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Film / The Arrangement

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The Arrangement is a 1969 film written and directed by Elia Kazan.

Eddie Anderson (Kirk Douglas) is a 44-year-old well-to-do Los Angeles ad man who does not, repeat not, work for the L.A. office of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. He has a beautiful home, an attractive wife named Florence (Deborah Kerr) and a successful career that saw him just recently create a great ad campaign for...cigarettes.

Unfortunately, Eddie is having a mid-life crisis, partly brought on by the realization that he's selling cancer sticks, but more out of a general dissatisfaction with his life and lifestyle. The triggering event is the end of a tempestuous affair he's been having with Gwen (Faye Dunaway), a younger and incredibly sexy junior executive at the advertising firm. Gwen's breakup with Eddie, after he refuses to file for divorce, starts him on a downward spiral of despair.


Based on Kazan's own novel, which was a best-seller in 1967.


  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Gwen admits this, saying that men who are bad for her turn her on. "The fact is, there's something about a bastard."
  • Author Avatar: Eddie for Elia Kazan. The film eventually reveals that Eddie is the son of Greek immigrants, as was Kazan. And Kazan had an affair with actress Barbara Loden for several years before his first wife died in 1963. (Afterwards Kazan married Loden.)
  • Conversation Cut: Gwen is trying to get Eddie out of the booby hatch. The doctor at the asylum says "I suggest that you see—", cut to next scene, and a servant says "Judge Morris," introducing Gwen to the judge who signed Eddie's commitment papers.
  • Continuity Nod: Eddie's father's memories of his arrival in America are illustrated with what are actually clips from Kazan's previous movie, America America. And Eddie's family name is "Arness", the Americanized name that protagonist Stavros is given in America America when he arrives at Ellis Island.
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  • Could Say It, But...: Eddie asks the doctor if he could kidnap is father from the hospital. The doctor replies: "I couldn't give permission. But if you were to, the best time would be around midnight."
  • Creepy Changing Painting: Done with photographs, as just one of several surreal effects in the movie. Florence stumbles across some hidden photos of Eddie and Gwen cavorting at the beach. She tears them up and then flings them down on Eddie's desk. The images in the pictures are then shown to move. (The movie doesn't definitively say whether or not Eddie is a wizard.)
  • Dead Sparks: Although apparently there was some passion in Eddie and Florence's life years ago, it's gone now. Florence makes an effort to restart it at one point only to be rebuffed.
    Florence: There's more to a marriage than sex, I tell myself.
  • Deceptive Disciple: Eddie's smarmy lawyer Arthur (Hume Cronyn). Arthur makes out like he's looking after Eddie's best interests, but it eventually becomes clear that he wants both Eddie's money and his wife. He succeeds in getting both, although Eddie doesn't mind.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Charles, the Dogged Nice Guy who meekly hangs out at Gwen's apartment, looking after the baby when she goes out on dates, going home when Gwen tells him she's having sex with another man (Eddie). Eventually, he starts shooting.
  • Double Standard:
    Gwen: And I need someone else from time to time, the way a man does. A girl isn't supposed to think that way, I know.
  • Flashback: Many, first detailing Eddie's affair with Gwen, then later showing the toxic relationship between Eddie's parents in scenes where Eddie is young.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: $80,000/year was a pretty handsome salary in 1969, but probably not handsome enough to maintain that mansion that Eddie and Gwen live in.
  • Heel Realization: Part of Eddie's crisis comes when he realizes that selling cigarettes is not a good thing.
  • Hollywood Midlife Crisis: The typical ennui of a filthy rich man in his forties, here including a hot young mistress as well as flying around in an airplane.
  • Hope Spot: There comes a moment towards the end where Florence refuses to sign the commitment papers. They have a private embrace and seem to finally be connecting. That is, until Eddie starts talking about how he'd like to quit the rat race and do nothing. Florence, who rather enjoys her upper-crust lifestyle—the arrangement, that is—reacts badly to the prospect of Eddie quitting his job. They argue violently, and the marriage becomes truly dead.
  • Ironic Juxtaposition: A radio broadcast about a NASA launch says that the rocket is lifting off at the exact time that Eddie drives his car into a tunnel.
  • Lennon Specs: If Gwen being the only girl in the office didn't make her stand out enough, her hip Lennon Specs further mark her as stylish and modern, in contrast to all the crusty old male executives at the firm.
    Eddie: Why do you always wear those?
    Gwen: They make things happen.
  • Let the Past Burn: Eddie, driven to the edge not only by his disappointment in life but by memories of his parents' poisonous marriage, burns down his parents' house.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: When Eddie seeks Gwen out in New York, he's surprised to find that she has an infant. She says it isn't his. It's strongly implied that she's lying.
  • Mathematician's Answer: Eddie is pretty surprised to find out that Gwen has a baby. He naturally wonders who the father is.
    Eddie: Whose kid is that?
    Gwen: Mine.
  • Melodrama: Lots of sex, crying, suicide attempts, nervous collapses, houses getting burned down.
  • Porn Stache: As the story begins Eddie has a rather unflattering bushy mustache. It gets shaved off in the hospital, so the presence or absence of the mustache serves as a marker helping the viewer when the movie rapidly shifts between the present narrative and the many flashbacks. It also becomes symbolic of cynical, sellout, pre-breakdown Eddie. Later Eddie starts having hallucinations where his mustachioed ad man self starts talking to him.
  • P.O.V. Cam: From Florence's perspective as she enters the hospital looking for Eddie.
  • Precision F-Strike: Another way the movie tests the relaxed censorship of 1969. Florence, who knew all about Eddie's affair, is now dealing with his fugue state.
    Florence: I waited that bitch out and I'll wait this out!
  • Shout-Out: One scene has Eddie imagining beating up Gwen's boyfriend, complete with "POW!" and "BLAM!" cards that can only be shout-outs to the then-contemporary Batman show.
  • Skinnydipping: Gwen and Eddie indulge in this on a secluded beach. Later, in the first of several imagine spots that indicate how Eddie is coming unglued, he imagines a nude Gwen swimming in his pool.
  • Sleeping Single: As this movie was made after the end of The Hays Code, this trope is not mandatory here. Instead it's a deliberate choice to show how the spark has gone out of Eddie and Florence's marriage. One scene has Florence crawling into Eddie's bed in an unsuccessful attempt to start intimacy.
  • Title Drop: "You had the perfect arrangement. Fat job, big house, understanding wife, all the side nookie you could handle."
  • Toplessness from the Back: Done with both Dunaway and Kerr as part of the Fanservice in a movie made while censorship codes were loosening.
  • Trade Your Passion for Glory: Gwen criticizes Eddie for giving up his literary aspirations to work in advertising. (One of the criticisms of this movie was that there's little to indicate that Eddie was much of a literary person, other than a scene that shows him interviewing an executive for a newspaper.)
  • Your Cheating Heart:
    • Eddie's affair with Gwen.
    • The end of the movie indicates that Florence has taken up with Arthur the lawyer, who seemed a little too intent on getting Eddie to sign a power of attorney giving Florence control of all marital assets. Of course, Eddie's actually cohabitating with Gwen by this point.

Example of: