How To Murder Your Wife (1965) is written by prolific comedy writer and Broadway author George Axelrod. The writer who penned the tale of an itchy married man who wants to scratch while the wife's away now brings the tale of an angry married man who desperately wants to put his wife away. Permanently.
What could be good about How To Murder Your Wife? Three things: Terry-Thomas, the tunes and the townhouse.
In this film the wife is simple, the husband's a jerk, his lawyer's a pain and the lawyer's wife is a nag. The only person worth your time is Terry-Thomas as the butler, Charles, who refuses to work for married couples. He's a jerk as well, but somehow, even with a limited amount of screen time, he's funnier than anyone else.
|Charles is disgusted!|
It is partly Charles' ultimatum and Stanley's desire not to lose a good manservant that catapults our "hero" to action, thinking of ways to rid himself of his lovely wife. Terry-Thomas is the king of indignation and is perfectly cast since the entire plot largely hinges on Charles' disdain for married females. Think of him as a slightly less discriminating Henry Higgins type.
The veteran character actor's elastic face helps here as well. Charles prances about the house glorying in all the testosterone, the corners of his mouth pent to his ears like a Cheshire cat. Discovering there is a missus in the house, the pins pop out and his mouth slowly slides like melting mustache wax. His scowl is hilarious!
Helping the audience feel the characters' pain is composer Neal Hefti. Hefti is one of a long list of musicians/composers who imbues music for 1960s movies and television with its unique sound.
Each main character in Wife has a theme, but my favorite is the noble little funeral march called "Charles Packs His Bags." It's heard under the footsteps of Stanley's misogynistic butler as he walks towards the door - luggage in hand, nose in the air - protesting his employer's nuptials. Here the composer of TV's classic "Batman" theme song brings vivacity and humor to an otherwise gruesome tale.
|Charles storms out. Nicely placed portrait of a female rests between them|
The soundtrack for Wife is not so avant-garde as to be intrusive; it stays comfortably in the background underscoring little gestures. But neither is it a wallflower at this party. The music is partly romantic, partly snappy and jazzy. You keep thinking "Doesn't that sound like a couple of bars from the 'Odd Couple' show?," and "Wow! This is right up there with Henri Mancini and Quincy Jones."
It's a bad movie with an outstanding score.
You've got an unapologetically offensive (and thus comical) manservant and you've got great music, but this film wouldn't be half as entertaining without the sumptuous and modern trappings. Stanley Ford lives in a beautiful three story townhouse right in the middle of New York City. With skyscrapers all around, Charles declares, "Look at us! The last stronghold of gracious living in a world gone mad! Mad!"
|Ford. Stanley Ford.|
And what a pad it is! Married or single, male or female, you will love this house!
|A little antagonism in the kitchen. But that exposed brick is to die for!|
|Gorgeous! And the guys look good too.|
It all comes crashing down, figuratively, when the missus begins redecorating. You can almost hear that famous musical misogynist, Professor Higgins, singing
But! Let a woman in your life,
And your serenity is through.
She'll redecorate your home
from the cellar to the dome,
Then go to the enthralling fun
Of overhauling you.
Seriously, the townhouse is another star in this piece, one that deserves appreciation. Perhaps you should watch How To Murder Your Wife with the sound off. You'll miss the wonderful music, but not having to hear a bunch of idiots rant against women might improve the plot.
This post is a part of the CMBA Guilty Pleasures Movie Blogathon. Click here for the other posts in this 3-day blogathon.