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Film / If a Man Answers

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If a Man Answers is a 1962 romantic comedy directed by Henry Levin, starring Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin. After Dee and Darin met and fell in love with another on the set for Come September, this film served as the first vehicle for the now-married couple, who play husband and wife in the film.

Dee plays Chantal Stacy, the beautiful daughter of a French mother and a Bostonian father. While Chantal's mother encourages her adventurous, fun-loving romantic nature, her father is much more in favor of an immediate, proper marriage. Both sides of the family appear reconciled when Chantal meets Eugene Wright (Darin), a photographer residing in New York City. They are quickly married and all seems well, until Chantal realises that perhaps married life isn't all it's cut out to be.

It is then that Chantal sets out to create a perfect and happy marriage. With the advice of her mother, she schemes to 'train' her husband to be the perfect man — even if it means treating him like a dog. Sparks fly, plots are hatched, and hilarity ensues in this charming battle of the sexes. To make things even funner, the film features a young Stefanie Powers as Chantal's devious, conniving friend Tina, as well as Cesar Romero, as entertaining and wily as ever.

If a Man Answers contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Animated Credits Opening: Both the actual opening credits, and the initial sequence that explains Chantal's upbringing.
  • Arc Villain: Tina, in the movie's second act.
  • Babies Ever After: We end with the revelation that Chantal is expecting.
  • Betty and Veronica: Chantal and Tina, respectively. Although Eugene is married to Chantal, he seems attracted enough to Tina that it causes some marital problems.
  • Brick Joke: Chantal's observation that Eugene is 'getting to be an expert' with the door.
    Chantal: Get the door, won't you, junior? You're so good with doors.
  • Cliffhanger: We don't know who it was that called Chantal on the telephone at the end; all we do know is, it wasn't her mother this time...
    'Fin?...We hardly think so.'
  • Deconfirmed Bachelor: Eugene thinks that marriage is an institution 'sponsored by women, for women.' Until he meets Chantal...
    Germaine Stacy: Marriage is our institution. And we're not going out of business!
  • Dirty Old Man: These exact words are used several times to describe Eugene's father. Once we see finally him onscreen, he doesn't disappoint.
    Chantal: While you boys make up your minds, I'll just slip into something more...
    Adam Wright: (straightens tie)
  • Distracted by the Sexy: While in Eugene's apartment for the first time, Chantal removes her coat and reveals her figure. Eugene has some trouble concentrating.
  • Dog Walks You: The premise behind one of the training scenes. Much like a dog, if Chantal lets her husband take her for a walk, then pretty soon she'll have no trouble taking him wherever she wants to go!
  • Feminine Women Can Cook: Chantal, a self-described 'incredible cook' who is also 'the perfect wife.' This probably applies to Chantal's mother as well.
  • Foreshadowing: In Tina's first scene, we get a pretty good hint that she's going to be a troublemaker.
    Chantal: How long do you plan to stay, Tina?
    Tina: Oh, darling, I'm here for good...or bad.
    • Also, Chantal's mother refers to her husband as 'my pet' at a very early point in the film. Better yet, he's carrying a statue of a dog at the time.
  • Gambit Pileup: Chantal and her mother plan to make Eugene jealous by simulating the presence of a 'lover' named Robert Swan. As it turns out, Eugene knew about it the whole time, and meanwhile developed his own plot wherein he actually confronts Chantal with Robert Swan.
  • Gratuitous French: Several lines. Somewhat justified in that Mrs. Stacy is actually French, and that Chantal grew up hearing it.
  • Happily Married: Played straight with Mr. and Mrs. Stacy, whose marriage seems more or less like paradise. With Chantal and Eugene, the trope is somewhat played with, as the happy points in their marriage are intertwined with some misunderstandings. Fortunately they end on a good note.
  • Head-Turning Beauty: Chantal. This is most clearly demonstrated in the opening sequence.
    'Do you realise that nobody's asked me to marry them in a week?'
  • Hurricane of Puns: Tina unleashes a whirlwind of dog jokes once she's discovered Chantal's secret. To make matters worse, she's doing it right in front of Eugene.
  • Imagine Spot: When asked to think of the most beautiful thing in the world, Chantal has a brief fantasy segment where she is preparing dinner for Eugene. She also imagines her own father as a literal dog after learning of her mother's training scheme.
  • In Vino Veritas: Tina is basically a bad egg from the start, but when she gets a little carried away with the Scotch, that's when we see her at her worst.
  • Ironic Echo
    (angrily trying to shoo Tina out of the apartment)
    Chantal: Goodbye, Tina, and thank you awfully.
    (later, leaving the apartment)
    Tina: Goodbye, Chantal. And you're welcome...awfully.
  • Karma Houdini: Tina, jealous of Chantal and Eugene's marital harmony, decides to blow Chantal's cover and tell Eugene that he's being trained like a dog. Oddly enough, after beginning this rift between the couple that serves as the focus of the third act, she oozes off the side of the screen and never appears again, avoiding any comeuppance.
  • Leitmotif: Several, including a sultry ballad for Tina, a rigid harpsichord melody for Mr. Stacy, and a loopy, often glissando-filled melody for any scene related to the dog training.
  • Mars and Venus Gender Contrast: So much so, that Mrs. Stacy thinks that men ought to be treated like dogs.
  • Meaningful Name: Chantal dreams of meeting the perfect man before actually moving to New York. The first man she meets is conveniently named 'Mr. Wright.'
  • Parental Marriage Veto: Played straight in the beginning, and completely understandable, given that Mr. Stacy doesn't want Chantal to marry three men at once. Also comes into play when Eugene courts Chantal, since Mr. Stacy initially disapproves and intervenes. Mrs. Stacy eventually persuades him to back off.
  • Real-Life Relative: Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin were actually husband and wife.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: Strongly implied between Chantal and Eugene. We have two scenes where the door closes, followed by a blackout.
  • Slip into Something More Comfortable Though she doesn't quite finish the sentence, Chantal's delivery of this line seems to titillate her father-in-law more than it does her husband.
  • Title Drop: Used in explaining the Robert Swan plot.
    Chantal: But if he was nobody, then how could he call?
    John Stacy: He couldn't. But any of your mother's girlfriends could. You know how you females plot together. Well, all they had to do was call the house -
    Chantal: And if a man answers, hang up!
  • This Is Reality: Eugene, when finding out that Chantal is pregnant.
    Eugene: Come here, little mother.
    Chantal: Well how did you know?
    Euguene: Well this ain't no movie where old Dads is the last to find out.
  • Women Are Wiser: After watching this film, you might think that every wife is some kind of evil genius who's trapped her man in a web.