Saturday, June 17, 2017

Sex! (now that I have your attention) Blogathon - A Guide for the Married Man

This post is part of the Sex! (now that I have your attention) Blogathon, looking at my favorite 1960s sex comedy, A Guide for the Married Man. The basic idea of the blogathon is to look at a movie that subtly suggests sex, without writhing, naked bodies, and explicit dialog about how much one person wants to go to bed with another.

I consider the sex comedies of the 1960s a subgenre all their own. You could make a case that most of them would fit the above parameters for this blogathon. Unlike earlier sex comedies, which had to mask the deed with clever dialog and innuendo, by the 1960s, you could talk about sex openly, but when it came down to it, the actual deed happened only rarely and always off-screen. Gone are the knowing looks, instead you get  lots of scenes with people getting undressed before, getting dressed after, making the bed, lying in bed smoking, and so on. Lots of hot scantily-clad women in bikinis and lingerie. It's almost as if the film-makers made a conscious decision to push the envelope as far as humanly possible, without opening up the envelope and looking inside.

In addition, while the films wallow in gratuitous casual sex, most of the time, the message of the film praises monogamous marital bliss. The playboy is bored with all the hot young women, until he meet Miss Right, who he assumes is going to be another no-strings fling, but is actually a "nice girl," who he ends up marrying at the end. When I first mentioned the term playboy, I almost said, young playboy, but the playboy is almost always fast approaching middle age and dating women close to half his age.

A Guide for the Married Man falls clearly within this context. The film centers on Walter Matthau and his neighbor/best friend Robert Morse.  Both are "happily married," but Robert Morse gets some on the side. Walter Matthau is intrigued by Robert Morse's exploits and longs to get into the game, but Morse convinces him to hold off until he can show him a few pointers. Robert Morse cares about Matthau and his wife, Inger Stephens, and wants to make sure that Matthau doesn't do anything to hurt her, specifically, get caught.

Walter Matthau and his wife Inger Stevens, you can see how he'd be bored
with that. Of course, if they slept in the same bed....
What follows is a series of skits about extramarital sex and the art of not getting caught, as Robert Morse walks Walter Matthau through what people did right, what the did wrong, where to go, how to find the right woman, and even how to break it off when you're done. Appearing in these skits is a who's who of 1950s/1960s film and TV comedians, most of whom are credited as Technical Advisers.

Here are just a smattering of the skits:
  • In one, Art Carney demonstrates his ingenious method of getting out of the house in the evenings for his trysts without raising the suspicion of his wife, Lucille Ball.
  • When Walter Matthau makes an off-handed remark about being too careful, Robert Morse introduces a skit starring Carl Reiner as a movie star who goes to great lengths, both literally and figuratively, to avoid being careful only to get caught anyway.
  • In another, Joey Bishop demonstrates the power of denial when caught by his wife (Ann Morgan Guilbert, Millie Helper from The Dick Van Dyke Show).
  • And possibly my favorite, British comedian Terry Thomas and Jayne Mansfield demonstrate why you never never never bring a woman back to your place.

Through all of this, Walter Matthau sets out arranging his first affair, as he picks the right woman, no, not your sexy married neighbor. With a married woman, not only do you have to keep your wife from finding out, but also her husband. How he gets his wife to get him to use a new aftershave that Robert Morse swears will overpower any woman's perfume. Matthau even comes up with his own ingenious plan for getting out to the house in the evenings. He and Robert Morse even go on a dry-run to simulate the battle conditions of an extramarital affair.

They go to almost James Bond lengths to avoid getting caught.
A Guide for the Married Man was skillfully directed by legendary song and dance man, Gene Kelly. Though Kelly doesn't appear himself, his voice can be heard onscreen as a TV announcer. I guess it's fair to say that it kind of has the feel of a sitcom, but that has more to do with most of the cast being littered with people best known for their work on sitcoms. The film's theme song is by 1960s rock group, The Turtles, who also did the pop hit, "Happy Together."

The big question, is it sexy? Ask me, all of the 1960s sex comedies are sexy. They embrace sex for sex's sake. You always get lots of skin and a heaping helping of sexual situations, even though they always skip the deed.  More important is that A Guide for Married Man is still funny and entertaining. They made a lot of films of this ilk, and they played on TV all the time when I was a kid. I watch them most of the time for nostalgia sake. With this film, I watch it because it is good and still funny all these years later, more than I can say many of 1960s sex comedies. I guess the real question is, does sex = sexy. For me, it's a resounding, yes. But don't take my word, check out the trailer and see for yourself.


  1. Great summation of the movie. And I think you're right that the '60s sex comedies are a genre all their own, just before movies started getting explicit about the subject. Thanks for your contribution to the blogathon!

  2. Hi Steve, Glad you liked. I looked around and saw a few reviews on the film, and they were pretty harsh. Me, I still think it holds up, way funnier than others of the era, all these years later. Thanks for stopping by.

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