Saturday, January 12, 2019

1970's MADE-FOR-TV MOVIES: THE COUPLE TAKES A WIFE (1973)

Bill Bixby and Paula Prentiss prepare to take a wife

One genre from the ABC movie of the week I haven't looked at yet is comedy. Michael Mckenna, the author of The ABC Movie of the Week: Big Movies for the Small Screen states that comedy was the weakest of the the movie of the week genres. I'm not so sure. Some of them had a bit of a sitcom without the laugh track flavor to them, but there was still something about them that I liked.

Working couple Jeff and Barbara (Bill Bixby and Paula Prentiss) take on a so-called second wife (Valerie Perrine) to help them with chores and household duties and childcare and such. Problems ensue when the second wife begins to fall for Jeff.

This film really seems like a product of it's time. I'm not sure how many times they throw out the phrase women's lib, but you can feel it all over the movie. I still like this movie, even though the plot is a bit silly. The characters are well played by likable actors and the script is good. I had heard about this one before, but this is my first viewing. 

The Cast
Paula Prentiss-I really like Paula Prentiss. She's got great comic chops and really could have been a star on par with Mary Tyler Moore. Maybe if her ahead of it's time comedy, He and She had stuck around longer it would have happened for her. The first thing I can ever remember seeing her in is What's New, Pussycat?

Bill Bixby-Between such shows as The Courtship of Eddie's Father and The Incredible Hulk, Bixby made his mark on the ABC movie of the week. Congratulations, It's a Boy, Steambath (with Valerie Perrine) and Shirts/Skins were all appearances I remember.

Valerie Perrine-Plays the wife in the title. One of the sexiest women of the seventies, Valerie made her mark as Montana Wildhack in Slaughterhouse-Five, Lex Luthor's moll in Superman and a 1972 issue of Playboy magazine.

Larry Storch-Former F-Troop star Larry Storch has one scene during a card game here. I still keep up with the 96-year-old and very active Larry on his Facebook page!

Myrna Loy-30's and 40's screen legend Loy has a small role here as Prentiss's mother. I think she was just cast to get some name recognition for the movie...a not uncommon practice for these films.

Robert Goulet-Plays a ladies man who tempts Prentiss. Goulet had a lot more acting credits than I would have thought (including Beetlejuice). I think of him primarily as a singer, often performing with his wife Carol Lawrence.

Penny Marshall-During her Odd Couple years.

The Director
Jerry Paris is known as an actor chiefly for playing Dentist Jerry Helper on The Dick Van Dyke Show. However, most of his career was spent behind the camera, including directing 237 episodes of Happy Days!

The Writer
Susan Silver wrote for some of the best sitcoms of the 70's: Maude, Room 222, The Bob Newhart Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, among others. The Couple Takes a Wife does have an occasion sitcom flavor to it, but I thought the dialogue was pretty sharp for the most part. She also wrote another TV movie that I have fond memories of, The Girl Who Came Gift-Wrapped.

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