What a Way to Go 1966
Sometimes I stumble on an old movie I’ve never seen before, and strike gold! What a Way to Go is definitely a gold strike. Starring Shirley MacLaine, who was perfectly cast in a role that could’ve easily gone to someone like Doris Day, and with a slew of leading men I just adore- Paul Newman, Dick Van Dyke, Robert Mitchum, Dean Martin, Gene Kelly, and Robert Cummings- this movie couldn’t go wrong. And not just with the cast. The plot is a hilariously bright and fun dark comedy that hits the right spot. A bright dark comedy? I promise, it’s a real thing. And you won’t want to miss it.
The story begins with a rich lady who is turned away from the IRS headquarters after she tries to write a check for millionaires of dollars, simply as a donation. She is sent to a psychiatrist to be analyzed, and so begins to tell him about her curse.
Louisa May Foster (Shirley MacLaine) was just a simple girl who wanted to marry a simple man. She would have nothing to do with the rich and handsome Leonard Crawley (Dean Martin), because she was more interested in quoting Thoreau and falling in love with a man who had no ambition and would get nowhere in life- Edgar Hopper (Dick Van Dyke). After Edgar promises never to work hard and raise their station in life, they got married and lived an idyllic life in a dingy little cabin by the lake. Until one day, Edgar did’t come home from fishing at the Lake, and Louisa May caught him working at his general store. Edgar worked so hard that they became multi-millionaires, but incidentally, he worked so hard, that it suddenly killed him. So Louisa May was left all alone with millions of dollars she doesn’t want.
After running away to Europe, she meets another poor man and falls in love with him, only to have him become rich and die. This happens to her two more times, until she is scared to ever fall in love again, because she seems to have this awful affect on men- she makes them rich, and then they die.
Oh what a fun movie! From the hilariously silly plot to the amazing cast, and let us not forget the set and costumes! Edith Head (of course!) designed Shirley MacLaine’s wardrobe, which varied greatly depending on which husband she had at the moment. She wore all pink while married to Pinky, and wore dramatic gowns painted by her artist husband when she lived in Europe. Each outfit is a treat for the eyes. The homes she lived in were immaculately designed as well, and I particularly loved the scene when a crazed painter covers the entire pool lounge area in pink paint, and proceeds to chase Louisa May with his bucket of pink paint. The humor in the film doesn’t stop at wardrobe and set design, and I love that!
It’s no surprise that What a Way to Go was nominated for two Oscars in 1965- best art direction and best costume design. But it lost out on both of them to another lavish film I love- My Fair Lady. Maybe I never saw it because it was overshadowed by the classic Audrey Hepburn musical? But I’m so glad I finally discovered What a Way to Go! Be sure to check it out- I think you’ll love it! You can rent or buy it on Amazon instant view here.