My Six Loves (1963)

March 16, 2015

One of the movies I watched for my Pi Day themed marathon was My Six Loves, a comedy-ish movie starring Debbie Reynolds, Cliff Robertson and David Janssen. Let's be real, the main only reason I picked this for my no. 6 film was Cliff Robertson. It's one of those "I'll watch anything -- and I mean ANYTHING -- just because so and so is in it" kind of things. Not to sound like a crotchety old hag, but movies about bands of children aren't usually my cup of tea. They need to be accompanied by a dashingly handsome Cliff Robertson or maybe a debonair Dirk Bogarde in order for me to buckle down and watch.

And buckle down I did. Cliff Robertson's gravely voice was absolutely the best part, as it always is (oh, and he wears one of Debbie Reynolds' floral robes at one point - and still looks ridiculously fetching, I might add) I'd give this movie 5 out of 5 stars if I was rating it on Cliff Robertson's voice alone. What can I say, I love a good gravel. However, this movie also had a plot and characters and once I factor those in my rating drops considerably.

There are some movies with elements of sexism that I can conveniently overlook for the purposes of entertainment. I wince a bit when Jane Fonda's character casually accepts the fact that she'll be giving up her job as soon as she's married to Robert Culp in Sunday in New York but it's still my favorite movie. My Six Loves came out the same year as SINY, 1963, but its sexism seems more dated and more prevalent. It's an obvious message to "career girls" that you'll never be happy, truly happy, until you have a husband and some young-ins' to look after. It isn't even remotely subtle about the message, either. [spoiler alert] Debbie Reynolds is struggling between returning to the stage where she’s had a successful career since she was 14 years old, or staying in the country to raise 6 orphans with the local preacher (who can totally date, no chastity to be found here) played by Cliff Robertson. For a few brief moments, she decides on Broadway — returning to the great white way to begin work on a new play. But then our gravely voiced preacher bursts into rehearsals to tell Debbie that one of the orphans has run away, and she needs to come back to look for him. When trying to explain why Debbie needs to return, he not-so-delicately states that “She’s a woman. It’s about time she acted like one.” Ok, now this is where any thinking, rational modern lady would be like “WHAT THE WHAT?!” Um, even in 1963 I’m pretty sure you were just as much a woman if you were working on a career, looking after a household, or doing both. But being a movie still firmly grounded in 1950’s morality, Debbie naturally agrees. “I MUST GO TO THE CHILDREN! AND RECLAIM MY WOMANHOOD!,” she doesn’t say, but definitely implies. [spoiler over]

Sometimes I’m not sure if it’s my frame of mind or the movie itself that dictates how sensitive I am to sexist overtones in film. Like I said, Sunday in New York isn’t the most progressive feminist movie but I still find it hilarious and watch it way more than any normal person should. Maybe I just didn’t find My Six Loves funny enough, so I picked up on the serious dialogue a little more than I would otherwise. Or maybe I just haven’t watched enough movies from 1963 and I have some serious misconceptions about how much movies were still shaming women who didn’t want to be housewives at the time.

Either way, this is one movie where the sexism seemed a little too heavy handed and prevented me from really enjoying the movie. I will add though that David Janssen’s character was pretty cool (when they’re tying to figure out where one of the children would have run away to, Janssen remarks “Miami if he’s got any sense.” He also sat on a picnic blanket in a suit-and-tie, drinking champagne and looking amused at the goings-on around him. I can see why Millie is smitten.) and also I’ll give some (not a lot) points for Debbie Reynolds seeming to genuinely want to be a career girl, even if biology and society and everything else in the world was conspiring against it.

All that being said, movies are always products of the time in which they were made. I don’t expect 2015 morals in a 1963 film. But sometimes it’s tough to throw all of your modern sensitivities out the window when you’re watching classic movies. And it’s difficult to hear the words “She’s a woman. It’s about time she acted like one.” even when those words are uttered by the most gloriously gravely voice there ever was.


Millie said...

"And it’s difficult to hear the words 'She’s a woman. It’s about time she acted like one.' even when those words are uttered by the most gloriously gravely voice there ever was."

Perfection. Completely sums up the difficulties in enjoying a film and being horrified by it at the same time.

Mainstream-wise, I totally feel this with James Bond movies. I LOVE the style and action of a good James Bond movie, BUT THE MISOGYNY, CLASSISM, NEO-COLONIALISM, RACISM, ETC ETC.

So, yeah. haha

Also, I think I told you how I remembered only three things about this movie: the pink jeep, Cliff wearing a dress, and David having a picnic.

DAVID! *sigh*

This comment is out of control. Goodbye. sorry. haha

kate gabrielle said...

Thank you Millie! :D :D

Yeah, I think that's one reason I haven't gotten around to watching James Bond movies yet :\

I always think that pre-code 30's and post-code 60's movies are a safe bet but sometimes they can still be a huge let down. It reminds me of Female (have you seen that one?) with Ruth Chatterton where the whole movie seems SO progressive and feminist but then right at the very end they ruin everything. ARGH! So many movies spend 90 minutes pretending that women have actual choices about how to live their lives and then yank those choices away in the last few frames.

Debbie Reynolds' character in this one wouldn't have actually been half bad if she had either stayed on the stage or made the decision to go back of her own accord, rather than Cliff Robertson shaming her into it. Like, it's okay to decide to adopt the kids but you should do it because you want to adopt the kids not because it's your duty as a woman.

Okay, I need to stop or this will be longer than my original post :p But yeah, David Janssen was definitely the best part of the movie. I need to start listening to your recommendations more often -- first Ralph Meeker and now David Janssen! You really have impeccable taste.