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What A Way To Go! Black Comedy

Updated on November 19, 2015

What a Way To Go!

“What a Way To Go!” is an American black comedy released in 1964 and directed by J. Lee Thompson. It stars Shirley McLaine with 6 leading men: Dean Martin, Paul Newman, Bob Cummings, Robert Mitchum, Gene Kelly, and Dick Van Dyke.

The movie is about the story of Louisa May Foster (SHIRLEY MACLAINE) whose only desire in life is to live a simple life with someone she loves and who loves her in return.

The film tells the story in a series of flashbacks so we see Louisa in the beginning trying to give away millions of dollars to the US government but no one takes her seriously. She is referred to a psychiatrist (BOB CUMMINGS) where she explains that she is not crazy but has a very rational motivation for giving away her money.

At a young age, she has been exposed to her mother’s fixation on money. She has seen how her mother belittles her father because he cannot give her the money she wants. Her mother has even pushed her to marry the richest man in town, Leonard Crawley (DEAN MARTIN) but Louisa May chooses to marry a poor guy, Edgar Hooper (DICK VAN DYKE) to her mother’s disappointment.

Louisa and Edgar lived a poor but happy life until Edgar gets fed up with Leonard Crawley’s mockery of their poor life. He decides to work harder and get a better life for Louisa. He becomes a millionaire and successfully puts Crawley out of business but he has never learned to stop. He neglects his wife and has worked himself to death.

Louisa is widowed and is left with millions of money. She goes to Paris vowing never to marry again. She meets Larry Flint (PAUL NEWMAN), a poor artist who drives a taxi. He also shares Louisa’s dream of a simple life. They get married and soon, the artist becomes famous by selling paintings done by a machine he has invented. He becomes rich and neglects his wife. Then he dies in his studio in the steel arms of his painting machines.

Louisa is widowed again and is left with tens of millions. She decides to leave Paris but misses her flight. She meets Rod Anderson (ROBERT MITCHUM), a very wealthy businessman who offers to take her wherever she wants in his private jet named Melissa. She accepts and gets to know him better during the flight. They get married shortly after they landed.

They live an idyllic life together until Rod Anderson decides that he has been neglecting his business since he has gotten married. Louisa is scared that once Rod focuses on his business, she becomes the neglected wife again. Then she discovers that Melissa is a prized cow of Rod Anderson locked away in a farm somewhere. She convinces Rod to return to life in the farm and be with Melissa again. Rod agrees, liquidates his business and retires to the farm.

One day, he mistakenly milks Melrose, the bull, who kicks him out of the barn to his death. Louisa becomes a widow for the third time and is left with hundreds of millions.

Sad and depressed, she finds herself in a small town café and meets Pinky Beston, a performer in a clown suit. She tells Pinky that her name is Louisa May Foster Hopper Flynn Anderson. They fall in love and get married. When Louisa persuades Pinky to perform without the clown suit, he reluctantly agrees. It becomes his stepping stool to fame and fortune. He gets rich and neglects his wife in favor of his fans. The same fans who trample him to death. For the fourth time, Louisa is widowed and left with more millions.

Louisa believes that she is jinxed because every man she has loved died. And she does not want the money because she has always wanted a simple life. She asks the psychiatrist to help her give away the money. The psychiatrist proposes to her but she turns him down. The psychiatrist gets into an accident and in comes the janitor who turns out to be Leonard Crawley. He is poor and he has realized that he is happier poor than when he has been the richest in their town.

And Louisa thinks that since Leonard Crawley is someone whom she hates the most, then perhaps they can marry and it might work.

They live poor but happy in a farm with four little kids. One day, as Leonard Crawley plows his field, he struck oil. Louisa is so distraught that it is happening again.

Then some representatives from an oil company appear and berate Crawley for hitting their oil pipe.

Louisa and Leonard are so happy that the oil does not belong to them. They live simply and happily ever after.

Personal Insights

It is usual for women to want the love and attention of her husband but it is unusual to choose a poor life compared to a life of wealth and comfort. The main character believes she is jinxed because all of her four husbands have died.

I can’t get over the fact that three of her husbands are poor but become wealthy after marrying her. She has brought them luck. Their death have been their own doing, and may have easily been avoided had they been more rational and exercised a little bit of wisdom.

The tycoon is different because he has given up most of his wealth for her. The lady has lived a full life. She gets four husbands who really love her, and she gets a fortune every time a husband dies. In the end, she gets her dream, a simple life, a small cottage in a farm with a loving husband and her kids. What a lucky lady!


The role of Louisa May was originally intended for Marilyn Monroe but it was recast when Monroe died.

The role of Rod Anderson, the wealthy tycoon was originally meant for Frank Sinatra but he demanded to be paid more than the other male stars and the studio refused. Gregory Peck was considered for the part but he was not available. It was Shirley MacLaine who recommended Robert Mitchum to the director and who in turn recommended him to the studio.

The role won for Shirley MacLaine a BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Best Foreign Actress Award.


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    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      20 months ago

      This is a fun early '60s comedy, with an all star cast. A lesson could be luck tends to be a mixture of good and bad.


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