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I’m back with a new column/submission for The Christian Home.
We recently made a switch in our ‘media’ provider (aka cable, phone and internet) and now have a much bigger on demand selection for the moment. That includes some free time of HBO and Starz and a varied selection of channels with selections you can watch when you want to watch it.
One night when my parents were still here, P and I watched most of the movie Divorce American Style. Dad commented that he remembered seeing it many years ago. I’d never heard of it, but I like other movies with the actors and actresses in this one. And, there was something about the production that made me feel it would be safe to watch with the possibility a younger child might enter the room.
The basic premise is that a couple (Richard and Barbara Harmon) splits up after 17 years of marriage. Neither one seems to really want to split, but once things are in motion they go through with it. Shortly after the process is started, Richard (played by Dick Van Dyke) is approached by a divorced dad (Nelson Downes played by Jason Robards) who is actually on the lookout for someone to marry HIS ex-wife (Nancy Downes played by Jean Simmons). Barbara (played by Debbie Reynolds) begins to date again and ultimately ends up as a pawn in the Downes’ schemes to land Richard as Nancy’s next husband.
Shortly after the process is started, Richard (played by Dick Van Dyke) is approached by a divorced dad (Nelson Downes played by Jason Robards) who is actually on the lookout for someone to marry HIS ex-wife (Nancy Downes played by Jean Simmons). Barbara (played by Debbie Reynolds) begins to date again and ultimately ends up as a pawn in the Downes’ schemes to land Richard as Nancy’s next husband.
Barbara (played by Debbie Reynolds) begins to date again and ultimately ends up as a pawn in the Downes’ schemes to land Richard as Nancy’s next husband.
P didn’t stay up for the end. Which is probably just as well given one of the final scenes has the character of Barbara Harmon dancing in a ‘wild’ manner while under hypnosis. But, I can envision him scratching his head when Richard and Barbara realize they’d rather be married to each other than out in the dating scene. I can just about hear him commenting something along the lines of “why’d they go through all of that mess just to end up back where they started.”
Now, this movie has some funny spots. After all, it is labeled as a comedy. But, what really struck me is the social commentary going on throughout the film. It starts with voices of different couples in a typical American suburb bickering at night while getting ready for bed. Then, you see Richard and Barbara as they wind down for the evening. No immodest images swere shown and honestly there’s no need for them. Even the language as they go round in their ‘fight’ is mild compared to many of today’s productions. And, I would reckon that some of the same issues they have with each other are issues in marriages today.
The big split comes after Richard found himself in the company of another woman. Not in her company in an intimate sense, but still being in an occasion of sin (thinking and almost acting in an adulterous manner.) Well, I can’t say I’d react much differently than Barbara if my husband came home three sheets to the wind and then mentioned being ‘around’ another woman but it doesn’t count as nothing really happened. Uhm, yea….that wouldn’t be pretty.
Anyways, where the commentary really comes into play is when negotiations begin for the settlement and then their forays into the dating scene. Lawyers pretty much neglect what their clients are saying and just assume the wife gets the house, the kids and a big alimony check with the husband holding the short end of the stick. Neither Richard or his new friend are working at low paying jobs. Yet, by the time they ‘maintain’ their ex-wives they are forced to make due at a much lower standard of living.
As for dating, the sheer number of divorcees seeking out other divorcees to help get them ‘off the hook’ in this film for alimony, etc. is mind boggling. One scene has Barbara going on an outing with a divorced dad who’s stopping at his first wife’s house to pick up kids while the ones from wife #2 are already in the car with them. He does the introductions (with an uncanny ability to remember ALL the kids names) of the other dad’s involved in this spider web of extended family (ex-wife’s current husband, ex-wife’s first husband, etc.) I almost got a headache just watching that scene. And, to think that this was made in 1967 and not a decade later when the divorce rate had grown higher.
Now that some of you might be convinced I’ve gone off the deep end on selecting a film to write about this week, I’ll say that I see it as a family friendly film that could illustrate to your older kids (or maybe even adults) that divorce shouldn’t be entered into lightly. There’ is a definite economy to being an intact family that is hard to maintain separately.
If nothing else, this was a well done film with a fantastic cast. No nudity or foul language and the kids shown in the film are all clean cut. And, it served as yet another reminder as to why living with ‘imperfections’ in my spouse if far preferable to the alternative. Besides, I know that he lives with my ‘imperfections’,t oo. I thank God for sending him to me!
Divorce American Style is on TMC Channel’s On Demand option and may be on the line up again later this month. You can also get it through Netflix. Apparently, it is a ‘remake’ of a film titled Divorce, Italian Style (also available through Netflix)which I’m now going to be seeking out to view. (Usually the original is better, ya’ know!)
As the featured columnist for the Movies and Music category, you can be looking forward to weekly posts on what we are watching or music we’ve enjoyed. Feel free to leave suggestions for me as well that are family friendly or uplifting for adults. While I have movies and some music selections in mind, I’m always on the lookout for other great choices.