The War Between Men and Women (1972)

PG | 105 or 110 mins | Comedy-drama | May 1972

Director:

Melville Shavelson

Producer:

Danny Arnold

Cinematographer:

Charles F. Wheeler

Editor:

Frank Bracht

Production Designer:

I. Stanford Jolley

Production Companies:

Cinema Center Films, Jalem Productions, Inc., Lienroc Productions
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HISTORY

The film begins with a black screen and the white-on-black blips of a heart monitor. While the cadence of the heart monitor is heard in the background, Jack Lemmon as writer-cartoonist “Peter Wilson” and Severn Darden as the ophthalmologist, “Doctor Harris,” discuss the state of Peter’s eyes as the blips become white-on-black line drawing cartoons, illustrating Peter’s words and thoughts.
       During the subsequent opening credits, a colorful, animated depiction of the war between the sexes commences, with the letters of the onscreen credits becoming objects, such as shields, within the cartoon. After the opening credits, Peter, first in voice-over, then in direct address, talks about his “almost perfect existence” before his marriage, which he claims was a “model of organization.” As live action begins, the sight of his untidy living quarters reveals that his former life was actually chaotic. The film ends with a cartoon drawing of Peter and "Terry" walking away together, followed by the children and the dog.
       Several times throughout the film, the story breaks from its chronological progression to return to brief scenes featuring Harris and Peter, shown from the latter’s visual point-of-view, in which his eyes are bandaged and he creates cartoons in his mind as he talks to Harris. Other scenes shown through Peter’s eyes appear either blurred, out of focus or completely black. Animated sequences appear intermittently throughout the film, showing Peter's drawings coming to life, and there are extended sequences of animation mixed with live action. In several scenes, an enactment of Peter's fantasizing about a topic is shown before the real situation is shown
       As noted in reviews, the film is loosely based on ... More Less

