11/6/15

Double Feature #15: The Case for Swingers


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.

19 comments:

  1. I always thought "A Guide for the Married Man" was a humorous little movie. I remember when it came out how "scandalous" it was, even for 1967.

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  2. Whoa, wait just a second. You did a review of "A Guide for the Married Man" and failed to mention curvy, bubbly Sue Ann Langdon, who played the curvy, bubbly, flirtatious neighbor? WHA?!?!?

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  3. "Guide for the Married Man" is almost an unauthorized sequel to Morse's stage and screen hit, "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." Read somewhere that Morse was originally the tempted hubby and Matthau was the smooth teacher, but Matthau lobbied for switching parts. It really does come down firmly on the anti-cheating side long before the ending; note that several of the object lessons are cautionary tales rather than tips. Also, the payoff of the know-it-all expert Morse getting caught (with Sue Ann Langdon, the neighbor who's been flirting with Matthau throughout) yells "Everything he told you DOESN'T WORK!" And Matthau, finally alone with an insanely sexy and willing woman, starts talking about his wife. Message: Normal husbands DON'T REALLY WANT TO CHEAT -- it's guys like Morse who push them into it.

    Compare to "How to Succeed", where Morse's unethical tricks take him almost to the top, when disaster strikes -- but it turns out to be a disguised blessing that vaults him to Chairman of the Board. The joke in that play/film is that dirty dealing DOES work. And as a footnote, the married boss's affair with a sexpot employee ultimately carries no consequences for him, as she conveniently leaves him for richer man.

    Ultimately, "Guide for the Married Man" is one of those "racy" but thoroughly safe comedies that's all about people trying and failing to have illicit sex. The successful adulterers are all characters in Morse's anecdotes; the "real" ones -- Sid Caesar caught in restaurant, Morse himself, and I think a guy coming out of a motel -- are busted. All that's missing is a plot line where people think a woman is having sex when, of course, she's not.

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    1. It's a typical pre-1969 American movie. They couldn't even imply that an unmarried penis would enter an unmarried vagina unless the characters came to a bad end. I still love it for the 1960s suburban sets and Inger Stevens.

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    2. When I was a kid (born 1965), my father told me multiple times that there was a TV code that said if it a bad guy killed a cop, they wouldn't let him get away with it. I still have no idea whether that was true, but it goes hand-in-hand with what you're saying.

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  4. Retro girls with actual girls are not comparable. Now girls and women are very skinny, that does not mean beauty. Retro woman means real woman, voluptuous women with obvious forms.

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  5. I had a Brush With Greatness with the since-deceased Noel Harrison.

    I am a member of a Yahoo Group for fans of the original TV series Mission: Impossible. In the only three-part episode of the series, Noel Harrison played a simpleton member of a royal family. The moderator of the group was somehow connected to Mister Harrison, and about five years ago somehow I volunteered to take screen captures of Harrison's performance in Mission: Impossible from my DVD set and send them to him so his grandchildren could see them. I passed them along and I got a short e-mail directly from Harrison thanking me.

    That's all there is to the story...no real punchline...but I figured this is my only opportunity to share the story where people would know who he is since I don't know any Brits.

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    1. If you know anybody old enough to remember "The Girl From Uncle", he was Stephanie Powers's hip British sidekick in that series.

      I remember the MI episode in question, and Harrison also had to play Martin Landau (or was it Leonard Nimoy?) impersonating his character, lip-syncing a few lines in the other actor's voice. I think this was standard procedure whenever one of MI team had to impersonate another onscreen character.

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    2. I am a HUGE fan of the Mission: Impossible TV series. While the technology in the show is now woefully out-of-date, it's one of those shows that stands the test of time because the fabric of the show is still relevant (like I Love Lucy and Mary Tyler Moore Show).

