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A "slice of life" drama centered around a bachelor party. Don Murray plays a newly married, not very happily married, man. His vague dissatisfaction with his marriage is tested as he wander into Greenwich Village (nicely filmed on location)and compares himself to his friends--an older, struggling married man, the bridegroom, the confirmed bachelor. Will he stray or not? The movie is depressing, far less uplifting than Marty. But good performances from Murray, Jack Warden and Carolyn Jones.
Please don't think I'm exaggerating when I call this movie a "must
see." Other reviews have called this film depressing. I agree, but for
entirely different reasons. The depressing part comes in realizing that
there seems to be no room for the sort of superb writing and spot-on
flawless performances in a mature drama such as we have offered to us
by THE BACHELOR PARTY.
The reason for the scarcity of wonderful films like this owes to the movie's origin as a TV-play, at a time when the young medium was still showing outstanding pieces written by writers like the author of this screenplay, Paddy Chayefsky.
I once read an interview with King Vidor, discussing his amazing 1928 classic, THE CROWD. He said that there were people that he didn't care for in his life, but that he didn't have any actual "villains." His goal was to make a movie that, like life, was free from external fiends and instead was peopled with characters that had some internal obstacles over which they must prevail. That's the sort of thing that Chayefsky so brilliantly captured in THE BACHELOR PARTY. Each character had some missing or broken part with which they struggled. Some seem to triumph over their problems. Some might eventually. Some, well, let's simply say they have a long road ahead.
It was great to see E.G. Marshall and Jack Warden together again after seeing them in another movie from the same year (1957) - 12 ANGRY MEN. It was wonderful to see Philip Abbot as the nervous groom. Folks of a certain age will mostly recall him from dozens of guest-star appearances on popular TV shows. I didn't realize that Larry Blyden, who I mostly remember from classic game shows like "Match Game," "What's My Line?" "Password" and "To Tell the Truth" was also such an accomplished actor. The lead, Don Murray, isn't as highly regarded today and what a pity that is. I can't recall a Don Murray performance that I didn't like. Check out BUS STOP (1956), A HAT FULL OF RAIN (1957), HOODLUM PRIEST (1961), BABY THE RAIN MUST FALL (1964) and THE BORGIA STICK (1967) to get an idea of what this remarkable performer is capable of doing. And finally, in small roles, it was fun to see a pre-"Addams Family" Carolyn Jones in a part that bagged her a Best Supporting Actress nomination and Nancy Marchand as a friend or the main character's wife. Many of you know her as the mother from hell to Tony Soprano.
Don Murray is good as a married man coaxed (by his wife!) into attending a bachelor party for a fellow bookkeeper. The wife (well played by Patricia Smith) seems to know the party will test Murray's nose-to-the-grindstone dedication to their marriage. It does -- and reveals a great deal about the other participants as well, especially the prospective bridegroom, who seems to get more emotional satisfaction from friend Murray than his bride-to-be. The ending is sentimental, but moving, too, if you give it a chance, and there's a truly brilliant small performance from Carolyn Jones, probably seven or eight of the most mesmerizing minutes ever filmed.
Despite the reassuring conventional ending, this is one of the few 50's
films to catch the decade's growing unease. It's a post-war period of
fast rising prosperity and "settling down" into a comfortable life
style denied to the Depression and war years. Migration to suburbs
turns into a stampede as more and more folks can afford a piece of real
estate. The movie's setting, however, is Manhattan, but the prevailing
atmosphere of job, marriage and kids carries over.
The movie follows five office co-workers on-the-town, celebrating one of the buddies' engagement (Arnold's). Anxiously uncertain Arnold is about to settle into the prevailing life style, which seems like a cause to celebrate. But as the movie progresses, layers of convention begin to peel away exposing a core of self-doubt and degrees of unhappiness among the married men (Blyden, Marshall, and Murray), and one that soon turns into full-blown angst over ordinary middle-class norms. Each party-goer reacts in an individual way as he begins to face a hidden personal truth. As a result, the party turns from a celebration into what amounts to a trial by fire, at the same time we glimpse some of the underlying tensions of the time.
Those tensions revolve around two core issuessexuality and freedom. Settling down means security and the consolations of family and friends. But it also means a loss of freedom to explore new life styles and relationships. Murray, in particular, feels the conflict as the roving party opens up tempting new worlds and a sense of adventure, especially with Carolyn Jones' exotic seductress. It's really Murray's character who is pivotal as the less spirited Blyden and Marshall retreat from the temptations that urban nightlife offers. On the other hand, Murray's married man is stimulated, making his outcome emblematic of the film's outcome.
