|Page 1 of 2:|| |
|Index||20 reviews in total|
THE HAPPY ENDING might not seem special today, and may well seem very dated in some ways, but we must remember this is the pre-DIARY OF A MAD HOUSEWIFE era. I'm sure the film seemed pioneering in its day, questioning the role of the traditional housewife and demanding that women are entitled to the same satisfaction and autonomy that men expected. Writer-director Richard Brooks often dealt with social issues and political themes--that he took on women's issues is no surprise. The film is especially an acting tour-de-force: Jean Simmons as the unsatisfied woman; John Forsythe as the non-understanding but well-meaning husband; Teresa Wright as Simmons' mother; Dick Shawn and Tina Louise as a miserable couple; Shirley Jones as the woman who survived by having affairs with married men; Lloyd Bridges as a married man with Jones as his mistress; Bobby Darin as a lost and lonely gigolo looking for that one big score. I was also impressed by the film's structure--with two parallel stories a year apart and various flashbacks all presented in such a way that the details of the relationship's coming apart are given to us a little at a time, and we are gradually brought to the point where we understand WHY the present state has become what it is. It's quite well-paced and creates tension throughout. Also, the unexpected and non-traditional ending is perfect. It's tempting to wonder what these rich people are whining about when people in the same community are working two jobs, sixteen hours a day, or starving, or dying of cancer, but Ms. Simmons' performance makes us care about and sympathize with her character. The film would perhaps also be of value as an educational tool for future generations who want to understand the ending of the pre-feminist era. Those who enjoy the teaming of stars Jean Simmons and Shirley Jones and director Richard Brooks should also check out his excellent film version of Sinclair Lewis' ELMER GANTRY. Those who know Shirley Jones only from The Partridge Family might be shocked to see what a fine dramatic actress she is!
Pauline Kael, film critic for the New Yorker, quipped about this film, "It's the kind of liberation movie that never liberated anyone." That's a clever line, but it isn't exactly true. Writer-director Richard Brooks shows the upwardly mobile as stiff dullards with drinks in their hands, the upper middle class as stifling bores. There's wry wit in these vignettes, but the trouble with Brooks' film is the central character. As played by Jean Simmons, she's one of those bored and lonely housewives who desires MORE! Simmons is repressed of her emotions, yet even when she makes her escape, she's still a pinchy drag. The supporting characters aren't written any better, but the performers themselves are more interesting: Bobby Darin is terrific as a phony gigolo, Tina Louise excellent as an acerbic society wife, Shirley Jones lovely as a single woman trying to remain casual about her married lover. John Forsythe gives his standard controlled performance as Simmons' confused spouse (he doesn't know how to reach her, which is a sympathetic quality since we don't either). The title means to tell us that we make our own happy endings--that we can't find them through other people--and the final scene between husband and wife is a tricky little chess-move that leaves us up in the air. I liked many things in "The Happy Ending", but its parts are better than the sum. **1/2 from ****
Take a good look at the film credits of Jean Simmons especially during
the Fifties and you'll find that woman has been in some of the best
movies ever made. Yet nary an Oscar nomination for her until The Happy
Ending and she lost that year to Maggie Smith for The Prime of Miss
A great example of this would be Elmer Gantry where Jean did not get a nomination unlike the Oscars won by her co-stars Burt Lancaster and Shirley Jones. Yet she did walk off with the director Richard Brooks who became her second husband. It was Brooks who wrote and directed The Happy Ending about a woman tipping into forty something who still has a whole lot of silly romantic notions.
Jean and husband John Forsythe are approaching their twentieth anniversary together and she feels in a rut. So she indulges in all kinds of bad behavior, runs up huge charge account bills, starts drinking like a fish, runs away to a vacation in the Bahamas where an old college pal, Shirley Jones, takes her in.
Elia Kazan in the same year 1969 did a similar film from the man's point of view, The Arrangement which starred Kirk Douglas. The Happy Ending however is far better and it might really have been interesting if Deborah Kerr in that film had gone off the edge the way Jean does here.
In The Happy Ending Jean loves watching Casablanca and I find it fascinating that she picks that as a great romantic film. If memory serves that's the one where Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman give up their personal happiness for what they conceive as the greater good.
I do like Shirley Jones in this film as the old college sorority chum who eschewed marriage to just being a permanent 'other' woman. She's had three so far and she's accompanying a fourth to Nassau in the person of Lloyd Bridges. It's fascinating that only Richard Brooks cast Shirley in parts where she wasn't a goody goody and she won great acclaim and an Oscar for being prostitute in Elmer Gantry.
Jean's partial solution to her problems in the end is a very typical feminist one which I will not reveal. As to whether she's damaged her relationship with Forsythe beyond repair, that's anyone's guess.
You will also like Teresa Wright as Jean's mother, Bobby Darin as an about to go over the hill gigolo, and Tina Louise as the neighbor who's ready to take Jean's place with Forsythe any time.