      That being said, an element of the show that was necessary to the storylines, but TOTALLY ridiculous, is what you're mentioning. Nearly every episode, someone would put a rubber face on to do an impersonation, and they'd get away with it. The theory is so ridiculous...so many things would give you away...subtleties in speech, body scent, posture, mannerisms, gait, teeth, girth, height...but that's how the show rolled and, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, people went with it. In the early episodes of the series, at least they tried to make it believable by the impersonator putting effort into learning mannerisms (twice, Martin Landau had to teach himself to be left-handed). However, in later seaons, you put a rubber face on you were magically that person. Across the seven seasons, the only time a person truly got busted was when the impersonated person's dog went nuts because it knew its owner was a fake (Season 6: "Bag Woman"). Funny that across seven seasons, a human never figured it out, but a dog did.

      To answer your question, it was Leonard Nimoy. The three-parter in question, "The Falcon" was Season 4. Martain Landau and Barbara Bain were Seasons 1 thru 3. Leonard Nimoy was Seasons 4 and 5. Season 4 was the only season where they didn't have a female that was a regular member of the team.

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    3. Voiceofthe70sNovember 08, 2015

      Speaking of Noel Harrison, he also made some pretty good albums in the 60s. People might know his Oscar winning rendition of "Windmills of Your Mind" from "The Thomas Crown Affair", but his albums "Collage", ""Santa Monica Pier" and especially "The Great Electric Experiment is Over" have some good stuff.

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  6. A pro pos of nothing, Ronald Lacey will forever be imprinted in my mind as the melting Gestapo officer in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

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  7. Ew. Ever seeing Oliver Reed on The Tonight Show (when Shelley Winters poured her drink on his head), I don't think I could watch him in a film.

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  8. Curse of the Baby Boomers: We are about to witness the media 'forgo reminiscences of the fall of the Berlin Wall or the horrors of 9/11 for wistful ruminations on Freakies cereal, the superiority of the original Star Wars action figures or that time Scott Baio played a stoner on “ABC Afterschool Special.”'
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/11/06/baby-boomer-nostalgia-is-already-oppressive-its-about-to-get-so-much-worse/?hpid=hp_hp-cards_hp-card-posteverything%3Ahomepage%2Fcard

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  9. An interesting retrospective. I am old enough to remember these films and the spirit of the 'times' generally, and it seems to me that back then a little illicit sex was seen as innocent fun and quite harmless. Well that was the widespread perception at the start of the sexual revolution.

    Unfortunately it hasn't ended up so well as successive generations have proved with many social issues directly traceable to those 'fun' times. Back then I recall the expression 'if you can't be good, be careful' was popular and rather summed up the times, and the lure of the mini skirt was very much a part of the lure of illicit but innocent sexual pleasure!

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  10. Voiceofthe70sNovember 08, 2015

    The comment "a little illicit sex was seen as innocent fun and quite harmless" made me immediately think of the 1973 film "A Touch of Class" starring George Segal and Glenda Jackson, which was the epitome of that sentiment. Segal's character is married, but the two leads are up for "classy short term affair, meaning no cheap motels, and preferably a weekend away somewhere warm". A sign of the times that an illicit affair could be considered "classy", though, like the films under discussion here, all does not end with sweetness and light. It was also a sign of the times that films could have ambivalent endings. Despite being nominated for a best picture Oscar, and despite Jackson winning the Oscar for best actress, the film is basically forgotten today.

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    1. This is going to sound like a flippant question, but it's a real one...did people really hold parties where they put their house key in a fishbowl, and at the end you pulled a key out and that's who you went home with?

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    2. Sure did. Most people say they were more prevalent for groups of swingers, not so much for neighbors like is usually depicted in movies.

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  11. Take A Girl Like You seemed to serve no other purpose than to give Hayley Mills another opportunity to break out of her Disney girl mold. As described by your always deft wording it seems neither entertaining nor enlightening.

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    1. As for Hayley Mills breaking out of the Disney girl mold, I wonder if the lesson there is that what seems different is really the same. Today, Miley Cyrus is doing exactly what Hayley Mills did 50 years ago, it's just that the cultural norms of breaking the Disney mold while staying mainstream allow/force someone to go a lot further now than they did 50 years ago.

      If my theory is correct, does that mean the Hayley Mills / Miley Cyrus of 2065 will be doing hard-core porno to break out of the Disney mold or, in 50 years, will the pendulum swing back the other way?

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