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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Having just finished watching the movie The Bachelor Party I'm
surprised that it isn't all that highly regarded on this site. It's a
far better than average slice,--more accurately, slices--of life from a
now bygone era when people still sat on stoops of apartment buildings,
and if it was a youngish, even plain woman most men would regard her as
at least somewhat "available".
The plot of the movie is simple: a bunch of white collar guys, some middle class, others on the fringe, go out on a binge called a bachelor party to celebrate the engagement and impending marriage of one of their fellow workers. What transpires isn't so happy an evening as one might have imagined, and things do not, as time passes and the men get drunker, improve. As is to be expected in films (and at the time, TV dramas), the question of the meaning of life comes up in various forms; as does the issue of whether marriage is worth the grief that often comes along with it; and as the story meanders along, rambling with its characters, larger matters of love and death are brought up; too schematically for my tastes, but there you have it.
It's a decent, at times flawed script, but the superb performances of the major players help enormously; and the character development is good. Some of the parts are meatier than others, but the actors themselves cannot be blamed for this:
Don Murray is a young Everyman with a pregnant wife; he's in night school so as to become an accountant, which will better equip him to support his family. He's the "audience identification" character in what's in many ways a thankless part, but Murray breaths life into it. Jack Warden could have played his standard issue baseball loving bachelor in his sleep, but he didn't. E.G. Marshall's portrayal of a death haunted (and for good reason) book-keeper, is itself haunting, and for me, a revelation, as Marshall generally played men in control of their emotions, not in conflict with them.
Larry Blyden was fine in a small part, while Philip Abbott, whom I've always liked, played his role of the man the bachelor party was thrown for, with beauty, sincerity and an modest, non-showboating realism that made me wish he'd got better parts later in his career. Carolyn Jones made the best of her small beantick role but for the life of me I can't see why she got an Academy award nomination for her few brief scenes.
Joseph La Shelle's photography was Oscar worthy (he didn't win,--I don't know if he was even nominated). As a kind of street-bound, realistic panorama of a now vanished New York City the movie is worth viewing just for that. Not to belittle the story,--it's a good one, albeit prosaic--some of the greatest pleasures of the film are in the way it looks: the subways, the bars, whether neighborhood or the hipster kind, even the men's rooms, the staircases of older buildings. At its best, as the purely visual-spatial level, the film is a joy to behold.
The ending, the way author Chayefsky wound things up too neatly for my tastes, felt quite frankly specious, as if written for suburbanites who want to see city folk as "normal", or trying to be, rather than going their own way, so to speak, at the time an option in urban life; today, not so much, as the cities of today are, culturally, not much different from the suburbs. The lines Don Murray was given to read in his final few moments in the film felt like came from a sermon, not from the mouth of a real human being. Too bad. The movie is mostly talk, which is, when well done, fine by me, but it seemed, in those closing scenes to switch gears too quickly.
Overall, The Bachelor Party is a first rate movie with. admittedly, some issues that kept it from being truly great; and it's certainly worth watching. It does fall short, but not, in my humble opinion, nearly so far as many reviewers have said it does.
Delbert Mann directed another Paddy Chayefsky script(he wrote "Marty", which Mann directed) about five office workers and friends who celebrate the forthcoming marriage of one of them(played by Philip Abbott) Charlie Samson(played by Don Murray) is the thoughtful one of the group, whose wife(played by Patricia Smith) is expecting a baby, putting more stress on him. He will come to appreciate his family more after an eventful night, with angst-ridden Walter(played by E.G. Marshal) stable Kenneth(played by Larry Blyden) and the loud but lonely bachelor(played by Jack Warden). Carolyn Jones costars as a beautiful but lonely existentialist. Well-written and acted film about family life and self-determination has somehow been overlooked by time, since it has yet to be released on DVD for some reason; until then, VHS will have to do!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***SPOILERS*** Taking upon himself almost Herculean efforts Charlie
Samson, Don Murray, is not only holding down a job as a full-time
bookkeeper at a major NYC brokerage house but is also spending all his
free time from work taking collage classes to earn a degree as a CPA.
