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Film / What a Way to Go!

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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 and played for Black Comedy with Louisa's curse that has taken multiple husbands already. It takes, ironically enough, The Jinx to end it.
  • 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.
  • Famous Last Words:
    • "A little hard work never killed anybody!" Edgar Hopper
    • "One hundred and fifty thou!" Larry Flint
    • "Melrose! Forgive me!" Rod Anderson, Jr.
    • Advertisement:
    • "Look who's here! It's me! It's your Pinky!" Pinky Benson
  • Fanservice: Louisa wears a lot of outfits that show off her figure.
  • 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.
  • Gold Digger: Averted with Louisa, to her money grubbing mother's chagrin, she just wants a simple life with a husband and children but ends up marrying men who became wealthier and distracted from the marriage and it ends up killing them.
  • Groupie Brigade: Causes the death of Kelly's character.
  • Imagine Spot: All of the film-parodies are examples of this on Lousia's part. Also a brief one where she pictures her then-rich boyfriend Leonard as a literal snake behind the wheel of his convertible.
  • 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....and explode.
  • Logo Joke: The 20th Century Fox logo is pink, because Kelly's character has everything painted that color.
  • Oh, Crap!: This is the last expression that both Mitchum and Kelly's characters display before their demise.
  • 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!
  • Sexy Backless Outfit: Parodied in the Lush Budgett production scene where Louisa reveals a lot of back with a ridiculously long cigarette holder.
  • 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. And pretty often her attempts unfortunately end with her husband du jour dead.
  • Thundering Herd: Kelly's character gets trampled to death by one.
  • Unluckily Lucky: Dean Martin's character and final husband Leonard is an extraordinarily unlucky fellow, but by the end of the film he married Louisa (who is rich so no problem on that end for some time to come... maybe... or at least it isn't by the time the movie ends) and his own immense unluck cancels out her Cartwright Curse.
  • 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.
    "Which all goes to prove, a little hard work never killed anybody!" [thud]


Example of: