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3 Male Chauvinist Movies
The Quiet Man, Queen of Outer Space, and How to Murder Your Wife are three movies that have male chauvinism on full display. These movies have many comical moments of male chauvinism. These movies probably could not be made today in their original form. They are all classics in their own way. They all have famous actors at the height of their careers. This article contains spoiler for these movies.
The Quiet Man
This 1952 comedy is often shown on television around St. Patrick’s Day. Many people believe John Wayne should have gotten the Best Actor Oscar for his role as Sean Thornton. John Wayne wasn’t nominated and Gary Cooper won the Oscar for his role in High Noon.
Sean Thornton is a retired boxer. The back story is he killed a boxer in the ring. Sean moves to a small town in Ireland and plans to live there. He meets Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara) and wants to date her. Mary Kate is a strong willed woman. According to the town custom her brother, Squire ‘Red’ Will Danaher (Victor McLaglen) has to give permission for Sean to court his sister. Squire permits Sean to court his sister consistent with the town’s customs.
The first date involves a buggy ride with they sit with their backs to each other and the chaperone, Michaleen Oge Flynn (Barry Fitzgerald), between them. After a while they are permitted to get out of the buggy and walk, but physical contact is not permitted. Mary Kate gets mad at Sean and moves to hit him. Michaleen tells her she can’t hit him until they are married, when he can hit her back.
When they get married Squire refuses to give Mary Kate the money that is rightfully hers. Sean walks away from a possible fight with Squire. This disappoints the townspeople and infuriates Mary Kate. She does what a homemaker normally does in that town but refuses to consummate the marriage. Sean doesn’t need the money and doesn’t like his wife’s mercenary heart. Mary Kate felt without the money she wouldn’t own anything. The marriage would just be a move from living in her brother’s house to living in her husband’s house.
The tension builds until Sean had enough. He grabs Mary Kate by the hand and marches towards Squire’s farm. The townspeople figure this will end in the long anticipated fight between Squire and Sean. Soon a growing crowd is following Sean and Mary Kate. Mary Kate has trouble keeping up with Sean’s fast pace. One of her shoes comes off. He doesn’t stop for her to get it or to let her put it on after one of the townsmen gives the shoe back to her. When she falls he drags her. At one point a woman (May Craig) hands Sean a stick and tells him it’s “to beat the lovely lady.” He holds on to the stick but doesn’t beat her with it.
Sean meets Squire and demands the money. Squire refuses and Sean tosses Mary Kate at him. He says it’s their tradition, not his. Squire gives Sean the money and Sean, with Mary Kate’s approval throws it into the furnace. As they are walking off Squire sucker punches Sean. Mary Kate tells Sean dinner will be waiting at home. Squire and Sean fight their way into town to the joy of the townspeople. Round one ends outside a bar. Squire and Sean go inside for a drink. After the drink and pleasant conversation round two begins with Sean sending Squire crashing through the window. A drunken Sean and Squire walk home to the waiting Mary Kate. She has an angry expression when she sees them coming but it quickly changes to a smile.
Should John Wayne have won the Academy Award for The Quiet Man?
Queen of Outer Space
This 1958 Science Fiction movie, set in 1985, is not meant to be a comedy but falls comfortably in the “so bad it’s good” category. Four astronauts are set to go on a mission to a space station. One of the astronauts, Lieutenant Larry Turner (Patrick Waltz), is holding up the mission to kiss a woman (Joi Lansing) good-bye. Lt. Turner goes to the space ship and the woman watches the space ship roar into space.
As the space ship nears the space station a series of light rays pass near the space station then a ray hits and destroys the station. The blast knocks the space ship off course. They crash land on a planet but they don’t know which one. Professor Konrad (Paul Birch) initially thinks the planet is Mars but later figures out they are on Venus. They go to sleep and when they wake up they are surrounded by gorgeous ray gun toting women.
The astronauts are brought to their leader, Queen Yllana (Laurie Mitchell). The Queen and the women in her court wear tacky masks. The astronauts conclude the masks are to hide their beauty and Queen Yllana must be the most beautiful of them all. When the commander, Captain Neal Patterson (Eric Fleming), said he believed the women destroyed the space station Lt. Mike Cruze (Dave Willock) retorted; “Oh, come off it! How could a bunch of women invent a gizmo like that?” Lt. Turner chimed in, “Sure, and even if they invented it, how could they aim it? You know how women drivers are!” Talleah (Zsa Zsa Gabor), the chief scientist of Venus meets the astronauts. She tells them she hates The Queen. Lt. Cruze says, “She’s jealous!” and Lt. Turner adds; “26 million miles from Earth, and the little dolls are just the same.” Talleah tells them they are the only men on the planet. When Capt. Patterson asked how The Queen was able to take over Talleah explained; “They didn’t take her seriously. They were preparing for war. After all, she was only a woman.”
