A struggling author and his wife suddenly become wealthy and move to the suburbs. Divorced neighbor and "companion" aid marital misconstrual which almost culminates in a divorce.

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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Bertie Austin
...
...
Fran Cabrell
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Lucinda Ford
...
Wylie Driberg
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Gar Aldrich
Claire Wilcox ...
Julie Austin
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Mrs. Swanson
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Mr. Liberti
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Dr. Leon Partridge DDS
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Storyline

Bill Austin (Van Johnson) is a struggling author, working and living in a "slum flat" on W. 87th St. in NY with his wife and daughter, Bertie and Julie. Bertie (Janet Leigh) works as a dental assistant, until Bill's novel can get published and Julie (Claire Wilcox) is seven and 3/4 and does not like any of her food to touch. They are very happy (even though Bill does not realize it.) All of a sudden, Bill's agent, Lucinda Ford (Martha Hyers) takes Bill's novel viral: there a prestigious publishing house, a Broadway play and a Hollywood studio interested in Bill's novel. Success goes straight to Bill's head; Bertie is the same level-headed, unpretentious gal she always was. They move to a lovely house in So. Connecticut where their neighbours are the lively ex-wife of a Hollywood star, Fran Cabrell (Shelley Winters) and her "companion," the occupant of her guest house, Wylie Driberg (Ray Walston). They try to show Bertie the ropes of being on the fringes of a "hit" personality and they... Written by LA-Lawyer

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You Can't Tell Them Apart Without a Scorecard!

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Comedy

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Release Date:

4 October 1963 (West Germany)  »

Also Known As:

First Wife  »

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(Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Shirley MacLaine got into legal battle with Paramount when she refused to play part ultimately given to Janet Leigh. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Damage (2012) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Leigh is terrific, actually, in a canned comedy with decent writing
7 June 2012 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Wives and Lovers (1963)

Janet Leigh is great, Van Johnson likable but a little over the top. Together they make a decent pair struggling with newfound wealth as he sells a big play and they move from the Upper West Side to Connecticut. In the process, their marriage goes on the rocks, and all the clichés of suburban life are played out. It's funny and warm and silly and a bit thin overall, but not so bad as entertainment goes.

Director John Rich is a television man, which explains a lot. Picture the style of "Gomer Pyle" and "Gunsmoke" and "Dick Van Dyke" (all part of his pedigree) and you'll get something of the feel of this "movie." The fact it rises above these trappings is pretty encouraging. Behind the scenes is Lucien Ballard, the crack cinematographer who also did "The Wild Bunch" six years later, among many others.

You can't avoid thinking of other couples in suburban traps, like Tracy and Hepburn, or in a different and more contemporary sense, Hudson and Day. There are good jokes and flat ones here, amidst some pretty good dialog. There are sidekicks of note, squandered perhaps, mainly Shelly Winters and Ray Walston. (One really funny moment occurs when Walston is playing with the stereo and these radio whiny noises come out, exactly like "My Favorite Martian," which he is most famous for.)

Van Johnson is no Spencer Tracy, for sure, but that's okay. He's likable enough, and natural enough, to be a good struggling dad. The opening scenes look more like 1940s New York than 1963, but that's really the point, because old New York gets left behind. Johnson is better, in fact, as a dad than as a successful playwright, and for the second long half of the movie I just never believe him. Nor his supposed attraction to his agent with her horrid hair.

But Janet Leigh? She's worth watching and holds the movie together. If you loved her in "Psycho" for the half hour she's alive in it you'll maybe see another fuller actress here. Her role, as a struggling, willing, and then slightly rebellious housewife, is not very attractive, but she makes it attractive anyway, and less a cliché than many other actresses who might start to shriek or cry far too often and loud. Once you tune out the dreck you'll see a very good actress pulling off a difficult role, and my appreciation of her rose a little.

I guess when you'll hunting hard for pieces to like in a movie you know the whole is disappointing. But heads up about those pieces if you do give it a whirl.


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