It comes as a big shock to Charlie when his wife Helen, Patricia Smith,
tells him that she's expecting their first child that coming February.
It just happens that one of Charlie's fellow workers Arnold Craig, Philip Abbott, is to get married that weekend and reluctantly, skipping a collage class for the first time in six months, Charlie agrees to attend his bachelor party secluded to take place that evening. It turned out that Charlie as well as those who attended Arnold's bachelor party got an education in life and human relationships that in the end changed their lives around and for the better at that as well!
Getting tanked up on both beer and hard liquor Charlie and his friends that included life long bachelor, and best man at Arnold's wedding, Eddie, Jack Warden, as well as married men Walter, E.G Marshall, and Kenny, Larry Blyden, ended up letting their hair down and exposing to each other their deepest and darkest secrets. Eddie the big swinger and womanizer that he is showed that he was a man who couldn't bear to be alone even for a moment. Without booze friends and women Eddie was nothing but a lonely soul without any direction in life.
Walter 48 years old with two teenagers is obsessed with the thought that he's soon going to die, from an asthmatic attack, if he doesn't move to the dry, of humidity not booze, and year round hot state of Arizona. Kenny about the only normal person of the group of beer swelling and woman grabbing bookkeepers showed how normal he was by leaving the party when it started to get out of hand and was never seen or heard from again in the movie.
As for Arnold, the man of honor at the party, he started to get freaked out as his wedding day, some three days off, approached in his fears that he, being a virgin, won't be able to satisfy his recently divorced-or is it widowed-as well as experienced, in sexual matters, fiancée. Charlie who's a straight as an arrow no fooling around family man soon loses his cool as the hot for him and really wanting it 25 year old woman beatnik Carolyon Jones, or the Existentialist in the movie credits, puts the squeeze on him at a local Greenwich village anything goes and free for all swingers party.
As the dawn starts to approach Charlie together with his friends realizes what fools they made of themselves and try to put all the pieces of their shattered lives, because of the party that got out of control, back together. Both Charlie and Eddie having unknowingly, due to their childish needing, had Arnold brake off his engagement to his future bride finally get the by now totally drunk Arnold to go back home in Queens, to his parents, to make up with his girl before she leaves him both him and dry at the altar.
Charlie who was about to drop his night classes in collage and become a full time carousing midnight scorer, or all day snorer, goes back to his wife Helen who was, like Arnold's fiancée, about to walk out on him and move back to her parents. It took those heart wrenching and both boozing and womanizing 12 hours of partying the night away that in the end showed Charlie how good he's had it all along. It also showed Charlie that the life of a swinging and irresponsible bachelor, like his friend Eddie, was not his or his fellow married friends at the office cup of tea or bowl of borscht.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One might be tempted to label this drama "dated", however, as was
typical, screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky provided it with a story that is
both insightful and (still) enduring today. Though the setup is rather
contrived (a 30+ year old virgin male find himself about to be married
to a more experienced war widow that also happens to be his distant
cousin), every man questions: who he is, what he's become or what he
will be if he continues down his current path, and/or his spouse and
the state of his marriage at some point during his life ... and the
truth isn't always pretty. While some of the events in the movie are
"out of date" (e.g. the men watch stag films in a bachelor's apartment
in lieu of going to a strip club), the story and its underlying themes
remain as fresh as ever.
