Michael C. Smith | San Francisco, CA United States | 01/20/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A quintessential example of Studio comedy of the early 1960's, `What A Way To Go" owes all it's charm to its cast. Topping the list is Shirley MacLaine in a comic performance not to be missed. She brings a fresh kooky charm to her Louisa as she careens from one marriage to the next totaling a roster of husbands with Mega-Star power that today would have sunk 20th Century Fox on salary alone. Here it's all about timing, reaction and pace. All of witch Miss MacLaine is an expert. It is a sheer joy just to watch her take a thin story and make magic out of it. Dick Van Dyke, Paul Newman, Robert Mitchum, Gene Kelly, and Dean Martin aid her in her romp across the cinemascope screen. There are two standouts in the husband department for me, first, Paul Newman as an ex-patriot American artist in Paris. Rarely do we get to see him execute a comic turn and here as Larry Flint he is both sexy and funny. And Robert Mitchum as Rod Anderson, the maple syrup king is a delight. The cleverest aspect of the story is the use of Louise's remembrances of each marriage as a different genre of film from the silent screen to the big splashy musicals of the 1950's. The funniest occurs when she is married to Mitchum. It is a Lush Budget production all the way. Also of note is the big dance number with Gene Kelly, in and of itself a lampoon of Mr. Kelly's famous routines over at M.G.M. a decade before. Also of note is the superb color and cinematography of Leon Shamroy fresh off his Oscar win with "Cleopatra" the year before. (Note the in-joke jabs at Cleopatra and Richard Burton in two segments.) And glittering right up there with her best work are the stunning costumes of Edith Head. This DVD also includes slight extras the best of which is a newsreel of the day called "What A Way To Go To The Fair." It chronicles the films opening at the 1964 New York World's Fair. It is a gem all it's own. What a way to go is a light delight and a prime example of a bygone age of glamour and excess. And above all it is Shirley MacLaine's film all the way and it is the only way to go!
What A Way To Have Fun!
Cowboy Buddha | Essex UK | 01/18/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The epitome of fluffy 60's escapism with Shirley MacLaine at her kooky best and a dream cast of leading men sending up their screen images. Add to this a big budget, the most outrageous costumes of an outrageous era, and a witty script by Comden and Green that blends romance, satire, slapstick and just a pinch of cynicism. It's big and overblown and all the better for it. And I'm glad to report that it looks fantastic on this dvd in widescreen and vibrant color.
Shirley MacLaine made several screwball comedies in the 60's such as Woman Times Seven, John Goldfarb Please Come Home, and The Bliss Of Mrs Blossom, but What A Way To Go is one of the best. She is helped immeasurably by a galaxy of stars portraying the men in her life - smooth and oily Dean Martin, rubber-faced and loose-limbed Dick Van Dyke, bearded and self-spoofing Paul Newman, surprisingly charming Robert Mitchum, the always delightful Gene Kelly, and a somewhat manic Robert Cummings. As an added treat, the Marx Brothers' old foil Margaret Dumont is wonderfully over-the-top as MacLaine's dragon of a mother. You just don't get casts like that anymore.
Another nice touch is the way several genres of film are spoofed as MacLaine wistfully recalls the best days of each of her marriages. The musical extravaganza with Gene Kelly, in particular, is a real joy. Kelly was over 50 but still had all the moves while MacLaine reminds us what a fantastic dancer she was - with equally fantastic legs. I also loved Paul Newman as the world-weary abstract artist. Many people forget that he made a number of comedies way back when, and that he was pretty good in them.
What A Way To Go was not a big hit when it was released, primarily because it was made at a time when the emphasis was on youth and this film was seen as an instant relic that would appeal only to the Doris Day/Rock Hudson crowd. How wrong they were. Forty years on, What A Way To Go is still fresh and funny, unlike many other Swinging 60's comedies.
Other reviewers on here have mentioned films they would like to see released on dvd. I'll add an old, little-seen favorite of mine - The Art Of Love with James Garner and Dick Van Dyke. Well, I can hope, can't I? In the meantime, I think I'll watch What A Way To Go again."
Opulent, Frothy Showcase for MacLaine and her Men!
Benjamin J Burgraff | Las Vegas | 07/08/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
""What a Way to Go!" is such an entertaining showcase of vivacious star Shirley MacLaine's talents as a comedienne, dancer, and singer that it's hard to believe that the original script was far darker, and intended for Marilyn Monroe!