Besides Jean Simmons nomination, The Happy Ending also was nominated for Michel LeGrand's classic song, What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life, a question Jean is struggling to answer all the film long.
The Happy Ending is a good and mature film that could only have been made once the sacred Code was abandoned. Too bad though that it could not have resulted in an Oscar for its star.
I love movies that come down hard against conventional life. And the
ones that feature nagging, chronically unhappy, never-satisfied married
people go in my "horror" stack, along with Halloween, Videodrome,
Suspiria, The Fog, etc. Watching that way of life is enough to fill
anyone with ineffable dread.
When you consider that lead actress Jean Simmons and director Richard Brooks (married 1960-1977) were on their way to divorce, that just adds to the terror.
Though it echoes themes in Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper (1899), The Happy Ending is still seen as a proto-feminist text, which it well may be. I've long held that Jean Simmons (or at least the "Jean Simmons image") is not this quiet, polite, understated "demure beauty" that is somehow constantly breaking out of that particular mold. Ms. Simmons herself can be seen as a "proto-feminist" or strong female lead actress. She demonstrates this in Hamlet, Desiree, Young Bess, The Big Country, and certainly Elmer Gantry; one could actually make this case for many of her films available on video.
Her part in The Happy Ending is really just an expansion of these roles, only this time, the unhappy marriage is brought to the fore instead of subsumed in Hollywood/Happy ending resolve.
It's not just proto-feminist women who feel trapped by marriage; that men get cold feet and then have affairs is almost too cliché to mention or bother to put in quotes. How many movies about extramarital affairs have entertained millions? This film just happens to present the unthinkable horror of when a woman wants out of it. Good for them. 8/10, but be advised, this is coming from someone unable to resist movies about women who don't want to be married.
To this end, see it as a double feature with Baby Doll (1956), or Possession (1981), mess up your mind, a little.
The Happy Ending is dated and overlong but Jean Simmons is just
terrific as the bored Denver housewife who turns to drink. Simmons
earned her only Oscar nomination for this film. Many of the scenes in
this film ring very hollow now, especially the "swinging" party where
people actually KISS! Shocking. But looking past the hideous 1969
fashions worn by Simmons and Shirley Jones and Tina Louise, the film
tries to take a serious look at modern-day marriages. So in
counterpoint to the desperate housewives in Denver we get Shirley Jones
as a happy hooker approaching 40 and getting a little desperate
Simmons and Jones were college chums away back in 1953. Simmons married; Jones became a party girl. They meet on a plane to the Bahamas as Simmons is running away from her boring boozy life. Jones is shacked up with Lloyd Bridges. So we see the two extremes and two choices open for women. Luckily Simmons sees thru Bobby Darin's awful gigolo act and accent.
Back home Jones is abetted by a pill-popping cleaning lady (Nanette Fabray) who helps her thru her various crises with husband (John Forsythe), mother (Teresa Wright), and daughter(a very unappealing Kathy Fields). And then there are those parties! Poor Tina Louise is stuck married to schmuck Dick Shawn.
Best thing in this movie are the performances. Jean Simmons is just excellent as the smoldering wife who can't quite figure what's gone wrong. Shirley Jones is fine as the tramp. Nanette Fabray is funny and touching as the domestic. John Forsythe is OK as the dumb-ass husband. Tina Louise is good as the bored neighbor. And Teresa Wright is solid as the mother who just can't figure out the new generation and changing times. Dick Shawn and Kathy Fields are both lousy.
The film also boasts the excellent Michel Legrand song, "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?"
A really well made film,one of the better 1960's Melodramas.The cast shines,with Jean Simmons perfectly cast as Mary Wilson,A Denver Housewife who is stuck in a Stale Marrage,but wants to be loved in the way she was when she first fell in love.John Forsythe plays a great 60's Three-Martin-lunch-stuffed-shirt husband Fred Wilson.Nanette Fabray,Bobby Darin,and Tina Louise also compliment the others in a stellar lineup,and Michael Legrand's score can't be beat.A real Winner!!
This tremendous, under rated late 1960's film by Richard Brooks features
Simmons at her very best as the woman who has it all, but still can't find
happiness. Without intending to, the contrast between materialistic life in 1960's America and the carefree simple life of the Bahamas is used as a backdrop to
show the futility of the search for happiness. A melodrama about alcoholism, depression, and the life of a bored housewife, The Happy Ending does a terrific job of drawing its audience into this unfortunate world. Great performances by John Forsythe, Lloyd Bridges and Dick Shawn (a highly under rated character
actor who made his mark in a Mad, Mad, Mad World) make this an important
film. Watch this film, you will be pleasantly surprised. Best watched with a couple of chilled martinis and some party mix in a fancy crystal bowl.
Writer/Director Richard Brooks made some well respected films like In
Cold Blood and The Blackboard Jungle, as well as this unintended camp
fest. Like Brooks' Sweet Bird of Youth and Looking for Mr. Goodbar, The
Happy Ending is an elaborately misconceived mess but, a lot more fun.
