Take a Girl Like You (1970) /A Guide for the Married Man (1967)
Both of these movies are basically feature length manifestos for swinging. In the case of Take a Girl Like You, Oliver Reed spends the entire film convincing Haley Mills to give up her virginity. In A Guide for the Married Man, Robert Morse spends the entire film explaining to Walter Matthew how to effectively cheat on his wife.
I actually watched these back-to-back, and was amazed at how similar they are. Both boil down to arguments for swinging - a hot topic at the dawn of the sexual revolution.
Take a Girl Like You (1970)
Haley Mills is Jenny Bunn, a school teacher and new in town. She's renting a room in a house owned by Dick and Martha Thompson (John Bird and Sheila Hancock). Jenny immediately attracts the attention of the local swinger, Patrick Standish (Oliver Reed).
Patrick has a reputation of being THE ladies man in this small English town; not the type of guy the wholesome Jenny Bunn would ever take seriously. However, his powers in the art of love are not to be underestimated, and he manages gets her out for a date.
The date ends in somewhat of a disaster as swingin' Patrick learns that Jenny is a virgin. It's as if she told him she's a visitor from Neptune; it does not compute. Patrick just can't comprehend this strange turn of events... and, predictably, it makes him pursue Jenny even more.
It should be mentioned that there is a sub plot: Jenny's landlord, Dick Thompson, is aspiring for political office. He's a weak-willed alcoholic buffoon, and I suppose thereby the perfect candidate. We're supposed to laugh at this fool; however, the humor dries up when Dick attempts to rape Jenny.
Dick's wife isn't exactly enjoying the marital bliss of being stuck with this boozing retard, and ultimately takes a cab for a life to be lived elsewhere. But we're getting ahead of ourselves - we need to mention the Julian (Noel Harrison) - one of the grossest characters you'll ever see. Something about this rich, hedonistic sleazeball gave me the heebee jeebees...
Julian lives in the biggest mansion in town, and flaunts his privilege at every opportunity. He is super effeminate, wears an ascot, and prances around like Oscar Wilde... yet, he's supposed to be a straight swinger, a ladies man that rivals even Patrick.
There's another character, Graham (Ronald Lacey), Patrick's roommate, who serves as the mild comic relief. He's the doofus that no girl likes... yet, he's more caring and gentlemanly than either Patrick or Julian combined.
Graham represents a sort-of injustice built in to our mating rituals. It's the horny douche bags like Patrick and Julian who get all the chicks; meanwhile, mild-mannered, friendly, and respectable gents like Graham get left in the dust - lonely spectators of the sexual revolution.
So, Patrick spends the span of several dates doing everything in his power to get Jenny to give up the good fight, and sleep with him. He tries rational arguments, he tries getting her hot and bothered, he tries humor, logic, trickery - you name it, but it's to no avail.
His efforts aren't helped when Julian invites Graham, Jenny, and Patrick to his posh estate - because he's also invited the ditzy, yet super foxy, Wendy (Aimi MacDonald) along. The bubbly blonde has no inhibitions about pursuing Patrick, and her flirtations begin to inspire the ire of the very unflirtatious Jenny.
Wendy, obviously no amateur at bagging men, manages to get in Patrick's car - thereby booting Jenny into the Graham-Julian vehicle. As you can imagine, Jenny is not too keen on the situation. She was suspicious of Patrick to begin with; but seeing his interactions with Wendy erase any hope that Patrick might be an alright guy after all. We can sense Patrick's frustration - he genuinely would rather be with Jenny, but is unable to convey it to Jenny.
The straw that breaks the camel's back occurs when Patrick can no longer fend off Wendy, and Jenny catches them in the act.
But it's not over. Patrick manages to woo Jenny under his spell one more time. He explains that Wendy means nothing to him, and lays it on thick with Jenny. He even manages to almost cross the finish line. Yes, Jenny agrees to sleep with him.
How'd he convince her? He explained that sex is a risk, but it's not just a risk for Jenny - it's a risk for him as well. She could lose her virginity for nothing; it's a one night stand, and her gift of maidenhood was for nothing. BUT, he stands to lose something too: if he falls in love with her, he loses his swingin' lifestyle. (Yeah, I know. It's not the greatest argument for sex ever used; however, it manages to persuade Jenny, so who am I to judge?)
They set a time and place. It'll be at Patrick's flat on a Sunday afternoon. The problem comes when the oblvious Graham invites Jenny to accompany him to a party at Julian's - Jenny is, of course, too polite to turn him down.
At the party, Jenny learns that Julian knows about their 2:00 roll in the hay. She's horrified beyond comprehension. She had finally learned to trust Patrick, and now it seems she's just another conquest to bragged about with Julian. She feels hopelessly betrayed.... so, what does Jenny do? SHE SLEEPS WITH SICKO JULIAN!
Yep. After preserving her virginity for so long, she decides to give it up to Patrick's sleazy friend, who obviously doesn't give two shits about her. I suppose it's an act of revenge against Patrick, but this still seems like a terrible decision. Patrick genuinely loves her - all he did was talk about there scheduled lovemaking with his friend. Is that so wrong? Not too mention, this is terribly shitty of Julian.
The ending is rather unsatisfying. Patrick storms into the room and catches them right after the act. Naturally, harsh words are exchanged and the film ends with Patrick running after Jenny. Did they make up? Did they finally get together? I guess we can presume they do; however, maybe they don't. The only thing for certain is that Graham will forever be alone.
