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HAPPY ENDING, THE (director/writer: Richard Brooks; cinematographer: Conrad L. Hall; editor: George Grenville; music: Michel Legrand; cast: Jean Simmons (Mary Wilson), John Forsythe (Fred Wilson), Lloyd Bridges (Sam), Teresa Wright (Mrs. Spencer), Dick Shawn (Harry Bricker), Nanette Fabray (Agnes), Robert Darin (Franco), Tina Louise (Helen Bricker), Kathy Fields (Marge Wilson), Gail Hensley (Betty), Shirley Jones (Flo), Eve Brent (Ethel), William O’Connell (Minister), Barry Cahill (Handsome Man), Miriam Blake (Cindy); Runtime: 112; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Richard Brooks; United Artists; 1969)
Depressing melodrama about the trials and tribulations of a modern marriage.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Depressing melodrama about the trials and tribulations of a modern marriage, that gets overwhelmed by the filmmaker’s indulgences, plodding screenplay and its undermining superficiality. It goes on seemingly forever in a dreary way without offering much in entertainment or enlightenment. It was a personal project for producer, writer and director Richard Brooks (“In Cold Blood”/”Lord Jim”/”Bite the Bullet”), who was married at the time to star Jean Simmons and specifically wrote the screenplay for her and included some of the problems in their marriage (her character’s problem was the same one Jean was going through in real life).

Mary Wilson (Jean Simmons) is a self-pitying attractive middle-aged suburban Denver housewife who is unhappy after 16 years of marriage to her successful workaholic tax lawyer husband Fred (John Forsythe). Fred’s neglect is eating away at her soul and she feels unloved, therefore she resorts to booze, pill popping, shopping sprees and watching old movies on TV to survive the loveless marriage. Mary’s also tiredof bringing up their teenaged daughter Marge (Kathy Fields).

Remembering their wild wedding-anniversary party last year, Mary decides to not be there for this year’s and goes instead alone to Nassau to gather her thoughts. En route to Nassau Mary meets college roommate Flo (Shirley Jones), who is on her way to meet Sam (Lloyd Bridges)–another in a series of married men the partygirl attracts. In Nassau, Mary is propositioned by Franco (Bobby Darin), an American loser trying to get over as a Latin lover. Franco drops his act when Mary reveals that she has no dough. On Mary’s return to Denver, in what goes for a happy ending in this woman’s pic, Mary walks out on her unperceptive hubby and goes off alone in a search for herself–taking an apartment, getting a job and enrolling in night school.

Jean Simmons received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her sappy performance, the soap opera film was also nominated for Best Original Song for “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?”


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”