Don Murray is top billed in his second film role, after earning his only Academy recognition with a Best Supporting Actor nomination (in his screen debut) for playing a rodeo hick hunk opposite Marilyn Monroe in Bus Stop (1956). Initially, the focus of the plot appears to be on Murray's character Charlie and his wife Helen (Patricia Smith); they're a young couple, past the newlywed stage, and they've just learned that she's pregnant with (what would be) their first child. He goes to night school attempting to earn a degree for eventual advancement while she spends nights alone in their apartment, with television or her sister-in-law Julie (Nancy Marchand) to keep her company. Still, Helen encourages Charlie to skip school that evening to attend the titled event and enjoy a much needed respite from his daily grind. When Charlie gets to work that morning, the party's other would be participants (all bookkeepers, by profession) are introduced: two are married, and somewhat henpecked, and two are bachelors:
- Jack Warden is perfectly cast as Eddie, the confirmed bachelor who's (the titled groom's best man to be and) in charge of the evening's planned events. Except for "man of the hour" Arnold (Philip Abbott) and Eddie, the others are somewhat reluctant to commit to the festivities ("I'll go if you go"). Of course, in the end we learn that Eddie's life is empty as he pleads with his coworkers to stay as long as possible so he doesn't have to return home alone to his empty abode.
- E.G. Marshall as Walter is (by far) the oldest participant; he's in the twilight of his career with a mortgage and a daughter in college. Walter was recently diagnosed with asthma and advised to move to Arizona. Realizing his dire prospects and lack of "hire- ability" per his age, he expresses anxiety about the situation in various ways: early in the evening, he laughs excessively, later he's captivated by the stag films, and finally, after sweating profusely, he walks off away from the rest in solitude
- Larry Blyden plays Ken (between Charlie and Walter in age); he provides a steadying voice of experience to Charlie when he notices that his friend is about to stray (e.g. have an affair) midway through the evening. Ken had once strayed during a business trip and laments the change in his wife ever since; he's also the first to leave the party to go home, though he's unsuccessful in his attempt to convince Charlie to do the same.
- Arnold is a rather pathetic bridegroom; in one sense, Abbott's character is a plot device to give the other characters their moments of reflection.
The film is also notable for earning Carolyn Jones her only Oscar nomination (Supporting Actress); she plays the Existentialist, an oversexed Greenwich Village philosopher that the men (specifically Charlie) encounter during the evening. You'll remember the performance for the speed of her (line) delivery as much as anything (plus, she looks a little like a young dark-haired Bette Davis). Otherwise, you might wonder if her performance was the shortest ever to be Oscar nominated; ironically, that record is held by Beatrice Straight's stint in Chayefsky's prescient drama Network (1976), which was decades ahead of its time in predicting today's world: the cult of celebrity, ratings-based news programming, faux experts, and "reality" TV.
While the film's ending may seem "tacked on", it contains a certain truth. While Arnold learned that married life isn't a panacea, Charlie gained an appreciation for what he had with Helen. It was directed by Delbert Mann, only his second film after Marty (1955), which was another Chayefsky-written drama (that initially aired on TV) about lonely people.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Writer Paddy Chayevsky had an impeccable ear for the content and rhythm
of working-class New York lingo. Not everybody has it. Chayevsky and a
handful of others, like Budd Schulberg in "On The Waterfront." This
film and "Marty" were made before Chayevsky took on bigger issues like
hospitals and TV networks. And if the epiphany at the end results in a
cop out, well -- that doesn't change the previous footage.
The milieu is one that was thoroughly familiar to me as a kid. All the white collar workers wore suits and ties; they rattled to their jobs on the subway; you could wander around the night-time streets without getting your throat cut; Tony Pastor's night club was still there; the "kookie bars" were there too, except that not ALL the bars in the Village had become "kookie" yet.
Don Murray is the audience proxy. He's a hard-working, ambitious office worker who attends night school at his own expense in order to become a CPA. He lives with his loving blond wife in one of those sterile high rises where the hallways probably smell of disinfectant. The problem is that his wife is now pregnant. It means additional expenses. She'll have to quit her job and he'll have to handle the hospital bills. Helen is excited at the prospect of motherhood. Well -- as excited as Helen ever gets. The actress, Patricia Smith, is not a volcano of emotion. Poor Don is gloomy. They're already living at the edge.
