Film Title: I Married a Woman
Silent or Talkie: Talkie
- George Gobel
- Diana Dors
- Adolphe Menjou
- Jessie Royce Landis
I like the look of the 1950s. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I practically grew up watching I Love Lucy, even though the original airings were over two decades before I was born. As I’d sit watching Lucy, Ricky, Ethel and Fred on old Columbia House VHS tapes, I would always catch glimpses of the Ricardos’ apartment in the background and marvel at the decor. Pretty unusual for a little kid in the 1980s if I must say so myself. Nevertheless, that look always fascinated me, and I’m not sure why. So I was happy when I stumbled across a lesser-known film,1958’s I Married a Woman, and fell right back into that 50s wonderland.
I will preface this by saying that anyone looking for something Oscar-worthy might pass on this film. It isn’t really all that original; in fact, I’m not sure an actual plot exists. It is more like a peephole into the life of an ordinary man. The hook, however, is the other people surrounding him. Marshall Briggs (George Gobel) is the advertising executive for a company that represents Luxembourg Beer. Luxembourg has always been the company’s bread and butter, and their marketing campaign has historically depended on a “Miss Luxembourg,” one girl chosen each year as the face (and body) of the advertisements. Marshall’s wife Janice (Diana Dors) is a former Miss Luxembourg, and still garnering as much attention from every red-blooded male in close proximity. Janice’s problem with Marshall is that he works too much and doesn’t show her the same interest as he did when they were first married. To make matters worse, Janice’s mother (Jessie Royce Landis) is the quintessential mother-in-law from hell. She isn’t rude, but a drama queen and somewhat passive agressive. Janice has clearly inherited her mother’s gift for manipulation and pours the wide-eyed victim routine on thick whenever Marshall is around.
Suddenly, it becomes apparent that Luxembourg Beer is bored with Marshall’s company. They find the Miss Luxembourg angle to be stale and start threatening to go with another agency. This means that the advertising firm’s president Frederick W. Sutton (Adolphe Menjou) is jittery, a condition he deals with by putting Marshall in charge of reviving the campaign. Failure means everyone loses their job; succeeding means putting in longer-than-usual hours, a prospect that does not bode well for Marshall’s weakening marriage to Janice. Compounding this problem is a John Wayne movie that Marshall and Janice go to see, in which Wayne showers his wife with lavish gifts “just because.” Marshall looks like cheap and inaffectionate by those standards, and he knows it. Janice wants to be spoiled, but doubts she will ever find that lifestyle with Marshall.
Though the synopsis above might lead one to believe this is a drama, it is 100% a comedy. What makes this film work is the absurdity. Marshall speaks to the audience in a voice-over throughout, as a way of not only telling his own story but warning every other man that this could happen to any one of them. The film’s title is a tongue-in-cheek way to suggest that marrying a “woman” means having a high maintenance prima donna on your hands. Casting Diana Dors, who exudes a Marilyn-like extravagance with a figure to match, was a great idea. In contrast, George Gobel looks about as ordinary as it gets. It’s hard to imagine Dors’ character would ever be caught dead with someone as “boring” as Marshall Briggs, unless she stood to gain something financially. That is not to say that Janice is a gold digger; we actually get the impression that she loves Marshall. Her feelings just sit beneath layers of materialism.
I Married a Woman does not seem to have a DVD release. Based on the usual criteria for releasing films digitally, it’s really not that shocking. This was probably not a money-maker for RKO. It’s a B-movie by all rights and might have even been considered a mindless throwaway film. By today’s standards, it’s just something fun to watch, a time capsule, perhaps a glorified 50s sitcom. There was, however, a VHS release, though its scarce and overpriced, unless one is a collector or interested in a DVDR copy until a proper DVD finds its way out – but that may never happen.
I can think of worse ways to spend 85 minutes. In my opinion, classic film need not be chock full of Bogart and Tracy, or split the cinematic atom to be considered worthy of viewing. Sometimes it’s nice to watch a film just to watch it – not because it’s supposedly timeless or groundbreaking. I enjoyed this for what it was and I hope those who see it will understand its appeal.
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