The Happy Ending (1969)

happy ending

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: The problems of marriage.

If there was ever a film with a misleading title it is this one. There is no happy ending here and in fact there is nothing in its entire 117 minutes that is happy as the film examines every negative and depressing thing it can think of about the institution of marriage and then rhythmically beats it into the viewer like a victim in a bar fight being pummeled by a brawler. The format works like a boring college professor lecturing endlessly about some tepid subject while tirelessly pinpointing every monotonous detail and not knowing when to stop.

The story is about Mary (Jean Simmons) who at one time was madly in-love with Fred (John Forsythe) and had extremely high ideals in regards to love and marriage when she married him. Now after fifteen years of living in a relationship that no longer has any passion she has turned into a depressed and disillusioned alcoholic looking for any way to escape the confines.

The film itself is intelligently done and well executed and makes some good hard-hitting points. The dialogue and conversations between the characters are realistic and well written and it is nice having adults acting and talking like real people. The only real issue is the question of why the filmmakers would think anyone would actually want to sit through something that is so endlessly downbeat. Sometimes these types of things work better in a satire format where they can still make the same points, but allow the viewer a few laughs as well. As it is the film is in desperate need of some levity and none is ever offered.

I also felt that film was too one-sided. I realize that there are a lot of unhappily married people out there, but there has got to be some couples that are happy with it. By never balancing it out and showing no other viewpoint makes the film come off like one long and unending rant.

Writer-director Richard Brooks infuses certain directorial touches that are novel to some extent, but heavy-handed as well. Showing clips of famous old romantic movies like It Happened One Night and Father of the Bride during Mary’s wedding is creative, but too obvious as is the segment when Mary is on a beach and a young couple asks her to take a picture of them and inside the camera’s viewfinder Brooks inserts an image of Mary and Fred when they were a young and in-love. There is also too much footage of Casablanca shown, which does nothing but make the viewer want to watch that over this dreary thing.

Simmons gives a strong performance and looks as beautiful as ever. She is also straddled with a few difficult scenes but does them well including a harrowing segment where she is rushed to an emergency room after swallowing some pills and has a hose stuffed down her throat in an attempt to vomit them out. Tina Louise is great in support as is Dick Shawn in a rare dramatic turn. Shirley Jones is also good as Mary’s jaded friend Flo and she is given some of the film’s best lines.

Forsythe is okay as the husband, but not too exciting though he never usually is. He should have had the big mole in the center of his forehead surgically removed as my eyes always seemed to fixate on it every time he was shown in a close-up. I got to admit I was amazed his character did not kill his wife on the spot when he found out that she had run up his credit card in one day on $11,421 worth of charges on clothes. This was 1969 dollars and I have no idea what astronomical figure that would be for today, but it would be beyond outrageous nonetheless. Of course he was caught fooling around, so I suppose this was her way of getting back at him and boy did she ever.

The film does have a few powerful scenes that I did like. The part where Fred defends Mary after she has run out on them and their daughter Marge (Kathy Fields) feels that her mother no longer loves her is really good as is the final conversation between Fred and Mary as well as Mary’s conversation with her mother (Teresa Wright) about the happiness of her mother’s own marriage. The moment when the very cynical Flo becomes all teary-eyed and excited when the married man that she has been fooling around with decides to divorce his wife and propose to her despite the fact that she has spent the rest of the movie considering the idea of marriage to be over-rated is savvy.

Like with the sappy and over-played Michael Legrand song ‘What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?’ the film goes on too long and there are just not enough good things about it to justify sitting through.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: December 21, 1969

Runtime: 1Hour 57Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Richard Brooks

Studio: United Artists

Available: VHS, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix streaming

One response to “The Happy Ending (1969)

  1. Joseph Kearny

    Unheralded camp classic.

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