A friend at work, Philip Abbott, is to be married and Jack Warden, on the hedonistic treadmill, has organized a bachelor party for Abbott. A handful of Abbott's office mates gather at a bar to celebrate. There is a good deal of boozing and laughter. The oldest of the group, E. G. Marshall, stands up at the table and shouts that "the finest outfit in the U. S. Army is the 316th Infantry Division!" The band of miserable brothers wander the streets looking for action or -- something.
They gradually grow more erratic as they get drunker. On a jolting subway car, E. G. Marshall, in what may be the best performance of his career, bemoans the fact that he's forty-eight years old and his doctor just told him that he'll die of asthma if he doesn't move to Arizona. But how can he possibly move to Arizona? He has a kid in college and he's determined to pay the boy's way through medical school. And what's he going to do in Arizona? Who wants a forty-eight year old book keeper? He quotes clumsily from MacBeth. "I read a book. I was a bright kid. I read a book. I was going to be the first Catholic president." It's a fine monologue, expertly done by Marshall. But then Chayevsky demeans it a bit by adding dumb and unnecessary lines. "Where did it all go? Where did it all go?" The effect is that of throwing away the garden trowel and bringing in a bulldozer. Marshall stumbles drunkenly out onto a deserted subway platform to head home, leaving his jacket behind.
Paddy Chayevsky, an endearingly big, booming man, had had a tendency to spell things out at length. Here's Robert Duvall in Chayevsky's "Network" commenting on a TV program he'd just seen. "A disaster. The program was a disaster. An unmitigated disaster. The death knell." Later he describes his boss's attitude as "inflexible." "You say his attitude is inflexible?" another character asks. "Inflexible -- intractable -- and ADAMANTINE," Duvall replies.
I don't have time to go on with this. In the course of the night, the emotional problems of all of these white-collar cogs in the Kafkaesque office machine are explored. And they're explored convincingly and with sympathy. Except for the protagonist. Don Murray has been plagued by doubt. At one point, Helen asks him, as a kind of test, if they should get rid of the baby. She's expected something like, "Don't be silly." Instead, Murray pauses before replaying, "Gee, I don't know. Isn't that dangerous?" She then does a good job of looking stricken. It's believable. What's not believable is the climactic scene in which Murray suddenly grabs his face, shouts, "If I don't see my wife right now I'll bust with love," or something like that, and runs off down the stairs to go home.
We assume he'll muddle through. They'll all muddle through. We all muddle through.
What's strange about most of the reviews on this site is their
acceptance of the social culture in The Bachelor Party as realistic.
However, though its dialog contains some soul searching, and its
characters have a certain earnest sincerity, the overall depiction of
social conditions in this mid-'50's film is completely off.
As a woman who lived through this period, I would say it was not characterized by the kind of casual misogyny embraced by these buddies, but more by an emerging awareness on the part of women, that children and marriage were not just a blessing but a burden. Thus, I doubt that the writer, Paddy Chayefsky, was terribly satisfied by the final draft of The Bachelor Party. Indeed, Chayefsky wrote in the Afterword of that play - 'obviously the line of the story is six inches off from beginning to end, and the third act resolution is hardly an inevitable outcome of the proceeding two acts.'
More typical of themes of the mid-50's was Chayefsky's play, 'Marty,' in which Earnest Borgnine plays a butcher whose patient tenderness toward the shy schoolteacher he woos creates the foundation for their relationship. Also typical in the post WW2 mid-'50's was Chayefsky's film, 'The Americanization of Emily', in which James Garner plays a flagrant wartime coward forced to contend with conflicted Emily, who makes no apologies for her disgust at his cowardice.
In Marty, and The Americanization of Emily, men revealed their humanness, their fears, and need for love - qualities they were afraid women might forget as their own lives expanded. In The Bachelor Party, on the other hand, the theme is male existential boredom with marriage, and no reason is given other than the consensus between the bachelor and married men, that after children arrive socializing becomes more restricted, one ages, responsibilities increase, blah blah. The idea that arises out of this plot vacuum, a false one that flips the truth on its head and buries it, is that men, not women were wrestling with the issue of independence in the 50's.
