How to Murder Your Wife (1965): 3.5/5
I chose this film on a whim after browsing the “Classic Romantic Comedies” page on Netflix and noticing that Jack Lemmon had top billing. I’ve been trying to watch more of his films after falling in love with Bell, Book and Candle earlier this year.
Lemmon is often remembered for Some Like It Hot, in which he and Tony Curtis cross-dress and flee town in an all-female band – a band which includes the iconic Marilyn Monroe. It’s become apparent to me, however that Lemmon played a great array of characters in his day, and that Some Like It Hot is certainly not his best (though it is a phenomenal film, and a favorite of mine).
That’s not to say that How to Murder Your Wife is one of Lemmon’s best roles or films. Here he portrays a cartoonist, Stanley Ford, who accidentally gets married while drunk at a friend’s party. His performance is fantastically believable as usual, but the film has a few little issues.
Some of the scenes are silly, in the “that’s so bad, it’s laughable” sense. Some of the plot twists are also very predictable.
But these problems don’t kill the film. Overall, it is very fun to watch.
The beginning is particularly striking. It boasts great narration which is humorous both in delivery and content.
It gets even better when the narrator finally appears on screen. He is Charles, Mr. Ford’s butler (portrayed by Terry-Thomas) – a perfectly delivered character with great facial expression, who draws the viewer into the film right away.
The communication issues between Lemmon and his leading lady (Mrs. Ford, portrayed by Virna Lisi) who happens not to speak much English aside from “yes” and “no,” are often quite comedic. She speaks Italian, and Lemmon only speaks a breed of Italian that is not Italian at all, but rather English with nonsensical suffixes added on.
The film is sometimes criticized for being chauvinistic. It definitely isn’t the most politically correct script ever written by a long shot, but you can’t go into a 1960s “bachelor life vs. married life” comedy and expect it to be completely inoffensive.
If you’re easily offended by comedies about gender roles, avoid this completely. If not, give it a chance and enjoy Jack Lemmon’s performance, which got him nominated for the 1966 Best Actor BAFTA award. It’s best not to take this kind of film very seriously, and to remember that it is a product of its time. If you keep that in mind, you’ll probably enjoy it.