Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Lemmon Effective in Marriage Spoof

Cleveland Press February 7, 1965

Cartoonist Stanley Ford (Jack Lemmon) lives an idyllic existence. He is wealthy. He has a wonderful apartment in the heart of Manhattan. He is a bachelor.

He has a perfect valet, butler and gentleman's gentleman, Charles (Terry - Thomas), who keeps life running in well-ordered manner.

Ford is healthy and wealthy and the occasional romantic moments that come his way are pleasant interludes, not permanent entanglements.

THE CARTOONIST draws a daily strip about Brash Brannigan, a James Bond type hero. Boasting that Brannigan will do nothing that Ford couldn't do himself, the cartoonist takes daily jaunts around the city aided by actors and his valet, acting out these wild deeds of daring before startled onlookers.

One night Ford goes to a bachelor party for a friend about to get married. Just when everybody is thoroughly tipsy, a huge cake is wheeled in. Out pops a shapely morsel (Virna Lisi), decorated with a little bit of whipped cream.

She looks at Ford. Ford looks back at her. Right away you know that this is the filly in Ford's future.

Sure enough, there she is the next morning. But there's a wedding ring on her finger. The entanglement is permanent.

HE EXPLAINS that it's all a mistake, that he will give her a divorce and a handsome settlement. She smiles at everything he says and then answers in a torrent of language he doesn't understand.

"My God," he groans," she's Italian."

He hustles her off to his lawyer (Eddie Mayehoff), who offers no help, thinks the old boy should have been married long ago anyway. The lawyer's wife (Claire Trevor) is a domineering sort who takes the bride in hand to demonstrate some of the finer points in browbeating a spouse.

The bachelor's paradise becomes a maze of frilly curtains, cosmetics, curlers and drying lingerie.

She's a wonderful wife showering him with kisses and stuffing him with food. But with all that love and lasagna Ford soon becomes a tired, fat old man.

THE COMIC STRIP changes. Brash Brannigan gets married and the strip recounts his domestic misadventures. Ford decides that he can't allow his creation to degenerate this way, works out a plan in which Brash will murder his wife.

As he has before, Ford works out every step of his perfect murder plan, even has a run-through with a department store dummy.

Before millions of readers, Brash Brannigan disposes of his wife. At the same time, Mrs. Ford disappears. Ford is arrested for murder.

Though writer-producer George Axelrod has created an anti-marriage tirade, he has extracted the venom from his attack with wildly implausible and often slapstick situations.

HIS FILM also has a built-in disclaimer -- Italian actress Virna Lisi.

Axelrod is kidding the dominance of the female. By adding a language barrier he also dramatizes the classic inability of husbands and wives to communicate.

This also is, refreshingly, a comedy about marriage in which the husband is not a nit-wit.

JACK LEMMON goes through this entire movie without leering. He hasn't had to -- it's not that sort of I material. It is instead, material that is quite up to his exceptional talents. Here is a superb technician at work, an actor whose every movement contributes toward a total effect.

Unlike many of his recent films, Lemmon doesn't have to go it alone in this one. Terry-Thomas is perfect as the valet distraught at his master's misfortune. Eddie Mayehoff sputters and blusters as the lawyer and henpecked husband.

Virna Lisi is a rare creature, an actress with both class and sex appeal. She has a gift for bubbling comedy and though her English is sketchy, the message comes through.

The movie skims along swiftly, slows down toward the end with some straining at believability, particularly in the trial scene. The performers manage to put over even these moments as though they were as good as the ones that have gone before.

Neal Hefti has composed a jazzy musical score for the background.