so-great-society intrusion of politics into medicine. It took no time at all for the Federal legislative advent of Medicare to become Medi-scare during each election cycle (which currently lasts forever).
The past two years gave to humanity a ghoulishly generated and politically mandated set of gaslighting tricks for a virus that we now know was not the Black Plague. It was rather a pharmaceutical payola scheme that was perpetrated by the most vile and mediocre of the empty-headed narcissists known as politicians and by the greedy ghouls at the pharmaceutical corporations. Oh, and they all raked in big bucks while the rest of us clung to, not dear life, but a way of trying to pay for the cost living under Stasi rules.
The experimental guinea pigs, aka, you and me, could use an antidote to the steady doses of bad medicine shoved at us. We were told to follow the science, and we did; but that path just kept leading us to the money. Big-pharma payoffs to politicians to use their own citizens as lab rats — the newest low in the graft and corruption known as government.
Laughter is the best medicine. Watching Send Me No Flowers just might prove efficacious, even therapeutic for people seeking medical freedom. Experiencing this motion picture might be a sound and life-affirming prescription for nanny-state doctor-induced depression. At the very least, this flick will DO NO HARM. As cinematic art, it’s not really art. As social commentary, it’s a start. As a fun frolic to chase the mandate-blues away, it’s highly recommended by this lover of liberty and life.
It can do a lot of good for anyone with an open mind to become enlightened and informed about the days when medicine did not treat the human body like a number on the earnings side of the medicrat ledger. Back then, in 1964, the licensed doctor was merely a highly trained professional, acting in the best interests of his patient, while weighing the costs of doing business against the costs to his soul of being a money-grabber.
Send Me No Flowers deliciously offers up a general practitioner in high dudgeon over how much money each specialist is making that season, while the GP slogs it out in his small, cramped office, making referrals to various body-parts-practitioners getting rich off of a single organ in distress.
That GP, Dr. Morrissey, is portrayed with hilarity by Edward Andrews. He’s got the touch where a comfortably confident bedside manner is concerned for patient George Kimball, played by Rock Hudson. Hudson does a fantastic job with this leading role in a film that he detested. Creating a comedy about death was, according to that talented actor, vulgar. His quoted statement is:
“Right from the start, I hated the script. I just didn't believe in that man for one minute. Making fun of death is difficult and dangerous. That scene where I went out and bought a plot for myself in the cemetery — to me it was completely distasteful.”
In many ways, that tender sensibility of Hudson toward life, the sanctity of life, and the sanctity of death, was, and is, exactly correct. The slick guy selling the funeral plots at Green Hills Cemetery is portrayed by Paul Lynde. He was one glib comedian whose personality could unctuously veer directly into nasty behind his carefully crafted biting satire and silver-tongued smile. It is possible that Mr. Hudson perceived the crass mockery of the élan vital that would quickly become standard fare once capitalist businesses started servilely pitching films, music, tv shows, tee-shirts, clothes, and politics to the Baby Boomers.
Send Me No Flowers smacks of pre-Baby Boom culture, of a suburbia where gossip got around without the help of digital devices (the milkman did the dirty deed); where a GP could gripe about how much of a killing an allergy doctor was making on ragweed alone; where the obsession over taking pills had only just begun; where organic truly was healthful; and where a husband and his wife were faithfully united to one another, till death did them part.
When George Kimball buys into his hypochondria to the point where he believes HE has only weeks to live, he attempts to do the morally decent thing. And the plot complicates itself further and further and further from that sober ethical decision by a husband whose duty was to provide for his wife, even after death did them part.
Tony Randall steals the show without trying as neighbor Arnold. He’s also a married man, but one who has strayed and played, and thus is able to fully offer free marital advice to George. That breakfast scene encapsulates the war between the sexes with so many rings of truth that those chimes are timeless. To this day, I cannot look at my framed National Parks poster of Yellowstone, and not call her:
The minor characters are delicately and delightfully drawn by actors of the Old School known as real acting: Patricia Barry, Clint Walker, Hal March, Dave Willock. The rat-fink-Casanova scene between Hudson, the caring married man with scruples; and March, the slimy predator on the phone to any lonely divorcee or widow — it’s one of the funniest thespian tableaux I’ve ever seen. “Green-go” is a phrase I typically use whenever I see a rip-off act being set into motion, usually by the eco-shills of The Corporation.
The production values are superb, with a screenplay that’s quick and witty, written by Julius J. Epstein and by the original playwrights, Norman Barasch and Carroll Moore. Director Norman Jewison was honing his technical skills here, in advance of his award-winning and acclaimed films of the societal significance that has killed Hollywood. Perhaps without the conscious intention to make a statement cinematically, Jewison spoke softly and used the big stick of film art as entertainment. That entertainment sure got used as education by me!
This romantic comedy is the third and last film that co-stars Doris Day and Rock Hudson; it’s the only one in which they’re a married couple when the camera started rolling. Interestingly enough, their cinematic marital status capped off a fond professional friendship that felt almost conjugal to the audience. That unique chemistry of trust between Day and Hudson never died.
What never dies is the truth of any matter. When that matter is life or death, the individual must dig up his own facts, and then face those facts with the help of God, more than with the hype of a health-care huckster for profit. It took a very long time for the medical profession to shed its snake-oil salesman image of yore. After the covid-debacle, the doctors left standing on any moral ground must earn back the trust of countless patients. The already tenuous belief in science was horrifically and callously shredded by the avarice and jobbery of people whose job was — first — do no harm.