Film / What a Way to Go!

What a Way to Go! is a 1964 Black Comedy film directed by J. Lee Thompson and starring Shirley MacLaine as Louisa May Foster, an unwilling Black Widow who falls in love with, marries and loses four husbands through the course of the movie, amassing an unwanted and ever-expanding fortune in the process.

As Louisa relates her life-history to a psychiatrist, each of her marriages is depicted as a parody of a different film genre: with Dick Van Dyke as a silent movie, Paul Newman as a pretentious French film, Robert Mitchum as a Hollywood romantic blockbuster and Gene Kelly as a musical. And then there's Dean Martin's Leonard Crawley...

What a Way to Go! provides examples of:

  • Babies Ever After: One of the signs that Louisa and Leonard's marriage will actually last.
  • Blessed with Suck: Leonard, who is such a failure at life that even Louisa's husband-killing "curse" can't affect him.
  • Cartwright Curse: Gender-flipped.
  • Costume Porn / Unlimited Wardrobe: Especially during the Mitchum sequence.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Each of the husbands' deaths.
  • Everything's Better with Cows: An angry bull is the cause of Mitchum's character's death after he drunkenly tries to milk it.
  • First Girl Wins: Another gender-flip, with Leonard being Louisa's original hometown boyfriend.
  • Freudian Couch: Louisa lays on one while telling her life-story.
  • Go Out with a Smile: Van Dyke's character is technically an example of this trope.
  • Groupie Brigade: Causes the death of Kelly's character.
  • Insufferable Genius: Newman and Kelly's characters both come to embody this trope.
  • Killer Robot: A group of them paint Newman's character to death.
  • Logo Joke: The 20th Century Fox logo is pink, because Kelly's character has everything painted that color.
  • Sanity Slippage: The guy who has been hired to do all the painting mentioned under Logo Joke starts chasing after Louisa because she's NOT PINK!
  • Slapstick: The film indulges in this a few time, such as when Louisa almost falls off the elevated Freudian Couch.
  • Spinning Newspaper: Parodied.
  • Springtime for Hitler: Louisa can't get rid of her money, no matter how hard she tries.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Louisa, who can't offer even the tiniest and most well-meaning suggestion or bit of advice without it somehow snowballing into killing her current husband.
  • Workaholic: Louisa's first husband becomes one and relentlessly turns his small-town general store into a national business empire. He also dies from overwork.
    "It just goes to show, a little hard work never killed anybody!" [thud]