What a Way to Go! (1964)

One of the most peculiar movie memories from my childhood. If you haven’t seen this movie, it’s a dopey high-concept comedy about a woman who marries a series of men who all strike it rich then die, making her increasingly wealthy in spite of the fact that she only wants to marry for love. The all-star cast was completely unfamiliar to a child of the 80s but the set pieces are hard to forget – Shirley MacLaine soaking in a giant champagne glass, a movie producer named “Lush Budget”, an all-pink swimming pool, a scene where she is lifted into the air on a lounger like a barber’s chair in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, and the ending where her farmer husband appears to strike oil but turns out to have just hit a pipe. It’s likely that some of these memories are inaccurate since I haven’t seen it in years but I do clearly remember being disturbed by the combination of the light tone and flights of fancy that to me resembled Mary Poppins, the unfamiliar milieu of 60s Hollywood, and the cavalier treatment of death, which added up to a very grotesque picture of adult life; it would make a perfect double bill with A Guide to the Married Man. The trailer below does a good job of conveying the funk.

I also seem to remember some time after seeing this walking in on my parents watching Giant and wondering when the guys were going to show up to tell James Dean that he had only struck a pipe.


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