For a period of time in the late 1970s and early 1980s Dudley Moore was a huge star. He was nominated for an Academy Award and he was featured in several very successful comedies. In 1984 he had three films released, “Best Defense” with Eddie Murphy, “Unfaithfully Yours”, and this romantic comedy about a bigamist with two pregnant wives. The movie with Murphy got such scathing reviews, I stayed away from it. “Unfaithfully Yours” opened in February and it probably slipped past me simply because other things were going on. I plan on continuing this project with other older films, including those from 1984 that I did not see that year or have never seen. I’m sure I will eventually get around to it. “Micki + Maude” was a holiday release and I distinctly remember when and where I saw it originally.
If a movie about a two timing man, getting both his wife and girlfriend pregnant at the same time and marrying the girlfriend while lying to both of them can be funny, then this is the movie that achieves it. The premise is a bit off putting but it is mostly a madcap farce, much less distasteful than say “Blame it on Rio” and executed with a light sense of humor that makes even the awkward physical comedy seem appealing.
Moore plays Rob Salinger, a TV features reporter for a local station, who is married to the much taller and lovely Ann Reinking. She is a lawyer involved in a political campaign who is appointed to the court by the Governor she helped get elected. She and Rob appear to be truly in love but she has put him off on starting a family and her responsibilities often leave them separated for long periods of time. Rob feels neglected and when she cancels out on a date that she promised she would keep, he accepts an invitation to a concert and party from a lovely young cellist, Amy Irving, he met while doing a TV interview. In every man’s rationalization, he decides to begin an affair with her despite being married because he is after all lonely.
How can a screenwriter manage to make a philanderer sympathetic? First by portraying him as a generally good guy who means well but has made a bad choice. Then when trying to do the right thing by leaving his wife, have him interrupted by her passionate declaration of love and announcement that she is expecting. Having already found out the girl he is seeing is pregnant and asking her to marry him after he divorces his wife, he is in over his head. Of course in real life this scenario might be a stretch, but only when it comes to the romantic and humorous incidents. Plenty of men have lead double lives and had multiple families. This is a slightly off key romantic comedy so everything is played for laughs for the most part.
One thing that helps this film work is that it has the right director. Blake Edwards was essentially booted off “City Heat” and this is the film he landed on. Edwards was adept at making slapstick situations work in spite of the outlandish premises they often started with. This is one film he made where he does not have a writing credit but it was easy to see his fingerprints on the movie. There is an awkward moment where Micki’s parents cross paths with their son-in-law as he is going into his wedding to Maude. Moore and Edwards worked together on “10” a few years earlier, and you can see in how the scene is handled with the awkward dialogue and the distracted actors and abrupt finish, some of the same tone and techniques used in the earlier film. The most elaborate illustration of Edwards participation comes in the birth sequence where both women are delivering at the same hospital at the same time.
You can imagine Peter Sellars doing some of the double takes and physical jokes that the sequence calls for. Another tip-off is the presence of actor Richard Mulligan as Moore’s friend and TV Boss. He was a favorite of Edwards in the 80s and did several films for him. He also appeared as the mental patient turned teacher earlier in the year in “Teachers” another film on our list.
That the movie works at all is a tribute to the talented cast and director but also to first time screenwriter Johnathan Reynolds. He manages to make all the characters appealing despite the awkward and convoluted setup. Each relationship has a pretty tender scene to show that Rob’s love is real and he is not the selfish prick the scenario paints him into. Maude has a father who is a professional wrestler, and he and his buddies, including Andre the Giant, offer a fun and warm family background to her relationship with Rob. Micki’s parents never get much chance to show any warmth but they do have that scene outside of the church where their son-in-law is about to commit bigamy that is pretty funny.
At the time of the filming, Amy Irving was Mrs. Steven Spielberg, but her husband was off making “Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom” with the future Mrs. Spielberg, Kate Capshaw. Ann Reinking was asked to perform the song “Against All Odds” at the Oscars, in spite of the fact that the songwriter was available and a talented performer as well as occasional actor. This movie would be her swan song in the film business. After working on Broadway and transitioning to the movies with several juicy parts, she basically married and left the industry. She did return to some acclaimed choreography on the Great White Way, she started out as a dancer, but she never made another film.
Dudley Moore seems to have lost his charm after the films of this year. He would make several more films and attempt a couple of TV series, but he would never have the same levels of success he enjoyed in the early part of the decade. He suffered several medical setbacks in the 90s and passed away in 2002. He did leave a legacy of charming but roguish dweebs who somehow managed to bring entertainment to movie audiences for a period of time. This film is a good illustration of his talents and persona and it will provide some mild enjoyment, with one long uproarious sequence, that any of you fans of the year will probably enjoy.