The movie is really more effective in opening these issues than in dealing with them. Warden, the bachelor, whom the others envy for his single-man freedom, is later shown as leading an empty and compulsive life, not to be envied. Similarly, Jones' sexual cravings are shown to be empty and unrewarding. Thus the deck is ultimately stacked against an unmarried life style, thereby reinforcing the conventions of then and perhaps now. I don't know if that was writer Chayefski's choice or whether the conformism was mandated by nervous producers, but the slant remains, nevertheless .
Two well-executed scenes expose tensions on the woman's side. Murray's sweet, pregnant wife Smith is visited by her older sister-in-law Marchand. The talk quickly becomes a heart- to-heart, where Marchand reveals the angst of a settled marriage, in which her doctor husband has pursued a number of affairs, leaving her with the kids and a comfortable life- style she'll stay with, even though she conveys an air of frustration and emptiness. When Smith objects that her husband, Murray, is not like that, Marchand tells her to just wait until they too have been married eleven years. What's more, she advises Smith to get rid of the pregnancy so that Murray will have a chance to finish accounting school and "fulfill himself". The implication is that marriage and family can become a trap leaving both partners unhappy. Needless to say, Smith's young wife is left deeply apprehensive, but hopeful that she and her husband are different. These are two very well written and well-acted scenes.
Taking an historical step back from the film-- the tensions on display here break into the open during the free-love counter-cultural movement of the 1960's, when a new generation not chastened by the hardships of the 30's and 40's arrives on the scene. Stripped of political context, their rebellion can be viewed as a more self-indulgent reaction to the confines of the job-marriage-family norm that Bachelor Party deals with and that their parents settled for. The issue of why the rebellion faded away in favor of a return to those more traditional norms remains an interesting question, but poses a context different from the one in the film.
The movie itself is well paced by director Mann, who manages to keep things moving despite all the dialogue. It's also a powerhouse cast with such familiar faces of the time as Warden, Marshall, Murray and Jones. Murray especially is an attractive player who managed to combine a sense of boyish enthusiasm with an adult-level of sincerity. As a young husband, he's perfect. Sure, the movie looks dated as fashions, styles, and technology change. But the underlying issues that the movie deals with remain as relevant now as then, as national divorce statistics, for one, testify. For a look at how similar themes were handled during the same period in a suburban rather than a city setting, check out No Down Payment (1957, Martin Ritt). Nonetheless, Bachelor Party remains a worthwhile look back in time for its perceptive exploration of conventions that in most ways are still with us.
This is one of my favorite movies,"Marty" is my number one!. Wonderful
acting and realistic dialog not seen today except in small independent
movies. As each character shows himself, we can see our own doubts and
struggles with marriage and the accompanying responsibilities. I like
how Nancy Marchand appears in this, she was "Clara" in the live TV
version of "Marty" opposite Rod Steiger.Terrific location shots of New
York in the 1950s especially Greenwich Village.
Now let's see the third in what I call the "Paddy Chayefsky Trilogy": "Marty", "The Bachelor Party" and (also, another "Lost" film not on DVD) "Middle of the Night"!
Paddy Chayefsky's screenplay is perceptive and even a bit daring for its time. This is an unusually sophisticated Hollywood picture from the 50s that contains some terrific acting. E.G. Marshall is very strong as the eldest of the men, but Oscar nominee Carolyn Jones is brilliant in a small, electrifying performance. She can't be in the film for more than 7 or 8 minutes but is completely memorable. She deserved to win the Oscar.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Charlie Samson, who works as an accountant, starts his day with an
unexpected news. His wife Helen is going to be a mother. The
announcement startles Charlie, who was not planning on the new arrival.
He asks Helen for five dollars for the gift the guys at the office are
buying Arnold, the man that will be marrying soon. Charlie does not
plan in going to the dinner Eddie has prepared for the future groom,
but Helen feels he should go to unwind. After all, going to night
school is clearly taking its toll.
Little prepares Charlie for the long night he will spend in the company of four of his fellow workers. Eddie is an aggressive single whose only wish is to go to bars where he can pick up women to satisfy his empty life. After the dinner, Eddie wants to keep the party going. The five men go from bar to bar, to his apartment, where no one really wants to go.
Meanwhile, Helen Samson receives the visit of her sister-in-law, Julie, a bitter woman stuck in a bad marriage. She knows her husband cheats on her constantly. Upon learning about Helen's pregnancy, Helen tells her, point blank, about the possibility of getting rid of the baby. Helen is horrified because she has been looking forward to motherhood as the fulfillment of her life, as a woman, and as a wife.
The bar hopping scene becomes pathetic, when only Arnold, Eddie and Charlie are left to keep the party going. The three men finally show up at a party they had been told by a lonely young woman that needs all the help she can get because of her narcissistic outlook in life. She just wants to be told she is loved from any man, including Charlie, who has had enough and leaves to take Arnold home. In his drunken state, Arnold reveals he is terrified of getting married. Getting home and seeing Helen again, brings a kind of peace to Charlie after the crazy night he just experienced.