The film begins with a black screen and the white-on-black blips of a heart monitor. While the cadence of the heart monitor is heard in the background, Jack Lemmon as writer-cartoonist “Peter Wilson” and Severn Darden as the ophthalmologist, “Doctor Harris,” discuss the state of Peter’s eyes as the blips become white-on-black line drawing cartoons, illustrating Peter’s words and thoughts.
       During the subsequent opening credits, a colorful, animated depiction of the war between the sexes commences, with the letters of the onscreen credits becoming objects, such as shields, within the cartoon. After the opening credits, Peter, first in voice-over, then in direct address, talks about his “almost perfect existence” before his marriage, which he claims was a “model of organization.” As live action begins, the sight of his untidy living quarters reveals that his former life was actually chaotic. The film ends with a cartoon drawing of Peter and "Terry" walking away together, followed by the children and the dog.
       Several times throughout the film, the story breaks from its chronological progression to return to brief scenes featuring Harris and Peter, shown from the latter’s visual point-of-view, in which his eyes are bandaged and he creates cartoons in his mind as he talks to Harris. Other scenes shown through Peter’s eyes appear either blurred, out of focus or completely black. Animated sequences appear intermittently throughout the film, showing Peter's drawings coming to life, and there are extended sequences of animation mixed with live action. In several scenes, an enactment of Peter's fantasizing about a topic is shown before the real situation is shown
       As noted in reviews, the film is loosely based on the life, writings and drawings of noted American cartoonist-humorist James Thurber (1894—1961), who contributed short stories and cartoons to The New Yorker magazine from the 1930s through the 1950s. His most famous short story, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty , appeared in The New Yorker in 1939 and was reprinted several times. That story was the basis for the classic, 1947 Goldwyn Productions film bearing the same title, which was directed by Norman Z. MacLeod and starred Danny Kaye (see above).
       According to a 26 Apr 1972 Var article, producer-writer Danny Arnold and director-writer Melville Shavelson had been interested in working on a project about Thurber since the late 1950s. Having in mind a stage musical based on Thurber’s work, Shavelson had lunch in London with Thurber and his second wife Helen, but, as reported in a 21 May 1972 LAHExam article, Helen was not in favor of Shavelson’s initial idea. Eventually, Shavelson and Arnold wrote a script for a television pilot, which was rejected by Goodyear Playhouse . After actor, turned successful television producer Sheldon Leonard joined the team, NBC agreed to air their television series about an artist-writer reminiscent of Thurber, which featured cartoons in Thurber’s style. The series, called My World and Welcome to It , starring William Windom as the artist-writer, was first broadcast in Sep 1969 and featured Joan Hotchkiss as his wife and Lisa Gerritsen, who would later portray the stepdaughter in The War Between Men and Women , as his daughter. Despite a loyal audience and two Emmy awards, the show received poor ratings and was canceled by NBC after one year, although CBS aired the series reruns in the summer of 1972.
       According to the 26 Apr 1972 Var article, Shavelson and Arnold, who wanted to continue working together to develop Thurber-based material for motion pictures, began working on a fictional screenplay based on parts of Thurber’s life and works. The article added that the partners believed that sophisticated stories containing "more humor with a bite" would be welcomed by multi-generational audiences. Warner Bros. struck a deal with the collaborators based on the first draft of their screenplay, but by the time the script was completed eleven months later, the studio was under a new regime and decided not to pick it up. Later, Warner Bros. regained interest in the project after Lemmon, whose agent also handled Shavelson and Arnold, expressed interest in the lead role. However, the studio wanted to make changes to the script, and Gordon Stulberg, head of Cinema Center Films, accepted the project after one reading. Lemmon, who had worked with Marvin Hamlisch on his 1971 film Kotch (See Entry), was influential in bringing the composer to the project.
       As noted in SatRev , the main character of The War Between Men and Women is closer to the real Thurber than his counterpart in the television series. Like the real Thurber, Peter was nearly blind due to a childhood accident. As is depicted in the film, Thurber eventually resorted to drawing on large sheets of paper using a thick crayon. A recurring joke in the film, in which people criticize Peter’s drawing style, is based on comments about Thurber’s work, such as a quip by Thurber's friend and fellow writer Dorothy Parker that his cartoons resemble “unbaked cookies” and his own remark that others claimed he seemed to draw under water.
       According to Filmfacts , portions of the film were shot in New York City, Oyster Bay, Long Island, NY and Santa Catalina Island, CA, with interiors shot at Studio Center in Hollywood. A 21 May 1972 LAHExam article reported that the film went over budget while shooting most of Thurber’s anti-war book The Last Flower as live action mixed with animation, and that some of the cartoon sequences were ultimately left out of the film. Modern sources add Burt Richards to the cast.
       According to a May 1972 Box news item, two hundred members of the National Cartoonists Society attended a private screening of the film. Although many reviewers felt that The War Between Men and Women was overly sentimental and contained wisecracks that were not representative of Thurber, Filmfacts reported that Helen Thurber liked the film, which won a Writers Guild Award. Several of Thurber’s stories were adapted for stage plays. With his frequent collaborator (and former college school friend) Elliott Nugent, Thurber co-wrote The Male Animal , which opened on Broadway in 1940 and became the basis of two Warner Bros. productions: a 1942 film bearing the same name, which was directed by Nugent, and She’s Working Her Way Through College (1952), which was directed by Bruce Humberstone. Another feature film based on Thurber’s work was the Twentieth Century-Fox film Rise and Shine (1941), directed by Allan Dwan (see above for all). More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
1 May 1972.
---
Box Office
22 May 1972
p. 4490.
Daily Variety
21 Aug 1971.
---
Filmfacts
1972
pp. 342-45.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Aug 1971
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Oct 1971
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
15 May 1972.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
21 May 1972
Section F, p. 1, 8.
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
24 May 1972.
---
Los Angeles Times
28 Nov 1971.
---
Los Angeles Times
24 May 1972
Section IV, p. 10.
Motion Picture Herald
Jul 1972.
---
New York Times
2 Jun 1972.
---
New Yorker
17 Jun 1972.
---
Newsweek
5 Jun 1972.
---
Saturday Review
27 May 1972.
---
Time
9 Jun 1972.
---
Variety
26 Apr 1972
p. 7, 28.
Variety
17 May 1972
p. 20.
Wall Street Journal
12 Jun 1972.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Shavelson-Arnold Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Asst cam
Gaffer
Best boy
Stills
Stills
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set des
Prop master
Asst props
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus ed
SOUND
Sd eng
Sd eff ed
Boom op
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Casting
Asst to the prod
Unit pub
Unit pub
Transportation capt
Craft service
ANIMATION
Anim des and supv
Key anim
Anim prod
SOURCES
LITERARY
Suggested by the writings and drawings of James Thurber and his book The Last Flower
a Parable in Pictures (London, 1939).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"You and Me," music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Howard Liebling.
DETAILS
Release Date:
May 1972
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 24 May 1972
Production Date:
late August--late October 1971 at Studio Center
Copyright Claimant:
Jalem Productions, Inc., Lienroc Productions and Four D Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
11 April 1972
Copyright Number:
LP41132
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Lenses/Prints
Photographed with Panavision equipment
With animated sequences
Duration(in mins):
105 or 110
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

