How To Murder Your Wife (1965)

118 mins | Comedy | 26 January 1965

Director:

Richard Quine

Writer:

George Axelrod

Producer:

George Axelrod

Cinematographer:

Harry Stradling

Editor:

David Wages

Production Designer:

Richard Sylbert

Production Company:

Murder Inc.
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HISTORY

How To Murder Your Wife marked the first time screenwriter-producer George Axelrod developed an original script into a theatrically-released feature film. At the time of production, he was known as a playwright who had become successful in Hollywood after adapting two plays for the screen, Phffft (1954, see entry) starring Jack Lemmon, (who was an early supporter of How To Murder Your Wife), and The Seven Year Itch (1955, see entry). In addition, Axelrod’s screen adaptation of Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961, see entry), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award, and his motion picture version of Richard Condon’s The Manchurian Candidate (1962, see entry), made him a marketable filmmaker. On 5 Apr 1963, DV announced Axelrod’s new distribution deal with United Artists, in which he would write and produce How To Murder Your Wife from his own story. Axelrod’s Charleston Enterprises was listed as the production company.
       By 30 Dec 1963, Jack Lemmon and director Richard Quine had partnered as producers, and Italian actress Virna Lisi had been cast in her first American film as “Mrs. Ford,” as reported in that day’s DV. The 10 Jan 1964 LAT added Gordon Carroll as executive producer. Nearly two weeks later, a 22 Jan 1964 DV news item stated that Axelrod had “checked in” to the Paramount Pictures studio lot in Los Angeles, CA, where filming was set to begin in Mar 1964. Lemmon’s Jalem Productions and Axelrod’s Charleston Enterprises merged to form the company “Murder Inc.” ... More Less

