"Teacher's Pet" is an intellectual comedy...
Have you ever seen a college professor as gorgeous as Erica Stone? My Lord! She looks like a movie star! When I was in college, there were no professors that came close in looks to Doris Day. Mine were more in the class of Mrs. Trumble on "I Love Lucy" or Minerva Urecal, the outraged gossip in "By the Light of the Silvery Moon". But when choosing a co-star for none other than Clark Gable, you must keep up with the standards for Hollywood's King. Miss Day certainly filled the bill, not only in the looks department, but also as an equal to her legendary co-star on an acting level.
"Teacher's Pet" is an intellectual comedy. It concerns a dedicated college journalism assistant professor, E. R. Stone (Day) who, without having met him, invites a gruff city editor, Jim Gannon (Gable), of the New York Evening Chronicle, as a guest lecturer in one of her classes. Opposed to schools (having come up "the hard way" in the newspaper business and not interested in participating), he has declined the invitation, via a scathing letter, to the professor explaining his disdain for book-learned journalism. He is ordered by his managing editor to contribute as least one evening of his time and to apologise for his impudence. When he arrives in the news-writing class, expecting to see teacher Trumble or Urecal, he is pleasantly surprised to see the shapely and beautiful Miss Stone at the class's helm. Erica, enraged that Jim Gannon has not only refused her invitation, but also that he insulted the teaching profession as well, berates him by reading his letter to the entire class and then innocently mistakes Gannon as a new student.
Appalled by what he's witnessed in the class, Gannon decides to enrol, incognito, in an attempt to prove his point about "eggheads, teaching amateurs how to be amateurs". At first, there is great antagonism between Erica and "Mr. Gallager", but after he writes an impressive first assignment paper, Erica is so impressed, she encourages Jim to consider changing his field in favour of journalism. After a failed attempt to mend fences between himself (as Gannon) and the professor, he continues his deception and proceeds to woo Erica (as Gallager) using their student/teacher relationship as a tool to accomplish his goal. The problem is, Erica is involved with someone, a psychiatrist named Dr. Hugo Pine, an "egghead" whom Gannon later investigates and discovers that the doctor has few personal faults. In fact, he has written scores of books, so many that Gannon surmises that he must be at least a hundred years old. Much to his disappointment, Pine is a young and very handsome gentleman.
Gannon is no angel. He has been courting a stripper off and on for sometime. Her name is Peggy DeFore, a blond bimbo-type, played, or rather, bumped and grinded by Mamie Van Doren. One night, while at the club, Erica and Dr. Pine arrive. Jim joins them and attempts to impress Erica with his knowledge on a variety of subjects, but Pines tops his every effort, even on the dance floor! Jim secretly pays a waiter to double all of Pine's drinks and watches as the liquor seems to have no effect on the brilliant Dr. Pines. Finally, it happens, he collapses. Erica secretly has fallen in love with Jim, but is not eager to reveal her feelings. Jim, on the other hand, makes his feeling known, but still can't convince Erica that he is the right person for her. He elicits the advice of Dr. Pines who suggests that Jim be completely honest with Erica. The truth is the only thing that would be acceptable to the principled lady.
What follows is a great deal of intellectual conflict between Jim and Erica concerning the field of journalism. Erica's father had won a Pulitzer Prize for Journalism while editor of a country newspaper. Erica's adoration of her father has romanticised her ideas on the core values and importance of journalism. When Jim boldly tells Erica that a newspaper's real purpose is to sell papers, advertisements and thirdly, tell the latest news, Erica realises, after "grading" her father's paper more critically, that Jim is correct and sets out to make things right between the two. "If the city room was created to look like a real-life newspaper office, the set decorators, Sam Comer and Robert Benton must be given extra credit. The realism of the set and the natural acting ability of the cast added to the authenticity of the picture's theme.
Doris Day was completely different in this picture than she was in all of the others she made. Her dedication for the art of teaching was evident in every scene she played. Plus, her love for the profession of journalism made you believe, despite her appearance, that she was actually a professor. None of the exaggerations in her performing that we later saw in her more popular comedies were evident here. It was a completely natural performance with an array of emotions ranging from her fierce dedication to teaching through her confused feelings about Gable. Day's scene with Gable in the elevator is priceless. She confronts him with fierce consternation after his deception has been revealed and berates him for his insincerity at the expense of the other students. Overcome, he kisses her and she glares at him asking, "are you finished, now?" The were both effective and showed that they have a true respect for acting.
Clark Gable was the consummate professional here. After watching him in scores of films, his experience before the camera was evident. His scenes in the office were wonderful and realistic. I often wonder what type of preparation it took for him to prepare for a role. Even though he was always Gable, he had the ability to transform himself into so many different characters. He and Miss Day acted well together. As a matter of fact, Gable brought out the best in Day's abilities. No way could she have gotten away with overacting in this. Day understood the importance of this picture and the history it would make. George Seaton, who directed it, was blessed by having two of Hollywood's most talented actors to guide. Obviously, he took great care in every detail, for even the supporting players were first rate in their parts.
I especially liked the third star, Gig Young. He deserved his Oscar nomination as best supporting actor. It's always a pleasure to see Jack Albertson, Charles Lane and veteran of several Day films, Sandra Gould. I was moved by several bit players like Vivian Nathan as Nick Adams concerned mother and by Peter Baldwin as the young writer and former student of Erica's. Too bad there wasn't more for the talented Mr. Adams, but he later shone brightly the very next year in "Pillow Talk".
