Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner in War of the Roses.
In De-Lovely (2004), Robbie Williams sings, "We settle down as man and wife, to solve the riddle of married life." Marriage can certainly seem like a riddle at times. You can turn to family, friends or counselors for help in solving the riddle, or...you can just go to the movies.
"What is marriage? Tell me that. It's a contract. It's the law. Are you going to outsmart that the way you've outsmarted all other laws?" Spencer Tracy yells at Katharine Hepburn in Adam's Rib (1949). Getting the contract is often the hardest riddle. "When men get around me they get allergic to wedding rings." Eve Arden laments in Mildred Pierce (1945).
Other women in film have had a more confident approach to matrimony. "When it comes to marriage one man is as good as the next, and even the least accommodating is less trouble than a mother." Says Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons (1988). Mae West in She Done Him Wrong (1933) agrees, "I wasn't always rich. No, there was a time I didn't know where my next husband was coming from."
Men in movies have also struggled with finding a spouse. "...I don't ask to play center field for the New York Yankees, or anything. I just want to meet a woman, and I want to fall in love, and I want to get married." Tom Hanks whines in Splash (1984). Hitman Jack Nicholson debates with himself in Prizzi's Honor (1985), "Do I ice her? Do I marry her?" when he discovers the woman of his dreams, Kathleen Turner, is an assassin. In Wayne's World (1992), Mike Meyers informs Dana Carvey that, "Marriage is punishment for shoplifting in some countries."
Some characters in movies have received advice for their nuptials. Michael Crawford received this encouragement from Michael Hordern in A Funny Thing Happened on the way to The Forum (1966), "Son, if you're as happy as your mother and I have been, my heart bleeds for you." In The Quiet Man (1952) Barry Fitzgerald tells Maureen O'Hara to, "Have the good manners not to hit the man until he's your husband and entitled to hit you back." Albert Finney in Big Fish (2003) tells Billy Crudup that, "Sometimes, the only way to catch and uncatchable woman is to offer her a wedding ring."
Yes, the sad truth is, not every marriage is happy or as simple as Tyrone Power thinks it will be at the end of The Mark of Zorro (1940) when he cheerily says, "We're going to marry and raise fat children and watch our vineyards grow." Undoubtedly pressure and responsibilities show up in all marriages to cause problems. What kind of tension do you think is in Gary Cooper's and Grace Kelly's marriage in High Noon (1952) when he heads out to the gun fight and she says, "You're asking me to wait an hour to find out if I'm going to be a wife or a widow."
One particular argument in Parenthood (1989) rings very true, "That's the difference between men and women. Women have choices, Men have responsibilities." Steve Martin yells at Mary Steenburgen who snaps back, "Oh really? Oh, okay. Well then, I choose for you to have the baby, okay? That's my choice. You have the baby. You get fat. You breast feed. I'll go back to work."
Some married couples have a hard time being around each other. Peter O'Toole kept his wife, Katharine Hepburn, locked away in The Lion in Winter (1968). "I'll never let you out. You lead too many revolts against me." He informs her. His honesty is quite blunt but many spouses in movies are. Jane Fonda reveals to Robert Redford in Barefoot in the Park (1967), "Paul, I think I'm gonna be a lousy wife. But don't be angry with me. I love you very much -- and I'm very sexy!" Clark Gable tells Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind (1939) that if, "You don't stop being such a glutton you'll get as fat as Mammy and I'll divorce you."
Jane Fonda and Robert Redford in Barefoot in the Park.
Some couples choose to end their marriages. Michael Douglas, in The War of the Roses(1989) yells, "And you better get yourself a damn good lawyer!" to Kathleen Turner, who responds, "Best your money can buy." Other couples choose to torture each other instead. "I'm not going to divorce you. I'm going in there and I'm going to spend every last cent you have." Elaine May says to Walter Matthau in California Suite(1978)
I guess a successful marriage comes down to compatibility, attitude and how hard each spouse is willing to work at it. Raymond J. Barry tells Ashton Kuchner in Just Married (2003) that, "You never see the hard days in a photo album... but those are the ones that get you from one happy snapshot to the next." A positive outlook like James Cagney's in The Strawberry Blonde (1941) when he says, "When I want to kiss my wife, I'll kiss her anytime, anyplace, any where. That's the kind of hairpin I am." Is far more helpfull than Steve McQueen's opinion on marriage in Love with the Proper Stranger (1963) when he said, "Better dead than wed."
Marriage is for better or for worse. In sickness or in health, or as Cole Porter wrote, (perhaps tongue in cheek) "It's delightful. It's delicious. It's de-lovely."