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  Guide for the Married Man, A He's Only Cheating Himself
Year: 1967
Director: Gene Kelly
Stars: Walter Matthau, Robert Morse, Inger Stevens, Sue Ane Langdon, Elaine Devry, Linda Harrison, Lucille Ball, Jack Benny, Polly Bergen, Joey Bishop, Sid Caesar, Art Carney, Jayne Mansfield, Carl Reiner, Phil Silvers, Terry-Thomas, Sam Jaffe, Jackie Joseph
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Paul Manning (Walter Matthau) has been wondering about something for a while now, prompted by his philandering best friend Ed Stander (Robert Morse): just how content is he with married life? Ed has been encouraging him to dally with a woman other than his wife Ruth (Inger Stevens), even though she seems to be perfect for him, but according to Ed it's practically a husband's duty to see how much he can get away with as far as committing adultery goes. And it's true Paul has been noticing the opposite sex more and more recently - should he follow his pal's advice?

And what a lot of advice there is, as this was not so much a guide for the married man to stay married, but a guide for sleeping around and staying married; to call the messages here mixed would be understating it to some extent. On one hand we had Ed telling us that with all these available women around Paul, and by extension the men in the audience, would be crazy to turn them down or even fail to make a play for them, while on the other we had the more moral finger wagging at regular intervals that husband should remain faithful, and resist all urges to stray. Although considering Ruth is the ideal missus, they do somewhat stack the deck in her favour.

So what director Gene Kelly, taking a break from musicals now that he was getting older and tastes were changing to helm his own non-musical movies, offered up for us here was an illustration of Ed's golden rules for adultery (how appropriate Morse went on to be a regular on the examination of sixties foibles Mad Men later in his career). That illustration took the form of a series of sketches featuring famous faces, so in one Art Carney was married to Lucille Ball in a meeting of classic sitcom minds, finding a way to spend time with his mistress by staging an argument that gets him out of the house for an evening. But such is the way with soft-hearted Paul, when he tries that he makes Ruth cry and cannot go through with it.

The point is, in case you somehow hadn't noticed it on the tenth iteration, was that Paul doesn't need to commit adultery because he's perfectly content with his wife, played by Stevens as a two-dimensional dream girl, unlike her own complex personality which saw her committing suicide shortly after making this. All the women here are "types" rather than convincing as real people, as if any authenticity about how they really behaved entered into the plot it would have broken the facetious atmosphere, and popped the bubble of these, for the most part, fantasy creatures. At the time the film became known for its parade of attractive ladies, and as this appeared just at the time sexual liberation was just around the corner, for the movies at any rate, there's something curiously quaint about it (see Paul's potential mistress Sue Ane Langdon - the camera spends more time on her arse than her face).

Certainly as a record of what was considered alluring in 1967 Hollywood it was valuable, along with providing a measure of celebrity spotting with such strange mixtures as Terry-Thomas having an affair with Jayne Mansfield (in her last acting job before her death): when she loses her bra in his bedroom it's one of the most memorable moments in the film, especially as it ages him dramatically knowing his wife will find it eventually where he has failed. Really, it's the type of humour the Playboy-reading man about town would appreciate, so while they could indulge their private thoughts of snaring as many females as possible, quite how they reacted to the final moral that Paul was better off sticking with Ruth seeing as how there was nothing wrong with her and he just couldn't admit that cheating was not in his nature, was none too clear. Better to appreciate the production's cheek, its now-past it would-be sophistication, and its window into how Hollywood was struggling with the sexual revolution. Oh, and there are a few laughs, too. Music by John Williams, theme sung by The Turtles.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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