Hardcore
Hardcore

In 1994, Dave Hines and I were considered "hot" screenwriters. We had just written a script for Ivan Reitman and our last spec screenplay had sold for half a million dollars, so people were waiting eagerly to see what we would do next.

For our next project, we teamed with a comedian named RODNEY LEE CONOVER, using a character from his act named "BachelorMan," who gave tips to guys in the audience on picking up women.

On the morning we turned in the finished screenplay to our agents, eight couriers were waiting in front of the building to transport copies to various studios and production offices. After writing until midnight and delivering 28 copies of the script, we all went to bed, exhausted. Bids were to be in by that afternoon, starting at $500,000. I woke up to a phone call at 3pm. It was STEVE WHITE, my agent. "We're pulling the script," he said. "They all say it's the most offensive thing they've ever read." Suddenly, Dave and I were considered "very cold."

Hardcore


Rodney Lee Conover, early 1990s (click to enlarge)
The screenplay for the film "BACHELORMAN" was actually started in the early nineties, in the bars and restaurants of Hermosa Beach, where Rodney lived. I had met him at a comedy show, and had been impressed because of his sheer determination to make people laugh. The crowd hadn't started off liking Rodney at all! They were largely Middle-Eastern and he had come out as the character 'Hadji' from "JOHNNY QUEST," staging a musical comeback. But through showmanship and tenacity (that he would soon need for this project), Rodney had eventually won the crowd over. One bit that I really enjoyed was when he offered a tip for men on a date, saying, "Before she comes over, spray furniture polish over the door -- that way when she comes in it'll smell like you've been cleaning all day." After the crowd laughed, he puffed out his chest and announced, "I am BachelorMan!"

It will become obvious over the course of this story that Rodney is the hero of this insane, unlikely saga. The same dogged determination that helped him win that crowd over would carry "BACHELORMAN" through to its eventual and completely improbable production, festival success and theatrical release. Although I co-wrote the script and co-produced the film, I was just like Ishmael, watching Captain Ahab's 12-year pursuit of a spec sale on the Indie Seas.

After that show, Rodney and I had a few beers with our mutual friend, TED RAMSEY (who was my roommate in college).¹ Rodney and I hit it off, and became friends. Rodney wanted to write screenplays, while I was trying to supplement my income as a gag writer. He and Ted would play the comedy club in Oceanside, "Comedy Nite," and stay at my place instead of the club's "comedy condo." Other times, I would visit him in Hermosa Beach. We would jot down jokes and ideas together on cocktail napkins and paper placemats, wherever we were drinking.


Ron Kovic
There was inspiration everywhere: We watched eager drunks approach women all night in the bars, hearing every pick-up line in existence (many of them ended up in the movie) -- as well as every come-back from the women they were hitting on (many of those are in the movie, as well). We witnessed author Ron Kovic, whose autobiography "BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY" had been turned into a Tom Cruise movie, carry copies of the book in his wheelchair every night into Hennessey's Tavern, where he would use them to pick up women. ("Lucky parapalegic war vets -- they get all the chicks!") Rodney also had a housemate who worked at a print shop and copied one, two and five dollar bills at his job to use on his dates (he said the FBI wasn't interested in small bills, and as long as he didn't make large currency and settled for small amounts, he would never get caught -- which was true, as far as we know -- he wasn't the kind of guy you wanted to stay in touch with). Still, it must have been strange for women to see him spend $250 on food and drinks for them at Sushi Roku, and pay the entire tab in $2 bills. Anyway, everybody had a scam.

Beethoven
Universal


Obscenely rich multi-millionaire who couldn't pay union minimums.
At this time, Dave and I weren't working on any scripts. A deal at Universal with Ivan Reitman on a project called "EXCHANGE STUDENT" had collapsed. When we got the job, people had actually warned us that the flunkies at Reitman's company were strange, rude French Canadian a-holes who would flaunt their power by insulting you, or walk out of story meetings with no explanation, leaving you alone in their office to escort yourself out (some assumed it was just a French-Canadian, cultural thing, which became the inspiration for our Bachelor Tip #79); but we didn't even garner that much respect -- instead, the richest people in movies called us in for a big story conference at Universal Studios where they demanded a complete rewrite of our script -- for no pay.² We probably should have reported them to the WGA, but we just walked away (if you can call refusing to work for free "walking away" -- and we even had to walk past studio tour buses full of tourists taking photos of our broke asses trudging half a mile back to the studio parking lot). Our agent said he was proud of us, but we weren't taking some grand ethical stand -- we literally couldn't afford to work free for three months on a screenplay, because we'd already spent what little they gave us for the first draft and we were out of rent and food money! So we filed for unemployment insurance to bring in some sort of income, and worked on a spec.