A tale of an innocent who dreams of a 'simple life', marrying progressively richer men who leave her an ever richer widow, is the kind of tongue-in-cheek farce that European filmmakers relish, but was unfamiliar to American audiences of the early sixties. Writer Gwen Davis' original story was written to satirically echo Monroe's own marital misadventures, and might have provided the star her best vehicle since "Bus Stop". But Monroe's career took a tragic nosedive, culminating with her death, at 36, in 1962, leaving Fox with a script, a director (J. Lee Thompson), and a film in preproduction.
Gifted songwriting team Betty Comden and Adolph Green, fresh from transferring their B'way hit, "Bells Are Ringing" to the screen, saw the script, and were invited to rework it as a comic vehicle for MacLaine. The talented actress, who had achieved major stardom in "The Apartment", was being given a major build-up by Fox, who wanted to showcase her untapped skills as singer/dancer, as well as in comedy. Thus a lighter, more dazzling "What a Way to Go!" was born.
Fox spared no expense on the production, with over 70 Edith Head costumes, choreography by Gene Kelly, and a new song by Jule Styne...but they balked over Frank Sinatra's salary demands, to play one of the husbands (he was replaced by Robert Mitchum). For MacLaine, it was a joy, working with two ex-lovers (Mitchum and Dean Martin), dancing with Kelly, doing comedy with Dick Van Dyke, Bob Cummings, and a surprisingly deft Paul Newman, and working with legendary Marx Brothers' foil, Margaret Dumont, in her last film.
The end result, while a 'mixed bag', has memorable moments; Newman's French sequence, with a chimp and a murderous painting machine, captures the 'essence' of the material very well; the spoof of Fox multi-costume extravaganzas, with Mitchum, is dazzling (and his death is the funniest); best of all, the giant musical production number with Kelly and MacLaine is a total joy, a homage to both Kelly and Busby Berkeley. While the Van Dyke and Martin sequences lack the same sparkle, and Cumming's scenes appear more contrived than funny, the overall result is wonderful eye candy, with MacLaine never sexier, or more energetic. That the film failed to become a big hit when released was certainly not due to it's star.
The new DVD edition deserves a commentary and 'making of' documentary (neither of which it has), but does offer some entertaining newsreel footage from the 1964 World's Fair premiere, as well as an amusing newsreel of the casting of the chimp for the Newman sequence.
"What a Way to Go!" may not be 'classic' cinema, but it is fun, and if you're a MacLaine fan, you'll be in for a treat! "
What a Great Fun Movie!
Lori | Pittsburgh, PA | 02/24/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A terrific movie with an all star cast. I saw this movie years ago. I enjoyed it then and found it even more fun to watch on DVD. Yes of course it is over the top and mindless but it really doesn't matter. One of the few comedies that is actually funny. Hard to find nowadays in my opinion. This time I watched it with my 13 year old daughter who obviously knows none of the stars, except Dick Van Dyke who looked familiar to her. She actually loved it and she usually doesn't like my movies being a pre-teen and all. This movie is visually stunning with a continuous pace of entertainment from beginning to end. Delightful!"
Dazzling 1960's Comedy Providing A Wonderful Showcase For S
Simon Davis | 08/31/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The brash, colourful, and totally extrovert comedy "What a Way to Go", starring the endlessly energetic Shirley Maclaine really is one of the last of the great studio comedies where meticulous attention was expended on every detail of the production. Despite having made better known films that were also more successful, rarely did Shirley MacLaine a born actess and dancer have a more perfectly tailored role than in this wacky fun filled comedy. Planned originally as a vehicle for the ailing Marilyn Monroe for 1962 after she completed the ill fated and sadly never completed "Somethings Got To Give", this project was never realised due to Monroe's sudden death. After receiving an expression of slight interest from Elizabeth Taylor the role then fell in to the lap of the woman who was absolutely best suited for the role and the results on screen prove it. With her battery of amazing leading men such as Paul Newman, Robert Mitchum, Dean Martin, Gene Kelly and Dick Van Dyke, Shirley MacLaine makes the end result a totally delightful frothy comedy that gets its memorable quality very much from the talents involved and from the wonderful care expended on every facet of the production by Twentieth Century Fox which in 1964 was still reeling from the financial woes caused by "Cleopatra"and badly needed a hit to pull it out of the financial doldrums.
