Not With My Wife, You Don’t!

NOT WITH MY WIFE, YOU DON’T!—-just by the title of this 1966 sex comedy, you know this isn’t likely an item that’s going to win over the easily (and perpetually) offended in the guilt-a-woke clime of the New Improved Intolerance Age, but there was a reason someone once had foresight enough to coin the fits-plenty abbreviation “T.S.”, for just such an eventuality.

‘Col.Tom Farris’ (Tony Curtis) is a London-based Air Force attaché officer, seeing to the whims and needs of the brass, so much so that his Italian-born wife ‘Julie’ (Virna Lisi) understandably feels neglected. Flashbacks show how they met during the Korean War, when Julie was a nurse and being ardently pursued by both jet pilot Tom and fellow hot shot ace ‘Tank Martin’ (George C. Scott), his combat buddy & ruthless rival when it comes to R&R. Julie loves them both, but marries Tom when Tank is reported missing in action. Back to the present (circa mid 60s), Tank turns up, alive, single and still interested. He arranges for Tom’s transfer to an Arctic survival station in Labrador. Infidelity and looming divorce are in play: how will this be resolved?

Most sex farces from the era don’t hold up well—many were lame to start with—but this one works  for the most part, thanks to the game cast, and some silly-funny situations arranged under director Norman Panama, who co-wrote the script with Larry Gelbart and Peter Barnes. The Curtis-Scott pairing is similar to the Hope & Crosby one-upmanship duels from the ‘Road’ pictures, and both actors are in good form. Between The Perfect Furlough in 1958 and 1970’s Suppose They Gave A War and Nobody Came? Curtis starred or guested in 19 comedies, ranging in quality from pleasing to putrid: he’s on top of the material here. Scott only appeared in a few comedies, but they include Dr. Strangelove, The Flim Flam Man, The Hospital and They Might Be Giants. Charm to spare, Lisi easily holds her own: it doesn’t hurt that she’s ravishing enough to have you plot a pal’s re-assignment to the North Pole. A real friend would understand.

Carroll O’Connor shows up to look agitated and perplexed as a General, part of a quartet of officer sendups he put across, including What Did You Do In The War, Daddy?, The Devil’s Brigade and Kelly’s Heroes.  Dependable sidekick type Eddie Ryder gets in some smiles. The funniest scene is a quick movie-within-a-movie spoof of hard-breathing Italian romantic melodramas.

Lost in the ’66 shuffle, the movie only tagged 100th place, grossing just $2,000,000. While far from a classic, it delivers a good number of laughs and deserved a better fate than the “never heard of it” barrel. With Donna Danton, Ann Doran, Richard Eastham, William Phipps and Sharon Farrell.  John Williams (then ‘Johnny’) composed the score. 119 minutes.

* The over-supplied but thin-skinned Air Force apparently took the kidding in stride, and provided the ‘Thunderbirds’ stunt squadron of F-100 Super Sabre’s for a few scenes. They must have felt the crowd-wowing exploits of the Thunderbirds (the Navy’s ‘Blue Angels’ were a BIG deal when I was a kid) made slick p.r. cover to help massage a shielded public, unaware that on the other side of the world the Air Force was secretly pulverizing the defenseless country of Laos into the mud. A ‘sideshow’ without gags.


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