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What A Way To Go

4.5 out of 5 stars 230 customer reviews

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(Jan 11, 2005)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Paul Newman, Shirley MacLaine, Robert Mitchum, Dean Martin. With a cast list too long to mention, MacLaine plays the very wealthy widow Louisa Foster. After her four husbands died trying to make and keep all their riches, Louisa decides to rid herself of millions in an attempt to avoid their fate. 1964/color/111 min/NR/widescreen.


People who cherish the post-Terms of Endearment, post-reincarnation phase of Shirley MacLaine's career might be surprised to discover just how sexy and kooky she was in a past life--that is, the first few years of her movie career. After the triumphs of Some Came Running and The Apartment, MacLaine had a run of starring roles, including this elaborate comedy vehicle. What a Way to Go! cast MacLaine as an unlucky bride whose husbands meet early deaths, leaving her wealthy but unhappy. Gimmick casting of the hubbies adds a bit of dash: Dick Van Dyke as a simple country storekeeper, Gene Kelly as a two-bit entertainer, bearded Paul Newman as a Brandoesque, bohemian painter in Paris. In the movie's best turn, Robert Mitchum gets to play a Howard Hughes character, and Dean Martin and Robert Cummings are around for the ride.

A flabbergasting parade of Edith Head outfits keeps MacLaine hopping, and each segment has a Hollywood fantasy based on MacLaine's vision of her passing marriages (silent comedy, sexed-up foreign flick, splashy musical). Typical of a certain kind of super-production of the era, the film is impressive rather than entertaining, busy rather than funny. Perhaps hiring J. Lee Thompson, who directed The Guns of Navarone, was not the best idea for this Comden-Green script. It snuck in as one of the top ten box-office grossers of 1964, and it has one great surrealist sequence where Gene Kelly orders his house and grounds to be painted entirely pink. --Robert Horton

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Shirley MacLaine, Paul Newman, Robert Mitchum, Dean Martin, Gene Kelly
  • Directors: J. Lee Thompson
  • Writers: Adolph Green, Betty Comden, Gwen Davis
  • Producers: Arthur P. Jacobs
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: January 11, 2005
  • Run Time: 111 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (230 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00066FB8Y
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,148 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "What A Way To Go" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael C. Smith VINE VOICE on January 20, 2005
Format: DVD
A quintessential example of Studio comedy of the early 1960's, `What A Way To Go" owes all it's charm to its cast. Topping the list is Shirley MacLaine in a comic performance not to be missed. She brings a fresh kooky charm to her Louisa as she careens from one marriage to the next totaling a roster of husbands with Mega-Star power that today would have sunk 20th Century Fox on salary alone.

Here it's all about timing, reaction and pace. All of witch Miss MacLaine is an expert. It is a sheer joy just to watch her take a thin story and make magic out of it. Dick Van Dyke, Paul Newman, Robert Mitchum, Gene Kelly, and Dean Martin aid her in her romp across the cinemascope screen.

There are two standouts in the husband department for me, first, Paul Newman as an ex-patriot American artist in Paris. Rarely do we get to see him execute a comic turn and here as Larry Flint he is both sexy and funny. And Robert Mitchum as Rod Anderson, the maple syrup king is a delight.

The cleverest aspect of the story is the use of Louise's remembrances of each marriage as a different genre of film from the silent screen to the big splashy musicals of the 1950's. The funniest occurs when she is married to Mitchum. It is a Lush Budget production all the way. Also of note is the big dance number with Gene Kelly, in and of itself a lampoon of Mr. Kelly's famous routines over at M.G.M. a decade before.

Also of note is the superb color and cinematography of Leon Shamroy fresh off his Oscar win with "Cleopatra" the year before. (Note the in-joke jabs at Cleopatra and Richard Burton in two segments.) And glittering right up there with her best work are the stunning costumes of Edith Head.
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Format: DVD
The epitome of fluffy 60's escapism with Shirley MacLaine at her kooky best and a dream cast of leading men sending up their screen images. Add to this a big budget, the most outrageous costumes of an outrageous era, and a witty script by Comden and Green that blends romance, satire, slapstick and just a pinch of cynicism. It's big and overblown and all the better for it. And I'm glad to report that it looks fantastic on this dvd in widescreen and vibrant color.

Shirley MacLaine made several screwball comedies in the 60's such as Woman Times Seven, John Goldfarb Please Come Home, and The Bliss Of Mrs Blossom, but What A Way To Go is one of the best. She is helped immeasurably by a galaxy of stars portraying the men in her life - smooth and oily Dean Martin, rubber-faced and loose-limbed Dick Van Dyke, bearded and self-spoofing Paul Newman, surprisingly charming Robert Mitchum, the always delightful Gene Kelly, and a somewhat manic Robert Cummings. As an added treat, the Marx Brothers' old foil Margaret Dumont is wonderfully over-the-top as MacLaine's dragon of a mother. You just don't get casts like that anymore.

Another nice touch is the way several genres of film are spoofed as MacLaine wistfully recalls the best days of each of her marriages. The musical extravaganza with Gene Kelly, in particular, is a real joy. Kelly was over 50 but still had all the moves while MacLaine reminds us what a fantastic dancer she was - with equally fantastic legs. I also loved Paul Newman as the world-weary abstract artist. Many people forget that he made a number of comedies way back when, and that he was pretty good in them.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
"What a Way to Go!" is such an entertaining showcase of vivacious star Shirley MacLaine's talents as a comedienne, dancer, and singer that it's hard to believe that the original script was far darker, and intended for Marilyn Monroe!

A tale of an innocent who dreams of a 'simple life', marrying progressively richer men who leave her an ever richer widow, is the kind of tongue-in-cheek farce that European filmmakers relish, but was unfamiliar to American audiences of the early sixties. Writer Gwen Davis' original story was written to satirically echo Monroe's own marital misadventures, and might have provided the star her best vehicle since "Bus Stop". But Monroe's career took a tragic nosedive, culminating with her death, at 36, in 1962, leaving Fox with a script, a director (J. Lee Thompson), and a film in preproduction.

Gifted songwriting team Betty Comden and Adolph Green, fresh from transferring their B'way hit, "Bells Are Ringing" to the screen, saw the script, and were invited to rework it as a comic vehicle for MacLaine. The talented actress, who had achieved major stardom in "The Apartment", was being given a major build-up by Fox, who wanted to showcase her untapped skills as singer/dancer, as well as in comedy. Thus a lighter, more dazzling "What a Way to Go!" was born.

Fox spared no expense on the production, with over 70 Edith Head costumes, choreography by Gene Kelly, and a new song by Jule Styne...but they balked over Frank Sinatra's salary demands, to play one of the husbands (he was replaced by Robert Mitchum).
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