JOPLIN, Mo. —
These two movies are from arguably the last “golden age” of Hollywood. One is a comedy, one is a drama, but they are both loaded with entertainment value and are new additions to the Joplin Public Library’s DVD collection.
“What a Way to Go!” (1964-not rated)
This movie is zany, wacky, silly and brightly-colored. Luckily, it’s also funny, well-acted, and hugely entertaining.
A relic from the Hollywood era that occurred just before the counter-culture boom of the late ’60s made movies hip again, “What a Way to Go!” is a gentle “adult” comedy suitable to watch with the whole family.
The film details the endless travails of Louisa Foster (Shirley MacLaine, looking lovely as usual in an early role), a sweet girl and career widow. A romantic, all she wants is a simple life with a good man, but something about her drives each man she marries crazy with ambition and into an early grave.
The list of actors who play Louisa’s ill-fated parade of husbands reads like a who’s who of male talent from the era: Dick Van Dyke, Paul Newman, Robert Mitchum, Gene Kelly, Dean Martin and Joplin native Bob Cummings all do their fair share of scenery chewing before the end credits roll.
Each segment of the movie features an imaginative fantasy sequence staged like a different genre of film. The Paul Newman segment takes place in Paris, so the fantasy sequence is staged like an emotional (and ridiculous) scene from a French movie. And the Gene Kelly sequence (my personal favorite) is a throwback to the lavish, show-stopping musical numbers of the previous decades which made him famous, complete with corny lyrics and amusingly dressed chorus girls.
“What a Way to Go!” is a fun throwback to a gentler age in silver-screen comedy. The parade of stars is dizzying and the story is slight but amusing, Shirley MacLaine is gorgeous and winning, and Paul Newman sports a beard and speaks French! There are far, far worse ways to spend an evening.