This is my entry for the Jack Lemmon Blogathon sponsored by Wide Screen World and Critica Retro
How to Murder Your Wife (1965)
Imagine you are a confirmed bachelor. Imagine you never want to get married. Imagine you spent your whole life avoiding the entanglements that accompany being married (being committed to one woman, having to account for your whereabouts 24/7, or even, God help us, the biggest demon of all marriages, the Mother-In_Law....)
Now imagine at a bachelor party for one of your friends you get drunk off your ass, and in your most vulnerable moments of your drunken state, you propose to the girl who popped out of the bachelor's cake. And she accepts. Now imagine she is Italian and doesn't understand a word of English. The fact that the woman is Virna Lisi, a very hot blonde, is immaterial. You still don't want to be married.
Now imagine that the woman thinks you are adorable and is very affectionate, and does not want to dissolve the marriage. Imagine that your so-called "friends" also don't want you to dissolve the marriage and none of them are willing to help you. You come to the conclusion that the only solution is to...gasp...murder your wife.
This is what happens to poor Stanley Ford (Jack Lemmon). Stanley is a cartoonist who draws the popular secret agent comic strip "Bash Brannigan". Stanley has the habit of going out into the world with his valet, Charles (Terry-Thomas), and a few friends, to stage the antics of his cartoon creation, and then drawing the comics from the photos Charles takes.
Stanley's friend, Tobey (Max Showalter), gets engaged, and his friends throw a bachelor party, but at the party Tobey reveals that his wife-to-be has ditched him, calling off the wedding. The bachelor party continues, however, accompanied by a huge bachelor cake, from which pops out a beautiful blonde (Virna Lisi). Stanley is drunk, but he is swept away by this beauty and gets married to her. But he doesn't want to be married. So he immediately tries to initiate proceedings to dissolve the marriage. But his lawyer Harold (Eddie Mayehoff) and Harold's wife Edna (Claire Trevor) and everyone else are very unhelpful.
Meanwhile, the new Mrs. Ford is very affectionate and in love with Stanley. She proceeds to be the consummate loving wife, making meals for him (which causes him to get fatter, something he definitely doesn't like), and, with the help of a rather cynical Edna, is taught how to be the pain in the ass parody of an overbearing wife.
Charles has left Stanley because he is a man's man and refuses to work for "married couples". No one wants to help him in his predicament. His comics character, too, has been transformed from a secret agent into a hen-pecked husband along the same lines as Dagwood Bumstead in the "Blondie" comics. Stanley doesn't like the direction his heroic secret agent comic character has taken. He decides that the only solution to the situation is to murder the wife (the comic strip wife). He concocts a plan that involves Charles in his usual capacity to film him committing a murder, using a mannequin in the place of a real woman.
Mrs Ford sees the comic strip on his drawing board and leaves, thinking, quite reasonably, that Stanley does not love her. Ostensibly going back to Italy, she packs almost nothing and leaves, without even a note. When she disappears without a trace or a note, Everyone assumes that Stanley has actually murdered her. He gets arrested and goes on trial for the murder. The trial is one of the funniest parts of the movie, especially after Stanley fires Harold as his lawyer, takes over his own defense, and puts Harold on the witness stand as his only witness.
Lemmon is great as Stanley. Some people think his role as Felix Ungar in The Odd Couple is his best comedic role, and while I have to admit it probably is, his portrayal as Stanley Ford is perhaps his second best, even despite the fact that most of you, including myself, have probably never even heard of the movie until now.
You can sympathize with Stanley's predicament, to be sure. The hardest part, for me, was accepting that Stanley wouldn't want to have a wife that looked like Virna Lisi. Now, on the other hand, if he had gotten married to someone who looked like, and acted like Claire Trevor's character in the film, I can see him being extremely disappointed. It's a credit to Lemmon that he actually can pull off this character. Myself, I might never have left the marriage bed...
Hope this entry was educational for you. Drive home safely folks.
I find a lot of humour in this movie. The only part that irks me somewhat is that for days after we watch it the hubby keeps talking about "pushing the button". I wonder how a remake in the vein of "How to Murder Your Husband" would fly these days.ReplyDelete
I think you are right on the money in this being one of Jack's best comedic performances. It works perfectly, and when you combine it with Terry-Thomas' performance, it is magic.
It may turn out that I am among the few who didn't know this movie existed. Thanks for reading and the good words.Delete
Having been in the comics industry for years as a little bit of almost everything, I find it hard to believe Lemmon makes enough money to afford a valet. But yeah, he is funny in this.ReplyDelete
Maybe he made a LOT of money doing it... It all depends on your market. I'd say... I'm sure Charles Schulz made decent money. Thanks for reading.Delete
Wonderful post!I had forgotten about this movie. Will have to seek it out.ReplyDelete
I invite you to share it at this week's The Classic Movie Marathon link party http://classicmovietreasures.com/classic-movie-marathon-link-party-premiere/
Thanks for reading. Glad you enjoyed it.Delete
Yes, this post WAS educational. I had never heard of this movie before, and I suspect you've done me a big favour with this introduction. It sounds like a lot of fun, and I'm looking forward to it!ReplyDelete
I'd never heard of it until my library acquired a copy. It's a fum flick. Thanks for reading.Delete
Can you believe I have never even seen this one? But I will take your word to check it out. My all-time favorite Jack Lemmon performance is in The Apartment, but I also love him in The Out fo Towners and of course Some Like it Hot!ReplyDelete
This one is well worth trying to scour the video racks. Virna Lisi may or may not be much of an actress, but Lemmon more than makes up for her. And Claire Trevor is a hoot.Delete