Review: ‘How to Murder Your Wife’

George Axelrod's plot deals with the antics of a bachelor cartoonist, played by Jack Lemmon, who has a policy of acting out the escapades of his newsprint sleuth hero to test their credibility before actually committing them to paper. So it is that, awakening one morning to find himself married to an Italian dish who had popped out of a cake at a party the night before and after trying to make a go of this unwanted wedlock, he simulates the 'murder' of said spouse one evening by dumping a dummy likeness of her into a building construction site.

George Axelrod’s plot deals with the antics of a bachelor cartoonist, played by Jack Lemmon, who has a policy of acting out the escapades of his newsprint sleuth hero to test their credibility before actually committing them to paper. So it is that, awakening one morning to find himself married to an Italian dish who had popped out of a cake at a party the night before and after trying to make a go of this unwanted wedlock, he simulates the ‘murder’ of said spouse one evening by dumping a dummy likeness of her into a building construction site.

When Lemmon’s wife, played by Virna Lisi, spots the cartoonist’s sketches of his ‘crime’ on his work table she panics and flees. The strip appears in the papers and, unable to explain his wife’s whereabouts, Lemmon is arrested for murder and brought to trial.

All of this has moments of fine comic style but, overall, emerges as prefabricated as Lemmon’s comic strip character. The comedian’s efforts are considerable and consistent but finesse and desire aren’t enough to overcome the fact that Axelrod’s script doesn’t make the most of its potentially antic situations.

How to Murder Your Wife

Production

Murder/United Artists. Dir Richard Quine; Producer George Axelrod; Screenplay George Axelrod; Camera Harry Stradling; Editor David Wagner; Music Neal Hefti Art Dir Richard Sylbert

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS. Extract of a review from 1965. Running time: 118 MIN.

With

Jack Lemmon Virna Lisi Terry-Thomas Eddie Mayehoff Claire Trevor Sidney Blackmer
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