Sunday, July 24, 2011

How To Murder Your Wife: Martini Movie, Killer Comedy

Terry-Thomas, Jack Lemmon & Virna Lisi have a housekeeping
disagreement in How To Murder Your Wife. Credit: United Atists

                         How To Murder Your Wife: Martini Movie, Killer Comedy


                                                                     Jay Agan
      It's 1960s New York City, a mans' world & successful cartoonist Stanley Ford (Jack Lemmon) has his corner of it. With the assistance of his erstwhile "gentlmans' gentleman"/storyboard photographer Charles Firbank (Terry-Thomas), his "Bash Brannigan-Secret Agent" comic strip is popularly syndicated all over the world. He has a Manhattan bachelor townhouse, a membership in the citys' most elite mens club, & hob nobs with the rich & powerful. Truly a master of his fate & possessor of destiny.

      Then he gets married ..... by "accident".

      While snockered at a bachelor party, he marries the babe (Virna Lisi) who pops out of the cake, a tipsy judge (Sidney Blackmer) officiating the vows. It's legal (No grounds for divorce.) thus unbreakable.

     With his new bride, Stanleys' life falls apart. His townhouse is hit with the "feminine touch". The new wife can't speak a lick of English & learns it in a variety of distracting methods while getting "Americanized" in the worst way. The Italian cooking has Ford putting on weight he can't work off. Firbank can't function in the same house with "that woman" & takes up employment elsewhere. Oh yes, "mother is coming to stay".

      Desperate for material, Stanley commits his now domestic situation to his work & Bash Brannigan transforms into a bumbling family man making Dagwood Bumstead seem like a paragon of professionalism. Needless to say, the comic strip achieves a new height of popularity.

      It all comes to a head when Stanley is expelled from his last refuge at the club when "she who must be catered to" crashes it. What to do? Kill her! And "kill" her he does. At least in the comic strip if not in "real life".

      Coming up with a wild plan to change the course of his comic strip & use it as a temporary escape from his domesticity, Ford has Bash Brannigan kill his wife to restart his career as a secret agent.

      With his system of photographically "storyboarding" the strip, it actually involves Ford drugging Mrs. Ford before disposing of her (Brrrrrrrup! Blaaaaap!). Of course he doesn't kill her, substituting a mannequin at the last moment. This is lost on Firbank as most of the photos he takes are longshots thus thinking Ford has actually done her in. This haunts Stanley later as Charles enthusiastically praises him on the witness stand!

Brrrrrrup! Blaaaaaap! Says it all!
      With the use of an electronic "tuning fork" to operate machinery, the "body" is dumped into the cement poured by the "globbita globbita machine" at the construction site next door. Later, the "late" Mrs. Ford revives back at the townhouse & sees the finished strip for the next day. Not amused, she heads back to Italy & mother. As she can't be found/contacted, the world thinks Stanley Ford killed her.

      At the trial, it looks like curtains for Stanley. Charles has implicated him. His incompetant, henpecked lawer (Eddie Mayehoff) is about to throw him to the wolves. The now sober, wife dominated judge is going to have him hung by the neck strapped to the electric chair in a gas chamber before a firing squad. The also harpy harangued all male jury is ready to pronounce his guilt.

      In a "brilliant" about face, Stanley more than admits his guilt. He proclaims he did what he did as not only self defense, but also for striking a blow for all of the male species who have had their lives curtailed & put on its ear by marriage. Men have been crushed & their dreams put on hold due to the oppressive institution. He did what most married men only dream of. "Pressing the button" on their wives.

      After an excriutiatingly lengthy deliberation of only a few seconds, the jury proclaims Stanleys' fate: NOT GUILTY! A strike for the emancipation of men the world over has been struck, the women in the courtroom not at all happy.

      Possible? With the OJ & Anthony trials behind us, one can only wonder what legal precedence may be set in the future.

      All's well that ends well howsomever. Stanleys' bride returns with mother (Firbank takes an "instant liking' to her.) in tow, & the film ends on a prurient note.

                                    Article copyright © 7-24-2011 Jay Agan

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  1. " Possible? With the OJ & Anthony trials behind us, one can only wonder what legal precedence may be set in the future."

    The problem with your assessment: Stanley is a successful, shall we say melanin-deficient man.


    OTOH...a film with Terry-Thomas. Always a treat!

  2. Have you ever seen the 60s Italian stinker "Danger-Diabolik"? Terry-Thomas played the Brit finance minister. Small part, but good. The soundtrack is good.

  3. Who is "Edna"? Certainly not the delectable Mrs Ford (Virna Lisi), whose first name is never mentioned. Even Neal Hefti's wonderful music for the film calls her (the delectable Mrs Ford) just "Virna"...

    ...JN (UK) [huge HTMYW fan]

  4. Aardvark:

    1. I think the "melanin deficiency" factor was addressed in Bonfire of the Vanities.

    2. Have not seen Danger-Diabolik. Will make it a point to see it.


    Oops! My bad. Corrections have been made. Thanks for pointing that out. How could I confuse Virna Lisi for Claire Trevor? Need my eyes examined!

    By the way, Ms. Trevor was a hottie in her time but the 60s was past that.