It's a sincere attempt to portray middle-age unhappiness: infidelity,emptiness, aging, pills, and booze, but the dialog has to be heard to be believed. Talented Jean Simmons (Great Expectations, Spartacus, Elmer Gantry) stars as an alcoholic Denver housewife along with a host of second string actors like Bobby Darin, Tina Louise, Nanette Fabray, Dick Shawn, and Shirley Jones who recite the laughable dialog as if it was profound. My favorite piece of imparted wisdom is delivered by Nanette Fabray: "If sex were the only thing that really mattered, the WHOLE WORLD would be run by rabbits!"
The Happy Ending may be best remembered for its Oscar-nominated theme song "What Are You Doing for the Rest of Your Life?" that's heard several times throughout the film. The film has an effective ending, fine cinematography from Conrad Hall, and as he did in Looking for Mr.Goodbar and In Cold Blood, Brooks uses extensive flashbacks and flashy editing. Jean Simmons, nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Hamlet in 1948, received her second Oscar nomination(Best Actress) for this film. She and director Brooks were married at the time. Released the same year as Easy Rider, The Wild Bunch, and Midnight Cowboy, The Happy Ending pretty much disappeared without a trace. Because it takes its subject seriously, the film becomes seriously funny. It does for desperate Denver housewives, what Valley of the Dolls did for ladies in showbiz. Hard to find but, worth catching.
--this film is for you, as you'll hear that song constantly throughout
"The Happy Ending" stars Jean Simmons, John Forsythe, Teresa Wright, Shirley Jones, Nanetete Fabray and Lloyd Bridges, and is directed by Simmons' husband, Richard Brooks. Interestingly, Teresa Wright didn't like his directing and found it pedantic, adding, "but I can't say anything because of Jean." Jean Simmons is one of my favorite actresses and this story serves her well. After twenty years, the lust is gone from Mary Wilson's marriage to husband Fred (Forsythe); she drinks, she pops pills, and finally, after a huge spending spree, her husband takes her credit cards and charge accounts away from her. Her favorite thing is watching old movies which have happy endings; strangely, one of her favorites is Casablanca. Casablanca has a noble ending, even a satisfactory ending. But a happy ending? I mean, Bogie ends up with Louis.
Finally, Mary manages to get her hands on some money, and she takes off for the Bahamas, where she is taken in by an old school friend (Shirley Jones), the "other woman" in several relationships who now finds herself involved with Lloyd Bridges, looking pretty darn good, I might add.
The film seems to be a series of flashbacks and music videos; it is surprising how little dialogue there actually is. Jean Simmons at 40 is radiantly beautiful as usual and she does a great job as Mary. Simmons was a totally underrated actress, squeezed in as she was with the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor. Brooks again has cast Shirley Jones as a bad girl, and again, she's effective. Teresa Wright plays Mary's mother, who can't quite understand her daughter's quest for happiness. Mary wants the fairytale.
I found this film just okay, at times confusing because of the seamlessness of the flashbacks, and frankly, I got sick of hearing "What are you doing...", a song a young man once sang to me and informed me that he had written it. Right.
Anything with Simmons is worth seeing, but at times, this one is tough going.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I had to stay up late to do some work at my computer the other night, so I watched this on TCM, often my default channel. Jean Simmons was a wonderful actress who got a whole lot of projects not worthy of her talents, and the movie featured a lot of other good performers--John Forsythe, Teresa Wright, Nanette Fabray, Shirley Jones, Lloyd Bridges. (Singer Bobby Darin, billed here as "Robert," was decent in some movies but laughable and largely unrecognizable here as a gigolo.) And Richard Brooks made some good movies, both as director and writer. But despite all the talent involved, the film was quite frustrating. All the women are obsessed with keeping their looks so they keep their husbands, and none of them seem to be able to imagine having a career--I mean, I know feminism was considered rather radical at the time, but these women certainly needed it! Seeing them kvetch at the spa, I yelled at the TV, "Go to a NOW meeting!" (Or at least do some volunteer work to get a clue about people outside your social class.) And the unmarried woman, Shirley Jones, has not supported herself with a job but made a life as a kept woman. Granted, the professional opportunities for women were limited, but there were some...I don't think this is exactly an accurate picture of the time (I lived through it, although I was just a kid). Anyway, I got frustrated with all the whiny rich women, and also with the fact that, like a lot of movies in the 1960s, this one was trying to be somewhat "hip" but just not succeeding. Sort of the hip '60s filtered through old-Hollywood conventionality...and I love old Hollywood, but by the late '60s a new sensibility was needed. Anyway, at least Simmons got out of her rut at the end...but then, my sister, who watched most of the movie with me, thought the character really had nothing to complain about. So, two different views, but both of us had our frustrations. I do love the Michel Legrand song, so that was a plus--and I found this worth watching just to see where it went wrong!
|Page 1 of 2:|| |
|External reviews||Plot keywords||Main details|
|Your user reviews||Your vote history|