In New York City, partially blind cartoonist and writer Peter Wilson is told by his ophthalmologist, Doctor Harris, that his good eye is going blind and will soon require an operation that has only a limited chance of success. Afterward, in the waiting room, Peter stumbles over another patient, divorcée Terry Kozlenko, and inadvertently grabs her breast. Realizing his eyes are dilated from medicine, she overlooks his behavior and makes friendly conversation, but Peter tells her he hates women, dogs and children. Despite his rudeness, she laughs heartily at a cynical joke he tells and later asks the doctor about the “terrible man.” Harris explains that Peter creates “awful-looking” cartoons about women, children and dogs, and is going blind. Later that day, at a literary tea, Peter’s agent, Howard Mann, introduces him and his new book, The War Between Men and Women , to the crowd. Instead of trying to charm the people into buying his book, Peter makes offensive wisecracks and goes off by himself, where he accidentally drops his eyeglasses into a martini pitcher. Unable to see to pluck them out, he drinks the contents of the pitcher to retrieve them and becomes drunk. Hearing her distinctive laugh, Peter realizes that Terry, who works for a publisher, is also in attendance. When she tries to discuss his book seriously with him, he accuses her of doing “the mating dance.” Pointing out the sexless women he draws in his cartoons, she questions the normality of his sex drive, but also says that his proclaimed loathing ... +


