One of the movies I watched for my Pi Day themed marathon was My Six Loves, a comedy-ish movie starring Debbie Reynolds, Cliff Robertson and David Janssen. Let's be real, the
And buckle down I did. Cliff Robertson's gravely voice was absolutely the best part, as it always is (oh, and he wears one of Debbie Reynolds' floral robes at one point - and still looks ridiculously fetching, I might add) I'd give this movie 5 out of 5 stars if I was rating it on Cliff Robertson's voice alone. What can I say, I love a good gravel. However, this movie also had a plot and characters and once I factor those in my rating drops considerably.
There are some movies with elements of sexism that I can conveniently overlook for the purposes of entertainment. I wince a bit when Jane Fonda's character casually accepts the fact that she'll be giving up her job as soon as she's married to Robert Culp in Sunday in New York but it's still my favorite movie. My Six Loves came out the same year as SINY, 1963, but its sexism seems more dated and more prevalent. It's an obvious message to "career girls" that you'll never be happy, truly happy, until you have a husband and some young-ins' to look after. It isn't even remotely subtle about the message, either. [spoiler alert] Debbie Reynolds is struggling between returning to the stage where she’s had a successful career since she was 14 years old, or staying in the country to raise 6 orphans with the local preacher (who can totally date, no chastity to be found here) played by Cliff Robertson. For a few brief moments, she decides on Broadway — returning to the great white way to begin work on a new play. But then our gravely voiced preacher bursts into rehearsals to tell Debbie that one of the orphans has run away, and she needs to come back to look for him. When trying to explain why Debbie needs to return, he not-so-delicately states that “She’s a woman. It’s about time she acted like one.” Ok, now this is where any thinking, rational modern lady would be like “WHAT THE WHAT?!” Um, even in 1963 I’m pretty sure you were just as much a woman if you were working on a career, looking after a household, or doing both. But being a movie still firmly grounded in 1950’s morality, Debbie naturally agrees. “I MUST GO TO THE CHILDREN! AND RECLAIM MY WOMANHOOD!,” she doesn’t say, but definitely implies. [spoiler over]
Sometimes I’m not sure if it’s my frame of mind or the movie itself that dictates how sensitive I am to sexist overtones in film. Like I said, Sunday in New York isn’t the most progressive feminist movie but I still find it hilarious and watch it way more than any normal person should. Maybe I just didn’t find My Six Loves funny enough, so I picked up on the serious dialogue a little more than I would otherwise. Or maybe I just haven’t watched enough movies from 1963 and I have some serious misconceptions about how much movies were still shaming women who didn’t want to be housewives at the time.
Either way, this is one movie where the sexism seemed a little too heavy handed and prevented me from really enjoying the movie. I will add though that David Janssen’s character was pretty cool (when they’re tying to figure out where one of the children would have run away to, Janssen remarks “Miami if he’s got any sense.” He also sat on a picnic blanket in a suit-and-tie, drinking champagne and looking amused at the goings-on around him. I can see why Millie is smitten.) and also I’ll give some (not a lot) points for Debbie Reynolds seeming to genuinely want to be a career girl, even if biology and society and everything else in the world was conspiring against it.
All that being said, movies are always products of the time in which they were made. I don’t expect 2015 morals in a 1963 film. But sometimes it’s tough to throw all of your modern sensitivities out the window when you’re watching classic movies. And it’s difficult to hear the words “She’s a woman. It’s about time she acted like one.” even when those words are uttered by the most gloriously gravely voice there ever was.