Overall, it's an interesting treatise on the sexual politics that were going on in 1969-70, but it's very bipolar. Are we to side with Patrick and Julian, that free love is an enlightened position? Or are there consequences that come with playing the swinger's game that these guys are underestimating? Take a Girl Like You offers an enjoyable exploration of the topic. However, the head-scratching ending just seems to convolute the argument further... and maybe that's the point.
A Guide for the Married Man (1967)
Take a Girl Like You could get a little overbearing with its relentless arguments to shed one's virginity and drop into the sack with the nearest swinger. However, that is nothing compared to A Guide for the Married Man (1967). I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that this is, from to start to finish, one long, uninterrupted argument for adultery and how-to handbook for getting away with it. No movie title has ever been so perfect, as this is nothing more than an illustrated guide.
Basically, it boils down to this: Paul (Walter Matthau) is starting to get the itch to maybe start fooling around on the side. His fellow attorney, Ed (Robert Morse) spends the rest of the film convincing him to take the plunge and offering direction.
It's the late 1960s, sexual liberation is in the air, and Paul smells its illicit fruits and wants a bite. Everywhere he goes, he's gobsmacked by the trim ladies in tight fitting capri pants, secretaries in short skirts, and neighbor ladies just ripe for the picking. (Director Gene Kelly was clearly an assman, by the way, with lots of female backside shots seen from Paul's perspective).
What clearly does not add up is that Paul is an awkward doofus that should be counting his lucky stars that he has such a hot wife. His spouse, Ruth, is played by the infinitely fine Inger Stevens. She waits on him hand and foot, and struts around looking smoking hot. Why in the name of all that is holy would Paul be looking to stray? Instead, he should be getting on his knees thanking his maker that Inger Stevens is his wife!
But we'll suspend our disbelief for a moment. After all, it's still the 1960s, and life was governed by a different set of rules back then. The man, as long as he's the mighty breadwinner, could do as he liked. Life was one big gentleman's club for the successful 60s male.
I won't go into all the tips and tricks imparted by Paul's friend, Ed. As I've said, they are the bulk of this movie. With each piece of advice, Ed provides a cautionary tale or stellar example of the tool being used effectively by another cheater - each time the stories are acted out in vignettes featuring numerous cameos (Lucille Ball, Sid Caesar, Jack Benny, Art Carney, Phil Silver, and even Jayne Mansfield.). They're entertaining at first, but grow a bit weary after a while since they don't really further the storyline.
For instance, one vignette provides an illustration of how you should always deny, no matter what. "Deny, deny, deny." In this case, Joey Bishop is literally caught in bed with another woman. Rather than offer excuses, Joey just gets dressed and denies (in typical Bishop expressionless monotone), despite the fact that the evidence is right in front of the wife's face. Eventually, she questions her own sanity; tireless denial wins over flimsy excuses every time.
In another "skit", Ed tells of a dashing movie producer (Carl Reiner) who wants to have a fling with an aspiring starlet, Miss Stardust (Linda Harrison). The story is supposed to illustrate the point that a swinger needs to go to every extreme to ensure his activities aren't discovered. In this case, Reiner flies to New York, while Miss Stardust flies to Paris. Then it's on to Hawaii, treacherous mountain ranges, inhospitable lands across the globe.... until finally, their tracks cannot be traced and their winding paths end up meeting in a remote mountain chalet...
...and, of course, they're instantly busted.
The gag took a long time to get to a pretty weak and predictable payoff. Such is the nature of A Guide for the Married Man. As you'll see in the end, the whole film is essentially a monstrous set up for a fall.
A little bit about Ed. He may not be as awkward and pathetic as Paul, he's no Tyrone Powers either. He's another guy who should be on his hands and knees grateful for his super hot wife (Claire Kelly). Yet, he lives the life of a playboy who takes on the job of adultery with precision and intense research... completely forgetting his wife at home is hotter than any of the gals he's shagging on the side.
Ed is played by Robert Morse, who will forever be Cooper from Mad Men, in my mind. As much as I like the guy, I will say that he grows tiresome - I can only take Coop in small doses. Morse delivers every line with a flair that works on stage, but on screen the exaggerated expressions and comic grins seem too... well, theatrical.
After Paul finally passes Ed's tests, he's finally ready to put his money where his mouth is. His client, a rich divorcee named Jocelyn Montgomery, is ready and willing - she'll work perfect as his first affair. Paul goes through all of the required steps: (1) he pretends his back hurts so he can go to an overnight spa, (2) gets a rental car, (3) books a room at a hotel, and employs all manner of tricks-of-the-trade along the way.
But, just as it looks as if Paul is about to get it on with Ms. Montgomery, a commotion sounds outside the hotel window. He opens the shades only to see poor Ed getting busted in the act in a hotel room across the way. Paul switches into panic mode - he evacuates the premises, leaves his potential mistress on the curb, and heads home to hug his wife and kids. A gentle lullaby of "No Place Like Home" plays in the background as Paul finally realizes the error of his ways (not unlike the ending to It's a Wonderful Life) and appreciates what he has.
Okay, so we've all learned a lesson here: cheating will get your ass in trouble - so, stay true to your smoking hot wives. The problem is, we've just spent the past hour and thirty minutes getting the reverse argument drilled into our heads. Every line, every scene of the entire film has been undone by a five second flash of Ed getting cold busted. What was the point?
The point, I suppose, is that we saw plenty of awesome guest stars, a handful of stone cold foxes, and had a chuckle here and there. It's probably best not to think too deeply about this one, and just come along for the ride.