In New York City, partially blind cartoonist and writer Peter Wilson is told by his ophthalmologist, Doctor Harris, that his good eye is going blind and will soon require an operation that has only a limited chance of success. Afterward, in the waiting room, Peter stumbles over another patient, divorcée Terry Kozlenko, and inadvertently grabs her breast. Realizing his eyes are dilated from medicine, she overlooks his behavior and makes friendly conversation, but Peter tells her he hates women, dogs and children. Despite his rudeness, she laughs heartily at a cynical joke he tells and later asks the doctor about the “terrible man.” Harris explains that Peter creates “awful-looking” cartoons about women, children and dogs, and is going blind. Later that day, at a literary tea, Peter’s agent, Howard Mann, introduces him and his new book, The War Between Men and Women , to the crowd. Instead of trying to charm the people into buying his book, Peter makes offensive wisecracks and goes off by himself, where he accidentally drops his eyeglasses into a martini pitcher. Unable to see to pluck them out, he drinks the contents of the pitcher to retrieve them and becomes drunk. Hearing her distinctive laugh, Peter realizes that Terry, who works for a publisher, is also in attendance. When she tries to discuss his book seriously with him, he accuses her of doing “the mating dance.” Pointing out the sexless women he draws in his cartoons, she questions the normality of his sex drive, but also says that his proclaimed loathing of the opposite gender is only a pose, because his drawing on the cover of his book shows a man offering a woman a flower. Leaving the party early, Peter blindly and drunkenly staggers onto the Manhattan streets and, while trying to avoid the moving traffic, slams hard into a lamppost. Seeing his bloody nose, Terry escorts him to her nearby apartment, which is in chaos due to her snarling, pregnant pet dog, her six-year-old son David who has eaten her birth control pills and two older daughters, Caroline and Linda, who resent Peter’s presence. Linda, an eleven-year-old who stutters, informs him of their devotion to their father Stephen, a photojournalist covering the Vietnam War. When the dog attacks Peter, he leaves in a bad mood, but later sends Terry a cartoon flower planted in a pot and convinces her to have dinner with him. Despite his fantasy that she will arrive dressed as a tempting siren and announce that she killed the dog and children, her appearance at his door is much less dramatic. Although they make love, Terry explains that, because of her family commitments, she cannot continue the relationship unless it is serious, and Peter shows her to the door. After their encounter, Peter draws his cartoon women in a sexier fashion, which alarms Howard, who complains that the formerly humorous cartoons now excite him. Longing for Terry, Peter asks her out, but their date is pre-empted by the dog giving birth. Several puppies later, Peter and Terry take a walk and, because he is admittedly frightened of marriage and children, he “proposes” they sleep together on a regular basis. Although her first response is to slap him, Terry later explains that she is not averse to the idea, but is concerned about explaining the relationship to the children. One day in the park, after enduring the girls’ sulky suspicions about his character, Peter impulsively proposes to Terry in public and they are married at a beach house they rent for the summer. During the ceremony, Stephen arrives, dwarfing Peter with his larger-than-life personality and his family’s established affection. Later during the summer Stephen returns to celebrate Linda’s birthday. While Peter is trying to encourage David, who lives in constant fear, to relax and be adventurous, the boy falls into the water. Peter jumps in to save him, and although he fantasizes that he heroically saves the boy and wins the admiration of Terry, he awakens as Stephen is giving him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and learns he almost drowned. Around 4 a.m. the next morning, both Peter and Stephen are separately awakened by the sound of an intruder in the beach house and go down to investigate. They tackle the intruder and each other, and discover that the interloper is Caroline, who has just returned from a date. Laughing off the incident, the men soon bond, begin drinking heavily and admit their admiration for each other’s work. Peter begins cartooning on the wall, and his drawings of an army of women come to life and attack the men. Working quickly, Peter creates reinforcements, a male army led by Moshe Dayan, the Israeli military leader skilled in diplomacy and combat. After a vigorous battle followed by the females surrendering, the men fall asleep on the living room floor. The next morning, Stephen receives instruction from his employer to leave that afternoon for overseas. His eye in pain, Peter accompanies Stephen to the city in order to see Harris. The doctor insists that Peter undergo an operation the next day before his sight is completely lost. Unaware that Terry knows about his illness and fearing that she will pity him, Peter refuses to tell her and asks Howard to cover for him by saying that he is obligated to work for a week in seclusion to finish his next book. When Terry realizes the men are lying, Howard breaks into tears and bluntly says that Peter might go blind. Terry then admits that she has always known about his worsening eyesight, which upsets Peter, who accuses her of marrying him out of pity. After the operation, while still hospitalized, Peter urges Terry to return to Stephen, but she informs him that Stephen was killed by a grenade thrown into the house of a woman he was interviewing. Upon his release from the hospital, Peter returns to his own apartment, where he cartoons using a thick crayon on a seven-foot easel. Unable to deal with her father’s death, Linda comes to visit and, stammering, says all men are alike in that they always leave. Instead of sympathy, Peter taunts her for stuttering, likening it to a woodpecker banging on a tree. Provoked to yell out in anger, Linda realizes that she can talk without stuttering. Peter then shows Linda his new book, which he dedicated to her, and says it is inspired by Stephen, who, through his photos, tried to inform the world of the horrors of war. Showing her the seven-foot pages he has already drawn, Peter takes Linda through his book, which depicts how love can rebuild what war has destroyed. When his book is published, Peter is forced to attend another literary tea, but no longer antagonistic, he explains to the crowd how a little girl who stammered inspired his work. Although he can hear Terry laugh, he cannot see her, so, on a blank wall, he draws a man offering a flower to a woman, and when she comes to him, they leave together. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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