A GUIDE FOR THE MARRIED MAN leers a wicked 1967 sex farce that will have feminists foam at the mouth and many guys giggling with guilty glee. Walter Matthau is married to dream-perfect Inger Stevens, yet he still feels an urge to covet, so he asks his rope-knowing buddy Robert Morse to educate him in the dangerous art of cheating. Political correctness may as well be in the next galaxy. Oh, the horror…
Though even at a brisk 99 minutes it eventually runs low on steam, and while the brash sauciness (taste? forget it) that made it fairly sexy back in the LBJ days seems mild now, it still has plenty of retro chuckles in the basket. Matthau is amusing as usual, and Inger’s marvelous figure is displayed with merciless abandon (though she gained fame from the TV sitcom “The Farmer’s Daughter”, this was the only feature film the gone-too-soon beauty made that was a comedy—her dozen other films were all deadly serious stuff). Always fun to see Sue Anne Langdon play naughty, too. Stealing the show, though, are Morse and some of the ration of cameo skits, broadly sent up by a slew of guest stars—Art Carney, Carl Reiner, Terry-Thomas and Jayne Mansfield highlight the best ones. Morse, as a sly-fox operator is a kick.
Directed by Gene Kelly. Music by John Williams, with a bouncy title tune courtesy of The Turtles. With Elaine Devry, Linda Harrison, Sharon Hillyer and Virginia Wood. The other cameos are from Lucille Ball, Jack Benny, Polly Bergen, Joey Bishop, Jeffrey Hunter, Sid Caesar, Ben Blue, Ann Morgan Guilbert,Wally Cox, Hal March, Louis Nye, Marty Ingels, Sam Jaffe and Phil Silvers. Joy Harmon, that car-wash minx from Cool Hand Luke is also in the art direction.
Whipped up for $2,500,000, grosses of $11,000,000 put it 19th place for the year. It’s developed a cult following. Some contemporary reviews feel the need to express outrage over its outrageousness. PC frothers need to get a grip. They won’t, of course: they can’t. Topical comedies generally don’t date well, and most of the myriad 60s sex romps are pretty stale today (many weren’t that hot at the time). Funny bones are funny things, as differing as individual taste buds, and as mercurial. What was once a hoot may now be hideous. I can see why many would wince at this flick, and see why as many more—with no less a claim to whatever constitutes intellectual, ethical or moral high ground— will find it’s archaic sexist foolishness harmlessly enjoyable. If it will soothe your guilt reflex, factor in that writer Frank Tarloff was blacklisted as “unfriendly” and couldn’t work in the States for 12 years, subsisting by fronting for others. Before he won an Oscar for the screenplay to 1964s Father Goose he’d written in pseudonym for The Real McCoys, The Donna Reed Show, Make Room For Daddy, The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Andy Griffith Show. If you can’t take a joke, you’re living on the wrong sick planet.