A Guide for the Married Man (1967) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

A Guide for the Married Man (1967)

Brief warning: Lots of bad language in this one. So sorry.

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com

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How badly do you want to fuck right now? Like, seriously. Human biology is infinitely complex, but it always comes down to the simple question of who's willing and how far they're willing to go to satisfy that craving.

That being asked, let's move on to the next logical imperative: how badly does A Guide for the Married Man fucking suck? Seriously. Well, that comes down to the simple equation of a terrible premise mixed with a revolting moral.

A Guide for the Married Man comes along in that series of humorless late 60's comedies that also includes What a Way To Go or The Great Race. With the end of the Production Code being enforced, American movies could now freely discuss sex and infidelity, though this whisked away the charming euphemisms of the previous decade only to replace it with blunt coarseness. Hollywood lost its censorship, but it also lost all of its goddamn subtlety as well.

Seriously, who put Walter Mathau in as an "amiable loser"? Who does that?

This film is the story of men who are fucking around. Set to a veritable cavalcade of 60's bosoms, it stars Walter Matthau as a business executive whose seven year itch is coming from a full blown rash. His neighbor and friend, played by Robert Morse, notices this and takes Matthau under his wing. You want to learn how to cheat? Well, here you go.

But first, a very quick aside. What idiot in their right mind casts baby faced Morse as sketchy and the eternally irritable Matthau as doofy and innocent? Did they switch the roles purposefully? What was director Gene Kelly- yes, that Gene Kelly-- thinking here?

Well, the bad ideas didn't stop there. A lot of Morse's tips are portrayed in a series of quick one-off vignettes with a cast of Golden Age comedic stars to strut their stuff in.

Who've we got? Lucille Ball! Art Carney! Carl Reiner! Jack Benny! Jayne Mansfield! Terry Thomas! Phil Silvers-- Wait, Phil Silvers? Is there anyone under the age of fifty who remembers Sgt. Bilko with a shred of fondness?

Okay, whatever, look, we've got a movie. There are rules and regulations to cheating, and Morse imparts them all while the camera lovingly frames more perky posteriors than you could hope for. The weird part is that all of the women are late-60's cookie cutter Barbie doll women, including the wives. Everyone in this film looks like they're cut from the same slice of cardboard.

While I may detest this film's view of women, that doesn't mean I'm above exploiting it.

Speaking of misogyny, did you know that women in the late 60's resembled iPods? Sleek, sexy, disposable, and only different superficially. And I don't mean skin color by any means-- almost everyone here is Elmer's Glue white. If you're feeling daring, be prepared to spot the only black person in the film-- she may be the one in tribal garb in a tropical bar dancing to a pair of bongos.

Look, I'm not someone who rails against Hollywood immorality, but this picture is tone deaf to common human decency through and throughout. This causes me to wonder something: is this a film that represented someone's idea of how the world of swingers worked or is this just showing how prevalent adultery and sexism had become? Is this a cheap attempt to exploit the sexual revolution by a number of tone-deaf producers or is it an honest document of it's time?

Tony Mastroianni's review from 1967 indicates the former, Roger Ebert's original review from the same year points to the latter. Does this matter? Not really, no. It turns out that women can lead their own lives, make their own decisions, and may actually come in more varieties than just blonde and brunette.

Jayne Mansfield was the blonde bimbo ne plus ultra of the late 60's, so I suppose it's fitting that this counts among the last of her film credits.

The end of the film is the tipping point for me. Matthau, having followed all of Morse's infidelity rules to the letter, has lured a wealthy divorcee to a small motel room. As she strips down to her lingerie, Matthau feels a twinge of remorse and begins to talk about loving his wife. That's when he hears a clatter and sees that, across the way, Morse and his mistress have been ambushed by a set of detectives.

This flips Matthau's shit! Even the great master can get caught! He hurries the divorcee off, goes home, and appreciates his wife.

What's the moral of the story? Don't commit adultery because there's a chance you can be caught.

Read that a few more times. A Guide for the Married Man is a loathsome array of non-humor, misogyny, and awful ideas. Everyone involved deserved better. Humanity deserved better.

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Posted by Danny

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