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I had not seen this movie again for 25-30 years until recently. For all the praise it has received,it is disappointing. The story concerns three married men (Marshall,Blyden & Murray) and an unmarried man (Warden) all treating a co-worker (Abbott) to a bachelor party on a Thursday night in Manhattan.The married men want to go out to get away from their humdrum life.The unmarried man is simply out to have a good time.As the evening unwinds we learn the married men are basically unhappy and feel pressure to buy houses,raise children,earn more money,etc..They feel trapped but are resigned to their fate.They wish they were outgoing and free like the unmarried man.The prospective groom is unsure about going through with the wedding which takes place on Sunday.He wants someone to agree with him that the wedding is a bad idea.Then at the end all of a sudden the story changes-the unmarried man is to be pitied because his life is empty and meaningless and the married men are to be envied because they have their wives and children.This ending seems tacked on as if just to quickly end the film.The sudden married "joy" of the Murray character is simply ridiculous which is why ultimately the film is disappointing.The circumstances of his and his friends' marriages do not make this ending believable. The other disappointment was the short use of "The Existentialist" (Carolyn Jones).Her character was interesting but had so little screen time that the viewer is unsure about whether what she had to say had great meaning and insight or was simply gibberish.
THE BACHELOR PARTY is adapted from Paddy Chayefsky's TV play and is a
watered down version of other Chayefsky stories about lonely men and
the lives they live--even when married.
It's downbeat all the way, beginning with an office scene where an obnoxious JACK WARDEN monopolizes office routine with his loud personal calls as he arranges for the evening's bachelor party. Reluctantly, happily married DON MURRAY agrees to attend, giving himself a night off from night school studies, although his reluctance is partly due to the fact that his wife is expecting their first child. LARRY BLYDEN just wants a night out with the boys and PHILIP ABBOTT is the soon to be groom, a "Marty" type of guy, shy with the gals, who reveals during the course of the evening that he's not ready for marriage.
The talk is natural, the dialog is very much Chayefsky's gift for simple folks expressing themselves in ways we can all relate to--and yet, the film lacks pace and shows its origin--a TV play that is character driven but not open enough for the screen.
CAROLYN JONES has a brief party scene that she plays well as an "existentialist" mouthing gibberish and for some reason she got an Oscar nomination for what is almost a bit role. Unbelievable.
Summing up: A disappointment, noteworthy only for the sincerity of all the performances with DON MURRAY especially likable and straightforward in his portrayal of the conflicted husband.
Working stiff in New York City is encouraged by his newly-pregnant wife to attend a co-worker's bachelor party; he reluctantly agrees, but troubles within his marriage and the rut of work and night school has made him despondent, and after meeting a sharp dame from Greenwich Village he doesn't want to go back home. Paddy Chayefsky adapted his own TV play for the screen, and he's loaded with sad stories for his characters to tell (they each have a chance to get up on a soapbox and emote). When he's not being maudlin, crass, or clichéd, Chayefsky manages to get in a few realistic digs at the plight of the modern married man--but instead of coming on strong, Chayefsky putters along with expository dialogue and relentless back-and-forth exchanges which tire the ear ("C'mon Eddie, for Pete's sake!", "Let's find another nightclub. You wanna find another nightclub?"). In the central role, Don Murray fidgets like an uptight Boy Scout; he's good in his scenes with the groom-to-be, listening to the mama's boy talk about his total lack of experience with women, but Murray struggles with this underwritten character, uncertain of what emotions he should be feeling or showing (it's a mediocre performance in a mediocre movie). Bachelor Jack Warden is agonizing as he drunkenly goads everyone to go against the grain, while E.G. Marshall displays a fine sense of helpless melancholy before the writer has him sounding off in the subway (where the picture stops dead in its tracks and never recovers). Chayefsky does a bit better by the female characters; the wives and Carolyn Jones' downtown girl are actually more insightful (and more perceptive, cynically) than the boorish men. *1/2 from ****
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