How To Murder Your Wife marked the first time screenwriter-producer George Axelrod developed an original script into a theatrically-released feature film. At the time of production, he was known as a playwright who had become successful in Hollywood after adapting two plays for the screen, Phffft (1954, see entry) starring Jack Lemmon, (who was an early supporter of How To Murder Your Wife), and The Seven Year Itch (1955, see entry). In addition, Axelrod’s screen adaptation of Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961, see entry), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award, and his motion picture version of Richard Condon’s The Manchurian Candidate (1962, see entry), made him a marketable filmmaker. On 5 Apr 1963, DV announced Axelrod’s new distribution deal with United Artists, in which he would write and produce How To Murder Your Wife from his own story. Axelrod’s Charleston Enterprises was listed as the production company.
       By 30 Dec 1963, Jack Lemmon and director Richard Quine had partnered as producers, and Italian actress Virna Lisi had been cast in her first American film as “Mrs. Ford,” as reported in that day’s DV. The 10 Jan 1964 LAT added Gordon Carroll as executive producer. Nearly two weeks later, a 22 Jan 1964 DV news item stated that Axelrod had “checked in” to the Paramount Pictures studio lot in Los Angeles, CA, where filming was set to begin in Mar 1964. Lemmon’s Jalem Productions and Axelrod’s Charleston Enterprises merged to form the company “Murder Inc.” for the film, as announced in the 10 Feb 1964 DV.
       Principal photography was originally planned to begin 9 Mar 1964, according to a DV production chart on 7 Feb 1964, but the start date of the seven-week shooting schedule was pushed back to 16 Mar 1964, as stated in a DV brief published that day. During production, DV added the following actors to the cast list: Elmer Bull (on 24 Mar 1964); Mike Monroe, Curley Kline, and Tom Ayres (on 26 Mar 1964); John Pickard and Peter Adams (on 3 Apr 1964); and Phil Ruff and Jack Reddy (on 20 Apr 1964).
       The 1 May 1964 DV reported that filming would begin that day on a “5-day courtroom sequence” on the Paramount lot, with 150 actors on set. Location shots in New York City were underway by mid-late May 1964, as scenes were being filmed in Times Square after three days on the Brooklyn waterfront, the 2 Jun 1964 noted. The next day, Var stated that Lisi was back in Hollywood after completing two weeks of filming in Manhattan. One week later, a 10 Jun 1964 Var item stated that actor Terry-Thomas was on his way home to London, England, after finishing work on the picture, and the 17 Jun 1964 DV noted that Lemmon performed his last scene the previous day. The final shot was reportedly a close-up of Lemmon’s extended belly after consuming an Italian supper. The shooting schedule was ultimately increased to fourteen weeks.
       A “sneak preview” was held on 25 Sep 1964 in Westwood, CA, as stated in the 28 Sep 1964 DV. An advertisement in the 7 Jan 1965 DV stated that Lemmon and Lisi were supporting the release with a “cross-country personal appearance tour,” in which they would host screenings for the press. How To Murder Your Wife opened in New York City on 26 Jan 1965 at the Victoria Theater and Cinema I, and in Los Angeles, CA, on 14 Apr 1965 at the Chinese Theatre. Despite mixed reviews, the film performed well at the box-office. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
5 Apr 1963
p. 1.
Daily Variety
30 Dec 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
22 Jan 1964
p. 3.
Daily Variety
7 Feb 1964
p. 10.
Daily Variety
10 Feb 1964
p. 3.
Daily Variety
16 Mar 1964
p. 14.
Daily Variety
24 Mar 1964
p. 4.
Daily Variety
26 Mar 1964
p. 8.
Daily Variety
3 Apr 1964
p. 9.
Daily Variety
20 Apr 1964
p. 4.
Daily Variety
1 May 1964
p. 3.
Daily Variety
2 Jun 1964
p. 10.
Daily Variety
17 Jun 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
28 Sep 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
7 Jan 1965
p. 7.
Daily Variety
20 Jan 1965
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
10 Jan 1964
Section C, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
14 Apr 1965
Section D, p. 16.
New York Times
27 Jan 1965
p. 26.
Variety
3 Jun 1964
p. 13.
Variety
10 Jun 1964.
---
DETAILS
Release Date:
26 January 1965
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 26 January 1965
Los Angeles opening: 14 April 1965
Production Date:
16 March--16 June 1964
Copyright Claimant:
Murder Inc.
Copyright Date:
27 January 1965
Copyright Number:
LP31620
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
118
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Wealthy bachelor cartoonist Stanley Ford lives in a New York City apartment, his unmarried bliss protected by his English valet, Charles. After getting drunk at a stag party, however, Stanley awakens the following morning to find himself married to the girl who popped out of a cake at the party. She is an Italian who speaks little English and who was stranded in the United States after coming here to participate in a beauty contest. Stanley tries to get the marriage annulled, but Harold, his attorney, who has always wanted Stanley to wed and settle down, advises him that annulment and divorce are impossible. Mrs. Ford's "feminization" of his home and daily routine drives Stanley to distraction. Having always tried out his comic-strip situations in real life before committing them to paper, Stanley drops a dummy dressed as his wife into a foundation form at a building site; and tons of concrete are poured over the dummy. He makes this incident part of a wife-murder in his comic strip, and when Mrs. Ford sees it on his drawing board she panics and flees. Realizing at last that he loves and misses his wife, Stanley notifies the police of her disappearance; but workmen at the building site see Stanley's comic-strip account of the wife-murder and likewise notify the police. Stanley is arrested and charged with murdering his wife as depicted in the strip. At his trial Stanley delivers a tirade against marriage to the all-married male jury, convincing them that they all have wife-murder in the back of their minds, and he is acquitted. To his surprise, Mrs. Ford returns to ... +


Wealthy bachelor cartoonist Stanley Ford lives in a New York City apartment, his unmarried bliss protected by his English valet, Charles. After getting drunk at a stag party, however, Stanley awakens the following morning to find himself married to the girl who popped out of a cake at the party. She is an Italian who speaks little English and who was stranded in the United States after coming here to participate in a beauty contest. Stanley tries to get the marriage annulled, but Harold, his attorney, who has always wanted Stanley to wed and settle down, advises him that annulment and divorce are impossible. Mrs. Ford's "feminization" of his home and daily routine drives Stanley to distraction. Having always tried out his comic-strip situations in real life before committing them to paper, Stanley drops a dummy dressed as his wife into a foundation form at a building site; and tons of concrete are poured over the dummy. He makes this incident part of a wife-murder in his comic strip, and when Mrs. Ford sees it on his drawing board she panics and flees. Realizing at last that he loves and misses his wife, Stanley notifies the police of her disappearance; but workmen at the building site see Stanley's comic-strip account of the wife-murder and likewise notify the police. Stanley is arrested and charged with murdering his wife as depicted in the strip. At his trial Stanley delivers a tirade against marriage to the all-married male jury, convincing them that they all have wife-murder in the back of their minds, and he is acquitted. To his surprise, Mrs. Ford returns to him. +

GENRE
Genre:
Sub-genre:
Domestic


Subject

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

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.