Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Pairing a movie with Leave Her to Heaven

Cornel Wilde may have regretted marrying Gene Tierney in Leave Her to Heaven. For a more comic take on regretting getting married, however, you'll do better with How to Murder Your Wife.

Jack Lemmon stars as Stanley Ford, a comic strip writer who is known for two things: acting out the scenarios in his strips, and being a confirmed bachelor. One night, however, he goes to a friend's bachelor party -- and gets so drunk that he gets married to the girl who jumped out of the cake (Virna Lisi). Worse, she only speaks limited English, having been born in Italy. The marriage makes life a nightmare for Stanley, as his valet (Terry-Thomas) is also a confirmed bachelor, and thinks Stanley should have remained unmarried.

Stanley decides to vent his frustration through his comic strip, writing a story line that will have his wife disappear. The only problem is that while he's doing this, his wife decides to go home to Mother in Italy. Since she's gone missing, and everybody knows how Stanley acts out the story lines ahead of time, they naturally assume that he's murdered his wife. How is he going to get out of this mess? (I'm not about to give the ending away.)

How to Murder Your Wife is a fun movie, although it's definitely a product of the 1960s. The Neal Hefti theme is highly reminiscent of his later work in The Odd Couple, and the swinging New York shown here doesn't exist any more, Gerald Ford having told it to drop dead. Not only that, but a lot of the humor-impaired people of today would consider this movie highly politically incorrect. And there's the minor problem of wondering how a comic strip writer could afford such a huge place in New York. Still, Jack Lemmon is as good as ever, and the supporting cast has quite a few names you've seen before: Claire Trevor as his lawyer's wife; Sidney Blackmer, whose work dated back to Little Caesar and beyond, as a judge; and Mary Wickes as the secretary to Lemmon's lawyer.

How to Murder Your Wife has been released to DVD, so you don't have to wait for TCM to show it, since that won't be until November.

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