This is certainly not your run of the mill comedy. It's thought provoking and delves into social issues like poverty, racism, big city life, education and changing times. But the picture is funny. The clever script by Fay and Michael Kanin was tight and kept the proceeding interesting. I would have preferred that the film be in colour along with the super VistaVision in which it was shot. Edith Head designed Miss Day's clothes, making her a very chic professor indeed. The film ended up on most year-end Top Ten lists including the coveted New York Times and Doris Day enjoyed one of the biggest record hits of her career with the title song, "Teacher's Pet" which topped the charts for weeks. The film emerges as one of Doris' best efforts. She should be proud of this one.
Ralph McKnight, New York, November 2000.
Once in a great while, a comedy comes along that combines satire, sophistication and face in one satisfying whole: “Teacher’s Pet” is just such a comedy. Paramount has teamed bouncy Doris Day and sardonic Clark Gable in this spoof concerning a jaded, know-it-all editor (Gable) and his run-in with a very beautiful professor of journalism (Day). Clark thinks that Miss Day’s schoolroom type of journalism is for the dogs, while Miss Day believes the same about his rough and tough type. How they come around to each other’s opinion is the basis for this fast talking movie. With a stellar cast, which includes Mamie Van Doren, Gig Young and handsome newcomer Peter Baldwin and the talents of Perlberg-Seaton as producer directors, this is a must.
Movie Magazine Review
Doris Day with Clark Gable and wife Kay at the Premier of "Teacher's Pet".
Teacher’s Pet: Behind the Scenes
Striving for authenticity in the newspaper city room scenes, producer William Perlberg and director George Seaton cast 67 members of the nation’s press in the film. Fifty-three of them were flown to Hollywood from thirty-one states and Canada; the rest were from the Hollywood press corps.
Norton Mockride, city editor of the New York World Telegram and Sun, was present for the entire shooting to coach the city room scenes. The city room, even to certain smudge marks, is an exact replica of the New York World Telegram and Sun.
Doris Day won the Golden Flame Award from the California Association of Press Women while the picture was being filmed. The Award was for being cooperative with the press, and in honor of her role as a college journalism teacher.
Gig Young’s fingers became so sore while practicing his bongo drum routine; he had to have special sponge padding taped to each finger.
Clark Gable was obliged to learn to type with two fingers, newspaperman style, and to accomplish a Latin American dance called the Meringue. Gable’s wife, Kay, a frequent set visitor, kept the company supplied with sweets. She brought homemade popcorn, a half-dozen boxes of chocolates, and even a huge box of fresh pretzels.
Doris and her hubby Marty Melcher tossed a party for the visiting press and other cast members at their new Beverly Hills house, although they had not yet renovated it or moved in. The original plan was to stage a garden party and barbecue in the back yard. But thirty minutes before the guests were due; it began to rain so everyone ended up in the furnitureless house, on the floor.
As for Clark Gable, Doris says, “I could actually feel the magnetic force of his personality. He dressed in marvelous tweeds..There was something very affirmative about him, and a directness that suggested great inner strength.”
However, she said He projected “utter simplicity. Uncomplicated. A man who lived on the simple, down-to-earth scale. Very much like Cagney.”
Teacher’s Pet was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor: Gig Young. It was also chosen as one of the Ten Best Pictures of 1958 by the New York Times.
With Kim Novak and Gable at the 1958 Academy Awards.
"A delightful comedy, with Clark Gable as a crusty, hard-bitten newspaper editor who, instead of lecturing to Doris Day's journalism class, decides to enrol as a pupil. And, of course, his initial disdain of reporters who learn from books is swayed by his attraction to the teacher. Fay and Michael Kanin's screenplay becomes thin by the end, but Gable and Day fill it out with boisterous enthusiasm, possibly realising what upstaging opposition they've got from the great Gig Young, who was Oscar-nominated for his performance as Doris's other beau."
Doris Day and Mamie Van Doren
Mamie Van Doren famously complained that Doris was cold and had ignored her during the filming of "Teacher's Pet". Doris was still touchy about it years later in the '80s during filming of the BBC documentary "I Don't Even Like Apple Pie!", when the interviewer was told not to mention Mamie Van Doren in a pre-filming briefing!
Here is what Mamie Van Doren had to say about Doris in her book "Playing The Field":
"I had looked forward to meeting Doris Day. A mutual friend of ours, Charlotte Hunter, a dance coach from Universal, told me what a warm, friendly person Doris was. Doris had always been one of my favorite singers, with hits like "It's Magic". I also became a fan of her movies after seeing "Love Me Or Leave Me", in which she played opposite James Cagney. Nonetheless, our first meeting on the "Teacher's Pet" set was far from what I expected. Doris ignored me when we were introduced and proceeded to conduct herself like a spoiled star. George Seaton and Gable had to stoically bear her tantrums & disagreeable attitude.
Her dislike of me became most apparent when it was time to shoot reaction shots of Doris, Gable, and Gig Young watching a dance number I did while singing "The Girl Who Invented Rock 'n' Roll". Doris failed in take after take to smile radiantly while watching me dance. Finally Seaton called for my double to be positioned off-camera so that Doris could watch someone who could produce the desired reaction. Doris' cold attitude toward me never improved, and mercifully we saw little of each other during the film."
In my opinion, the set of a movie is a workplace and not everyone gets along with or likes everyone they work with, I think most people can relate to this! Perhaps Ms. Van Doren just rubbed Doris the wrong way and rather than be a phony Doris just chose not to deal with her. This is one person's side of the story anyway. I have never read anyone else say Doris was "spoiled" or "disagreeable". Anyway, she's not perfect and I'm sure she had bad days, like we all do sometimes, especially being married to Marty Melcher! Doris has avoided this subject in subsequent interviews and refuses to comment on Ms. Van Doren.
Steven, Doris Day Forum, Feb 2002