"The Bachelor Party" was an achievement when it made its debut. The film spoke of things no one had dared to say on the screen intended for a big audience before. Abortion is clearly pointed out to Helen by Julie, an unhappy woman, as a way to avoid the situation she is facing. There is also the case of loneliness with Eddie and the young Village girl that must be told how much is is loved. These creatures of the Manhattan of the times continue to live in big cities all over America, although the language in films is much more frank today.
Paddy Chayefski, the screenwriter of "Marty", created this work as a television play, which was expanded to a film. Delbert Mann, was the natural choice, after having worked with Mr. Chayefsky. The film had an excellent cast. Don Murray, Jack Warden, E.G. Marshall, Larry Blyden, Philip Abbott, Patricia Smith, among others. The two outstanding performances came from Nancy Marchand, making her film debut and by Carolyn Jones, the lonely "Village" girl, who went to win the Oscar for best supporting actress.
Joseph LaShelle, the cinematographer, gives us a tour around the New York of that era. Some of the locations included Stuyvesant City Housing Project, home for lots of middle class families. Paul Merz is credited with the musical score with the help of Alex North. The film owes to the inspired collaboration of Delbert Mann and Paddy Chayefsky.
Remember in the 1955 film, "Marty," a group of guys keep asking, "So,
what are we going to do tonight?" That film as well as this one was
directed by Delbert Mann with the writing done by Paddy Chayefsky. In
"Bachelor Party" the guys really don't seem to know again what they're
going to be doing.
Despite excellent performances by Don Murray, E.G. Marshall, Larry Blyden and Nancy Marchand, this film stagnates. I was almost getting dizzy from the constant subway rides. It was great seeing what the New York subways looked like in the 1950s but enough was enough.
When several guys in an office plan a bachelor party for a nervous to-be-groom, nicely done by Philip Abbott, it becomes an evening of self-examination.
I was waiting for a burst out scene but unfortunately that never came.
Much has been made about Carolyn Jones's brief supporting Oscar nomination bid. As far as I'm concerned, it was much ado about nothing. Patricia Smith, as Don Murray's wife, and Nancy Marchand, as the sister-in-law, gave far better performances as an anxious-to-be mother and sister-in-law whose husband, a doctor, has been cheating on her.
Jack Warden epitomizes the care-free bachelor whose main purpose in life is to chase after women. His life is quite empty as we see at the end of the film. Larry Blyden, who left us way too early, depicts the stay-at-home type who quickly realizes that this "party" is a mistake and that he belongs home. Marshall does a complete turn in acting as the asthmatic member of the group who has to relocate to Arizona if he wants to survive.
The film conveys the frustrations of every day life. Someone should have told the film makers about the frustrations in this film as well.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
the ending was a bit to pat for a well written, questioning movie--moves to brink of nihilism and then becomes very conventional. The acting of the main male leads is very good and one of Chayevsky's best scripts (Hospital is another favorite) butt he main character Charlie gives in too easily at the end to a positive and sappy conclusion; love the 50's existential ambiance and the great party scene in the Village; Kerouac would could have been at the party; the wife of Charlie is a bit simplistic as are some of the other women in the film, black and white very effective. Eg MArshall is poignant is his nihilistic questioning of the meaning of life.
Following up their critically acclaimed Oscar winning triumph Marty
collaboration, screenwriter Paddy Chayevsky and director Del Mann
attempt to make lightening strike twice with another stroll down
melancholy lane, The Bachelor Party. Morose and sluggish it only serves
to re-enforce how moving a performance Ernie Borgnine gave in their
Glum family man Charlie Sampson (Don Murray) vacillates about attending a bachelor party with co-workers after quitting time. The boys spend the evening drinking and ogling but as the night wears on they become confessional about the disappointments they've been met with in life. Barging into a bohemian get together Charlie is momentarily mesmerized by a Beat (Carolyn Jones) delivering one rapid fire monologue and they plan a hook-up later in the night. Back at home his wife frets about the lack of spark in her life with a confidant (Nancy Marchand) who sets her straight about the realities of marriage.
With everyone in a deep state of torpor or frustration (save for scene stealer Jones) The Bachelor Party has little to celebrate as each member gets his opportunity to flaccidly expound on his hum drum existence. It's all talk and no action with a group of noxious whiners and silent suffering wives compartmentalizing and remaining in denial with a sell out ending that lazily allows itself to tie things up with hangovers and a musical flourish rather than attempt to get beyond its cliché scenario populated by lugubrious dullards and address the issue with a touch more verve.
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