The Truth About Doris Day And Rock Hudson's Relationship

Doris Day and Rock Hudson starred in three romantic comedies together: "Pillow Talk" (1959), "Lover Come Back" (1961), and "Send Me No Flowers" (1964), per IMDb. On screen, they seemed the perfect match. He was the tall, handsome leading man type while she was perceived as America's sweetheart. Film audiences turned out in droves to witness their playful banter and their remarkable personal chemistry.

Day and Hudson shared a meaningful connection in real life, too. And while the most time they spent together was on set, they formed a bond that lasted until Hudson's death in 1985. Both stars knew what it was like to portray one kind of character for the public while being a very different person away from the cameras. To find success, each of them was repackaged in a way to make them more marketable. Day had been originally Doris Kappelhoff (via Vox) and Hudson was born Roy Harold Scherer Jr. (via Turner Movie Classics). Because of Hollywood standards of the times, Hudson was also forced to hide his sexuality to become a successful romantic lead. Day was portrayed as being perky and pure.

Day and Hudson both had difficult beginnings

Maybe part of what made Day and Hudson such a good pair was that they both had known intense personal hardships. They each experienced difficult childhoods that had a lasting impact on both of them. Hudson's father walked out on him and his mother, according to USA Today. His mother could be verbally abusive to Hudson, repeatedly telling him that he was stupid, per Vanity Fair. Hudson's life only got worse when his mother remarried and he found himself the target of his stepfather's physical abuse.

Day didn't fare much better than Hudson growing up. She was also abandoned by her father, who left when she was 11, per Vanity Fair. Day was in a car accident a few years later, in which she was so badly injured that it took her almost two years to recover. She was only 19 when she married for the first time, and her union with Al Jorden was a disaster (via Closer Weekly). He had mental health problems and he beat the young star.

Hudson loved Day before he even met her

Hudson felt a connection with Day long before the pair ever worked together. According to Fox News, actress Barbara Rush explained that Hudson "just loved her singing. We were on location and he would play some of her music. He just loved it." And when the two stars met, they seemed to click instantly.

Their personal chemistry carried over into their performances in the 1959 romantic comedy "Pillow Talk." Day played an interior designer named Jan Morrow who shared a phone line with a charming but rakish playboy named Brad Allen (Hudson), per IMDb. Allen and his calls to his many paramours tied up the shared phone line, much to Morrow's dismay. Allen pretends to be someone else in order to win over Morrow. The film proved to be a hit, and they reunited for 1961's "Lover Come Back" and 1964's "Send Me No Flowers."

While they only made three films together, Hudson and Day had been considered one of the all-time favorite couples in the history of romantic comedies. Day later revealed what she thought was a driving factor between their success: "I think the reason people liked our movies is because they could tell how much we liked each other," she explained to People magazine.

Day and Hudson reunited one last time

While Day retired from filmmaking in 1968, she stayed connected to Hudson for the rest of his life. She later told The Hollywood Reporter that "I had such fun working with my pal, Rock. We laughed our way through three films we made together and remained great friends." He was one of the first people she thought of when she made a return to television in 1985. Day was launching a new show on the Christian Broadcasting Network called "Doris Day's Best Friends," which featured stars and their animals (via the Los Angeles Times). Day chose Hudson to be her first guest because they both had a tremendous love for dogs.

Hudson's appearance on Day's show turned out to be their final reunion. She was surprised to see how Hudson's health had deteriorated when he arrived for the interview. The once-imposing screen hunk had become thin and gaunt, battling what he had revealed to be AIDS. "He was very sick. But I just brushed that off and I came out and put my arms around him, and said 'Am I glad to see you,” Day told People magazine. Hudson, the first major celebrity to publicly acknowledge that he had AIDS, died that October.