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How to Save a Marriage and Ruin Your Life

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That she should be
honored to be subservient.

That a 28-year-old blonde bombshell would
have trouble landing a beau until some 51-year-old man came sliming
along.

I’m being harsh, but this Dean Martin/Stella Stevens pairing — now part of the burned-on-demand Sony Pictures Choice Collection — engages in all of these and more. I wasn’t even alive when it hit theaters, so perhaps this picture was uproarious in its day. In this millennium, however, it must settle for being just a little amusing. Only part of that comes from what was scripted; the rest from its quaint, mild sexism, bordering on misogyny. (Even the women’s Act 3 feeling of empowerment is presented as mock-worthy.)

His hair dyed blacker than the tissue of his lungs from all the cigarettes he smokes throughout the film, crooner-cum-actor Martin (whose ’71 cowboy comedy, Something Big, also sported dubious taste) is David Sloane, a bachelor who learns his best bud, Harry (Eli Wallach, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps), is cheating on his wife a couple nights a week. Harry assures David that if only he met this mistress (Anne Jackson, The Shining), he’d be, like, totally cool with it.

David agrees to, only to mistake Harry’s co-worker (Stevens, Advance to the Rear) as the side dish, providing One Big Misunderstanding that TV director Fielder Cook tries to ride as far as he can. How to Save a Marriage sputters toward its predictable but abrupt ending. The whole thing is cute about half the time (mostly in its first half), but not cute enough to merit a repeat viewing, much less a recommendation. Martin’s pretty pitiful in the part, seemingly struggling just to talk; Stevens is the standout, in more ways than one.  —Rod Lott

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