Talleah and some other women who opposed The Queen engineer an escape attempt for the astronauts. Women loyal to The Queen recapture the men. Capt. Patterson tries his charms on Queen Yllana, Captain Kirk style. He pulls off her mask. She has radiation burns. She tells them men did this to her and concludes by asking, “Now that you know, will you give me that love?” As she draws her face to him Capt. Patterson balks. In the 21st century he would be expected to take one for the Earth but in the 1950s such sacrifices were not asked of men. The people of Earth would have to fend for themselves. The Queen is going to destroy the Earth and the astronauts are going to watch as she does it. The astronauts’ verbal responses to her announced plans are pathetic. The women who opposed The Queen sabotaged the weapon. The opposition women attack The Queens’ cohort. The struggle can best be described as a pillow fight without pillows.
The Queen ran into the burning control center where she is burned to death. The depiction of her burnt body is uncharacteristically gory considering the nature of the movie. The image of the charred corpse is often edited out of TV versions of the movie.
What could be done with Queen of Outer Space?
How to Murder Your Wife
This 1965 movie begins with Charles the butler (Terry-Thomas) taking the audience on a tour of the upscale apartment of Stanley Ford (Jack Lemmon). Stanley is a confirmed bachelor[i]. He has a successful career as a cartoonist. The star of his comic strip is a male Action/Adventure character. What makes his comic strip so successful is he performs the actions he draws. His logic is if he can do it then the action would be realistic. So Stanley is living the ideal bachelor life.
Stanley went to the bachelor party of a friend of his. The bachelor party isn’t depicted in the movie. Stanley wakes up in his bed with a woman (Virna Lisi) and a wedding ring. He vaguely remembers his friend, a judge, marring him to the woman who jumped out of the cake. To Stanley this seemed an easily correctible mistake. There were two problems; Mrs. Ford liked being married and she only spoke Italian.
Stanley, the reluctant husband, and Mrs. Ford set into married life. This meant some noticeable changes such as nylon stocking hanging in the bathroom and some extra weight on Stanley. Mrs. Ford insisted he do thing a husband normally does such as minor home repairs. At one point she even went into Stanley’s Men’s Club to find him. The manager (Lauren Gilbert) demanded Stanley’s immediate resignation. When it comes to home repairs Stanley is an oaf.
In his comic strip his Action/Adventure hero morphs turns into a clumsy husband. This greatly increases his comic strip’s circulation. The comic strip gains a large female readership because wives find the main character is a clod just like their husbands. Stanley doesn’t like the turn his comic strip has taken. He decided there is only one solution, murder.
Stanley developed a story line where his cartoon character would murder his wife. As always Stanley would do a dry run of his comic strip. This includes purchasing the items necessary to kill the wife. It is an intricate plan. The series is a big hit. The talk of the town is if the comic strip character will go through with his plan.
Stanley does the dry run and all goes well except for one minor glitch. Edna Lampson (Claire Trevor), the wife of his friend Harold (Eddie Mayehoff), took a drugged drink meant for Mrs. Ford. Harold, thinking his wife was drunk because of the way she was making a fool of herself, was happy because he could say anything to her since she was too drunk to remember it in the morning.
Mrs. Ford sees the final drawings of the end of the story. She goes home to mother without leaving any trace of what she was doing. When the comic strip depicting the murder comes out in the newspapers those who were unwittingly involved in the plot reported what they knew to the police. Stanley was arrested and put on trial for murdering his wife.
Stanley’s defense attorney was his friend Harold. Edna testified against Stanley and on the stand warned her husband if he kept on defending known murders he may find himself disbarred. Charles was Stanley’s defense witness. Charles explained Stanley’s actions were simply a dry run, which was Stanley’s normal practice when writing his comic strip. The District Attorney (Alan Hewitt) proposed the “dry run” claim might just be cover for the actual murder. This elated Charles and he promptly congratulated Stanley.
The day before the close of the trial Harold told Stanley he didn’t think they would give him the death penalty. Stanley could expect no more than life in prison. Harold was upbeat since Stanley’s conviction would put him on good terms with Edna.
In a move that only happens in courtroom comedies Stanley fired Harold and called Harold as his first and only witness. Stanley convinced Harold that marriage changed Harold from a confident bachelor to the submissive husband he is today. Stanley got Harold to symbolically kill his wife. Stanley admitted he killed his wife and asked the jury to give a acquit him to send a message to all wives. The all male jury, without deliberation, acquitted him. All the men in the courtroom congratulated him as the women sat silently.
Charles was overjoyed since things were back to normal. Stanley explained he didn’t kill his wife. Charles was worried until he realized if she ever returned Stanley could kill her and not be charged because of double jeopardy.[ii] Mrs. Ford returns with her mother. Stanley is happy with her return. Charles falls in love with Stanley’s mother-in-law when he sees they have a similar attribute.
[i] A common term in the 1960’s to denote someone who shows no interest in a steady girlfriend much less getting married.
[ii] Double jeopardy, prohibited by the U.S. Constitution, is someone from being tried twice for the same crime by the same judiciary.