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This black comedy opens with Louisa Foster donating a multimillion dollar check to the IRS. The tax department thinks she's crazy and sends her to a psychiatrist. She then discusses her four marriages, in which all of her husbands became incredibly rich and died prematurely because of their drive to be rich. Written by
Daniel Bubbeo <email@example.com>
The beatnik artist Polly appears to be a parody/caricature of Catherine-Marie-Agnès Fal de Saint Phalle, aka "Niki" de Saint Phalle, whose various "shooting" paintings arrived on the art scene in mid-1961, when the script for the film was first being written. Niki didn't have Polly's Beretta M1938A submachine gun, though; she used a .22 rifle borrowed from her future husband, Jean Tinguely. See more »
Dick Van Dyke is heavily covered in mud as a result of Dean Martin's car, yet a moment later, it looked like he was lightly covered. See more »
To describe WHAT A WAY TO GO as an ultra-light 1960s confection would be an understatement: frothy, foolish, and seeking no more than to be mildly entertaining, it is a classic of its kind and of its era.
The plot is episodic. When multi-millionaire Louisa May Foster tries to give away her money she finds herself slapped onto a psychiatrist's couch--where she details the story of a little girl from the wrong side of the tracks who was only interested in marrying for love. But as fate would have it, every husband she touched turned to gold, and their successes spelled finish to the marriage in no uncertain terms, with each widowhood leaving Louisa even more fabulously wealthy than before. What's a poor little rich girl to do? The charm here is in the cast and the production values. Although she offered considerably more in her most celebrated films, Shirley MacLaine had a remarkable way with light comedy, and she pulls out all the stops as the eternal widow, at times sassy, at times silly, but never less than completely watchable. Her unlikely co-stars--Dean Martin, Dick Van Dyke, Paul Newman, Robert Mitchum, Gene Kelly, Robert Cummings and (in her final film) the amazing Margaret Dumont--are also up to the task.
The humor is both obvious and sly, lampooning various rags-to-riches (or in one case riches-to-riches) stereotypes with a wink, a nod, and now and then an unexpectedly sophisticated bit of wit. The film works best when it gently mocks both itself and the more obvious cinematic conventions of its day, as when Louisa recalls each of her marriages with the words "it was like one of those movies where..." Everything from silent film to musicals gets a poke, and over-budgeted romantic blockbusters suddenly become considerably more comic than you'd ever imagine.
The production values are first rate, and to say there is always something to look at on the screen would be an understatement: they are deliberately and often deliciously over the top--and often as amusing as the performances. (The "Lush Budget" sequence, in which MacLaine changes gowns every few seconds, is particularly witty.) True, the movie is a no-brainer, but it is a fun one. Only a sour-puss could resist! Recommended.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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