Film Comment - 07/01/2012
"Studio intervention preserves a quite lucid, strange, effervescent morality play pitched from May's unique purview outside either sentimentality or cynicism."
Henry Graham (Walter Matthau) is a man with a problem: he has run through his entire inheritance, and is completely unequipped to provide for himself. His childhood guardian, Uncle Harry (a deliciously mean-spirited James Coco), refuses to give him a dime, and Henry, completely unwilling to exercise the only solution he sees--suicide-- devises a plan with the help of his imaginative butler: he can make money the old-fashioned way--he can marry it. With a temporary loan from Uncle Harry to tide him over, Henry has six weeks to find a bride, marry her, and repay the money, or else he must forfeit all his property to his uncle. With only days remaining, Henry meets clumsy, painfully shy heiress Henrietta Lowell (played by director Elaine May). She's the answer to his prayers--if only Henry can overcome the obstacles placed in his path by Uncle Harry, Henrietta's lawyer, and Henry's own reluctance to wed. In writer/director Elaine May's (known for her collaboration as a stage comedienne with THE GRADUATE director Mike Nichols) freshman directing effort, she directs a strong cast, in addition to herself in the lead female role. Written for the screen by May from a short story by Jack Ritchie, this black comedy features hilarious performances by its two leads, as well as the wonderfully dry George Rose as Matthau's overly involved, but always proper, butler.
Comedienne and writer Elaine May's first directing project features Walter Matthau as a scheming, morally and financially bankrupt idle heir to a fortune he has frittered away. May directs herself as the enormously wealthy, but painfully shy botanist on whom he fixes his attentions. The film was written for the screen by May from a short story by Jack Ritchie.
Scams And Cons |
In what would become true Elaine May fashion, the film's original $1.8 million budget shot to over $4 million by the time it was completed. Shooting went 40 days over schedule, and editing took over ten months. Similar scenarios occurred on her later project MIKEY AND NICKY.
During shooting, producer Howard Koch, Sr. tried to have May removed from the film, but she had put a $200,000 penalty clause in her contract, and Koch was persuaded to keep her.
After May wouldn't show Paramount a rough cut of the film ten months into editing, Robert Evans took the film away from her and recut it. Angered at the alteration of her version, May tried to take her name off the film and sued Paramount to keep it from opening. A judge overruled the motion, and the film opened to good reviews and good business.