Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Somebody Killed Her Husband (1978)

          Representing Farrah Fawcett-Majors’ first attempt to translate her popularity on the TV show Charlie’s Angels into big-screen stardom, Somebody Killed Her Husband is an old-fashioned farce blending romance with a murder mystery that’s played for laughs instead of thrills. (Although most of the picture comprises verbal humor, scenes with broad-as-a-barn physical jokes include the finale, which involves a warehouse full of runaway Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade floats.) With the right person playing the female lead, perhaps Sally Field or Goldie Hawn, Somebody Killed Her Husband could have become a charming piffle. And, indeed, male lead Jeff Bridges works overtime to make the material work. Alas, he ends up putting on the equivalent of a solo show, because Fawcett-Majors is so vapid that whenever she’s asked to do more than smile or toss her hair, the movie grinds to a halt. Fawcett-Majors eventually morphed into a somewhat respectable actress, but at this point in her career she was nothing more than a pinup in search of a persona.
          Anyway, the story concerns Jerry Green (Bridges), a likeable nerd who works in the toy department of the Macy’s flagship in Manhattan while nurturing dreams of becoming a children’s-book author. Although Jerry’s not a no-strings-attached sexual relationship with a coworker, he’s not in love until he sees Jenny Moore (Fawcett-Majors) shopping in the store one afternoon. Instantly smitten, Jerry talks his way into Jenny’s life, and they fall for each other—notwithstanding the minor inconvenience of her being married. Later, when someone murders Jenny’s husband, the lovers realize they must solve the murder before bringing it to the attention of authorities, lest they get branded as suspects because of their adulterous activities. Soon, the amateur sleuths uncover a scheme involving stolen jewelry, which leads to shenanigans involving hidden corpses, silly disguises, and tricky blackmail maneuvers.
          Bridges has some great moments here, mixing boyish charm with grown-up exasperation; in one particularly amusing bit, he engages an infant in “conversation” while he talks out loud to deconstruct the mechanics of an insurance swindle. The script by versatile veteran Reginald Rose (of 12 Angry Men fame) has flashes of real wit, too; at one point, Jerry proclaims to Jenny, “I can offer you instant poverty plus an employees’ discount at Macy’s.” Also helpful is the presence of deft comic actors John Glover and John Wood in supporting roles. Nonetheless, a romantic soufflé only rises if all the ingredients are just right, and none of the efforts by the cast, by Rose, or by skilled journeyman director Lamont Johnson can make up for the absence of a magical leading lady.

Somebody Killed Her Husband: FUNKY


angelman66 said...

I was crazy about Farrah as a young teen and waited forever for this to come out. Boring!! Such a disappointment. I actually liked her much better in her second film Sunburn, but that too was a big flop.

Anonymous said...

I see it totally differently. This is, and was, one of my favorite movies of all time.
The story was fun and thrilling and is also a glowing tribute to the city and one of its best institutions....Macys.
The actors have the city mentality and mindset down solid for 1978.
From the get go, I was cheering for this couple and let the story draw me in.
It was fun, romantic, silly, and at times, thrilling....Herbert Little chasing the couple through the giant store with a psycho smile and laugh. The music was great and totally immersed me in the universe Rose created.
One of my happiest days was acquiring a rare VHS copy that remains a cherished possession.

Barry Miller said...
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C.S. Sutherland said...

I'm surprised that no one brings up the use of Nixon's administration: "breaking in" to Fawcette's apartment to kill her husband, the taping of their conversations, the male secretary instead of female (Rose Mary Woods), and more than likely how many deaths Nixon or the secretary were responsible for. Everything else is the vehicle for the story, but the use of Nixon's Watergate crimes are more than obvious.