Richard Brooks’ The Happy Ending (1969) + $ (1971)

June 18, 2016 | By

The cinematic chronicle of a perfect marriage’s breakdown and the gradual disintegration of a wife’s mental state seemed to have come into their own during the sixties and seventies, with writers and directors fixating on the dilemma of the bored housewife. In The Stepford Wives (1975), humanism and freedom were eradicated through robots, and in Larry Cohen’s Bone (1972) – yes, that Larry Cohen – the drama centers around a stranger who tears through the façade of a perfect marriage, exposing sexual tension and a recent family tragedy.

HappyEnding_Sp_poster_sA decade later, Leon Marr would explore the ruined psychological state of a bored suburban housewife in the brilliant drama Dancing in the Dark (1986), whereas in Richard Brooks’ The Happy Ending (1969), new on Blu from Twilight Time, the crackup comes after a wealthy housewife literally crashes after being a zombie for the bulk of her 15 year union with a nice guy.

Brooks’ movie has dated, and its fixation on the bored wealthy archetype might fail to generate sympathy among middle class viewers – glee at a wealthy figure’s ‘poor dear’ dilemma is likely – and yet the film succeeds because Jean Simmons underplays Mary Wilson as a once bright, vibrant, happy soul anesthetized by complacency.

There’s also Michel Legrand and Alan & Marilyn Bergman’s main theme which has a lovely poetic intro and melody, and Conrad Hall’s gorgeous colour cinematography, which should come as a shocker to fans of his stark B&W work in TV shows like The Outer Limits (1963-1965) and his prior work for Brooks, the brilliant In Cold Blood (1967).

Dollars1971_poster_sBrooks’ next film, $ (1971), was typical of the era – a comedic heist movie – and had Warren Beatty and Goldie Hawn playing eccentrics plotting a vault robbery in the heart of Hamburg’s greedy, seedy, wintry red light district.

Quincy Jones scored the film with Don Elliott and His Voices, and the location cinematography is superb. Sony released the film as part of their weirdly branded ‘Martini Movie’ series – no martinis are consumed by anyone in the film – and while a nice transfer, $ is in need of an HD upgrade with an isolated score – something that’s never happened to any of Quincy Jones’ film work. (Criterion’s gorgeous release of In Cold Blood should’ve come with an isolated score track, given the music’s only appeared on LP in a rerecorded form, but I digress….)

I’m currently having the (non)pleasure of apartment hunting, but coming shortly is a podcast with composer Nima Fakhrara, and a review of Michael Radford’s 1984, comparing that production with the 1956 version plus two prior live teleplays.




Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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