Based on an amusing story by Gwen Davis, Shirley MacLaine plays the "eternal jinx", Louisa May Foster who as the story opens attempts to hand over a multi million dollar check as a donation to the American Government. The reason for this very strange action soon becomes all too clear as we learn the strange story of Louisa's journey through marriage to four husbands in her eternal search for the man who will just be happy with nothing and not want to become a big success. During her sessions with a psychiatrist Dr. Stephanson (Robert Cummings), Louisa relates each of her illfated marriages in turn from their supposedly simple happy beginnings to their tragic ends where each man becomes consumed by money and success which ends up costing him his life. We meet each of the husbands in turn; firstly simple Edgar Hopper (Dick Van Dyke) a man previously happy with his run down garage but who after being goaded by Louisa's wealthy beau Leonard Crawley (Dean Martin) as a failure, becomes the founder of Hopper's department stores that become a world wide success but which give Edgar a fatal heart attack. We then see Louisa travel to Paris where she meets and fall in love with ex patriot artist Larry Flint (Paul Newman) a wildly eccentric artist who doesn't paint to sell his works but who after marriage to Louisa discovers the magic of the painting machine which can turn out "masterpices", made to order. However success has its price when these very same painting machines that made him wealthy end up killing him in a tragic malfunction. On the way back to the States Louisa then becomes involved with the wealthy maple Syrup King Rod Anderson Jr.(Robert Mitcham), who in a cruel twist of fate while trying to adapt to the quiet simple life that Louisa craves is killed by a kicking bull on their quiet little farming spread. Husband No. 4 appears in th eform of second rate cabaret performer Pinky Benson who performs in a seedy night club in a clown act. At Louisa's suggestion one night he performs without makeup and suddenly his star quality is discovered which whisks him away to fame and fortune and a mansion done entirely in pink even down to the water in the pool! However fame has its drawbacks and just as Louisa realises she has jinxed her man again Pinky is trampled to death by his over zealous fans leaving her a widow for the fourth time. Just as she believes life has no meaning Louisa runs into Leonard Crawly now a simple janitor in her psychiatrist's office and love blooms yet again and despite a close call with "sudden wealth" again when an oil gusher on the farm turns out to be a ruptured pipe it looks like Louisa has finally found the simple life she has always craved.
I totally enjoyed this crazy comedy and found much to appreciate in each of the four husband's separate stories. Despite having very different screen personas I felt all the actors playing the husbands contributed something quite worthwhile in their stories and each had a believable (although short lived!) chemistry with Shirley MacLaine. Paul Newman I thought was an absolute standout in his very non traditional role of avante garde artist Larry Flint and it was a joy to see him in such a wildly uninhibited performance which is a side rarely seen in his work. Despite some people disliking his work in the film I thought Gene Kelly also did well as the sad clown performer Pinky Benson who finds stardom and "goes Holywood" right down to a pink mansion with pink water in the swimming pool. Dick Van Dyke who around this time enjoyed his greatest screen success in "Mary Poppins", was also another favourite of mine among the illfated husbands and brings his usual jovial charm to the role of husband No. 1 Edgar Hooper and his money making advertising slogan of "hop hop down to hop hop hoppers", is a jingle which I always find hard to get out of my mind after viewing this movie! Shirley MacLaine manages her character well through the demise of all her success driven husbands and the film does provide a dazzling showcase for her talents multi talents in comedy and dance when in clever flash back scenes she recalls each of her marriages in terms of a different film genre, for example a very funny silent film spoof for the Dick Van Dyke marriage, to an elaborate musical production number fittingly for the Gene Kelly sequence. All of this is packaged with truly opulent production values so typical of the at the time fast dying Old Hollywood studio system. Blessed with gorgeous colour photography and incredibly lavish sets and costumes for Shirley MacLaine the film was deservedly nominated for two Academy Awards for Edith Head for costume design and for Art/Set Direction but in the light of the "My Fair Lady", juggernaut that same year at the awards this film didn't win either unfortunately.
For a last glimpse at the Old style Hollywood form of movie making when star power spoke more than words on the screen "What a Way to Go!", makes delightful entertainment of the first order. Certainly the story is light and frothy and doesn't warrant any indepth examination however it is the stars first and foremost that make it memorable viewing. The casting of Shirley MacLaine as the much married Louisa was a totally suitable choice and it is due to her energy and gutsy playing alongside her various "husbands", that makes this such an enjoyable farce. For a slice of Hollywood glamour of the old school try and check out Twentieth Century Fox's lavish comedy "What a Way to Go!", soon.