Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Jean Simmons & John Forsythe in The Happy Ending 1969

The late 60's found the women's movement in full swing. Housewives everywhere were questioning the scope of their lives, exploring new possibilities, wondering what was possible for them out in the world. Mary Wilson (Jean Simmons) was one of those housewives. Disillusioned with her marriage and with nothing to occupy her time or challenge her intellect, she sinks into depression, drinking and acting out her frustrations in childish episodes of petulance and profligate spending. Her husband (John Forsythe) says he loves her, but doesn't take the time or effort to understand her. So, she runs away to Nassau, and on the way she meets an old college friend (Shirley Jones) who's tried it the other way - as a mistress to wealthy men.

This was one of the first films that took an honest look at the issues of the woman's movement, but it is also a beautiful portrait of relationships. It's told in flashbacks that illustrate the path Mary takes to get where she is, and it's full of poignant moments that are beautifully played by the stellar cast. And the cast is truly stellar! In addition to Simmons, Forsythe and Jones, look for Nanette Fabray, Bobby Darin (billed as Robert), Lloyd Bridges, Teresa Wright, Dick Shawn and Tina Louise. The film is most remembered for the hit song What are You Doing the Rest of Your Life? by Michel LeGrand and Alan & Marilyn Bergman, which was nominated for an Oscar and became a very popular standard. Look for a very young Erin Moran (Jonie from the series Happy Days) as the daughter in one of the flashback scenes.

This beautiful little film has been largely forgotten. It hasn't been released on DVD, but there was a VHS release in the late 90's. The scene above was uploaded to YouTube by JeanSimmonsFan. The poster above can be purchased at MoviePosterShop.com

Obscurity factor: 7 (not available on DVD, available on VHS and YouTube)


  1. Good choice, Ben, and quite disturbing in a grown-up way. It's so interesting to compare this and the contemporary - and cartoonish -Divorce American Style. I found this movie engrossing and well made, but I couldn't watch a Jean Simmons movie the same way afterwards. I tolerate her in an ensemble piece like The Egyptian, but (to me), the Happy Ending reveals something sickening in her. Of course, this reveals more something about me, since I 100% commiserate with the John Forsythe character. Love your blog Ben!

  2. Funny you should mention Divorce American Style - that's already queued up for tomorrow! Jean's character is very childish in this one, but I think that really displays the infantilization of women that society encouraged for so long.

  3. This movie is no longer available on youtube at the link posted above.