Lovers and Other Strangers (1970) – full review!
Produced by David Susskind directed by Cy Howard and written by Joseph Bologna David Zelag Goodman and Renée Taylor this above average and surprisingly only somewhat dated (much of it still rings true today) comedy about marriage pre-marriage dating and male-female relationships features the Academy Award winning song “For All We Know”. The writing was also Oscar nominated and Richard Castellano earned his only Academy recognition (to date) with a Best Supporting Actor nomination. The terrific ensemble cast includes Beatrice Arthur Bonnie Bedelia Michael Brandon Bob Dishy Harry Guardino Marian Hailey Joseph Hindy Anne Jackson Diane Keaton Cloris Leachman Anne Meara and Gig Young. Conrad Bain and Meara’s husband Jerry Stiller (among others) also appear though both are uncredited.
The movie is a series of vignettes featuring various couples some married and some unmarried tied together by the pending nuptials between Susan Henderson (Bedelia) and Mike Vecchio (Brandon) who unbeknownst to their respective parents have been living & sleeping together for more than a year. Castellano and Arthur get more screen-time as Frank and Bea Vecchio than do Leachman and Young as Bernice and Hal Henderson because their oldest son Richie (Hindy) is having marriage problems with his childhood sweetheart and wife of six years Joan (Keaton whose character arrives after the wedding). The Vecchios are the kind of couple who finishes each other’s sentences as they tag-team ‘lecture’ a skeptical Richie with their unique ‘logic’ about why married couples should stay together regardless. Of course Mike who’s having his own last minute jitters gets to hear a lot of this for himself; ironically it’s Susan who provides the calming influence he needs. Whereas Leachman appears only briefly with very few lines Young as her husband has significant discussions with his mistress Kathy (Jackson) who’s his wife’s best friend that’s helping to plan the wedding! Hal just wants everyone to be happy and has successfully manipulated Kathy into accepting less for 10 years! In one funny scene he actually gets her to believe that another man that wants to marry her is to blame for their problem as he successfully diverts any responsibility from himself.
Two other couples round out the storyline with male chauvinism vs. feminism themes: Guardino & Meara as Johnny & Wilma family friends of the Vechhio’s who have a son of their own and Dishy & Hailey as Jerry & Brenda who’s a friend of Susan’s. Macho Johnny was a Marine and he insists on being ‘the man’ in the household; feminist Wilma believes that they are equals. Their conflict largely explores the evolving male-female roles within a marriage during the time when the women’s liberation was at its peak whereas the encounters between unattached Jerry and Brenda examines the dating scene in the same light. Jerry a friend of Mike’s is a wannabe stereotypical swinging male; his bachelor pad is complete with red white & blue beads separating his bedroom from the rest of his mod apartment’s furniture. Brenda who’s also inexperienced idolizes ‘love’ and is a well read women’s libber herself. Jerry has learned all the lines and tricks to try to take advantage of an unsuspecting woman even pretending to Brenda that his interest in her lies beyond the fulfillment of his greatly anticipated one night stand filled with sex. But she isn’t as naive as she first appears; her fear is an experience like her friend’s who had a ‘full’ weekend yet never even received a follow-up phone call.
Castellano’s oft-repeated line “so what’s the story” is incorporated again when Joan arrives during the evening-long reception. He quickly assumes that his son’s marriage problem is due to an extramarital affair (deemed “straying”; something he himself did) during their one-on-one conversation; Bea learns of Joan’s disillusionment her love of the smell of Richie’s hair (like raisins) that’s now lost. Each of the film’s relationships save Kathy’s end hopefully.