First of all, Jack Lemmon can do no wrong, even when he’s at his schtick-iest – and he often comes pretty close to that line. (That is, when he’s not stomping on it.) He’s just a very funny man. So when I’m perusing the offerings on Netflix and encounter a movie featuring Jack Lemmon, I usually check it out. Even if the film is atrocious I’ll have a good time with Jack, laughing it up. This is how I stumbled across his movie “How to Murder Your Wife”. This 1965 movie has a catchy title and a compelling and relentlessly dated plot to recommend it. What’s not to like?
It’s not the idea of murdering the wife (a lovely Virna Lisi) that gives the movie’s age away, it’s the reasons Jack Lemmon gives for doing away with her. Marrying her was a mistake that he considers correcting, as it utterly cramps his revered bachelor lifestyle. And not only his lifestyle, but that of his personal valet. The two of them have a chaste love affair that centers around their deep and abiding fondness for domestic order and civility. A woman, as a matter of course, interrupts this domestic order with her penchant for cooking elaborate dishes, talking at length with her interfering mother, and washing her stockings and unmentionables in the bathroom sink.
All such pre-woman’s movement cultural nuggets aside, the movie is a veritable feast for the eyes. For the attentive viewer, the high quality of Jack Lemmon’s bachelor pad creates an intense sympathy for his plight. His apartment in the movie is amazing, with not one, but two black leather chesterfield sofas, gorgeous paintings and sculptures, and some very comfortable-looking fur throws. The interiors depicted are so current as to seem uncanny. Even the bathroom fixtures seem fresh from a showroom specializing in old-world perfection with new-world amenities, marble-lined multi-head double shower and all. And when the character of Jack Lemmon’s wife replaced the couches and added purple florals to his near-perfect bedroom, I myself felt a strong urge for Jack Lemmon to do away with her. So sad, when one must choose between a floral fabric and a marriage.
However. Since this here is no brooding mid-century foreign film with lots of dimly-lit corridors and anguished looks, no actual bloodletting ensues. While the apartment doesn’t remain entirely intact, the very charming wife does. So I guess all’s well that ends well. Although I’m not sure she didn’t deserve a darker fate as a consequence of bringing in those awful couches.
Check out this movie and spend some time in this lovely apartment, with Set Design by William Kiernan. The opener to the movie is here:
Bonus: Watch this clip from the movie about the secret to managing the man in your life, shared by an older married woman with the young wife of Jack Lemmon’s character. I laughed and laughed, and then called my husband into the room so he could see it. I hate to give away the secrets of my sex but my sense of equal opportunity and gender fairness prevailed.