After the EDD checks ran out, Dave took a job managing an apartment building while I got weekend work through another writer named STEVE GRIEGER at his day job, helping developmentally disabled people live independently at a place called the Home of Guiding Hands. On weekdays, I supplemented this by writing jokes with Rodney for Gabe Kaplan, and submitting material to Jay Leno and Rick Dees... making just enough to live in a tiny one-bedroom house in Oceanside, if I didn't do anything all week (like eat).

Sometimes I would visit Rodney in Hermosa Beach to write jokes, and we started writing movie ideas for fun, as well. Because it was a lark, the ideas I had were everything that I was told not to do in pitches, story meetings and production notes (like by the assholes with Reitman, for instance): The hero slept with a LOT of women and was unrepentant (which was always met with the note, "BE MORE LIKEABLE!"); He had a job in TV ("NO SHOW BUSINESS STORIES -- BE RELATABLE!"); Over the course of the story, he would turn to the camera and give bachelor tips to the audience ("DON'T TALK TO THE CAMERA!"); And his experiences would play out in the form of comic book vignettes during the story as a superhero's journey ("ANIMATION IS TOO EXPENSIVE!").

RodneyANOTHER RODNEY STAND-UP STORY: In the late 1990s Mark Wahlberg was known as "Marky Mark," and he was a popular rapper with young middle class kids (known more for ripping off his shirt and for showing his Calvin Klein underwear than for singing -- but hey, whatever works). He was appearing in his last tour before becoming a full-time actor, at the Coach House in Orange County, CA. For some reason, the promoter decided that standup comics would be good opening acts for Marky Mark. This was an incorrrect asumption, as the entire concert hall was filled with what seemed like thousands of squealing 12-year-old girls. The first comedian, a black guy, got up and tried to do a joke about the differences between black people and white people. He even said the word "pussy." It was greeted with complete silence. After a beat, he raised his hands and said, "Good night," and walked offstage. This left Rodney to fill an hour before Marky could go on. At this point in Rodney's career, he didn't have a lot of material aimed at 12-year-old girls. Removing the filthier stuff, he had about eight minutes -- now he was going to have to stretch. The announcer introduced him and he walked out to no applause. But being Rodney, he plowed ahead. Surveying the crowd, he asked, "Any golf fans out there?" Again, no response, just silence. He dipped his head and pointed to the bald spot on the back of his scalp. "Does it look to you like somebody took a driver and knocked a divot out of the back of my head, and it landed here?" He lifted his had back up, pointing to a thicker patch of hair hanging on over his forehead. A thousand teenaged girls surveyed his thinning hairline and screamed, "Eeeeeyewwwww!!!!!!!!" They started booing mercilessly through their retainers and chucking ice cubes. Unlike the first comic, Rodney stayed onstage, taking their jeers, insults, ice cubes and lemon peels for his allotted time. As it turns out, coddling abusive 12-year-old girls is good training for dealing with film executives.

Rodney and I fleshed out the jokes and situations, and eventually characters and storyline emerged. It was becoming a sort of a satire of those "How To Pick Up Chicks" books and videos ("DON'T SATIRIZE YOUR OWN FILM!"— ©1993 by Joe Medjuck, who had a career because Bill Murray would wisecrack and satirize his own films), and we had a great time coming up with 'Bachelor Tips' that the main character would give to the audience -- which we envisioned as similar to the "Crimestoppers Textbook" section of a DICK TRACY Sunday comic, in which the action would be stopped, and panels with tips for crimefighting were inserted, almost like visual footnotes. We already had the tip of spraying the Lemon Pledge over the door before a date, and then we thought of a bunch more. I still remember Rodney coming up with the "lift-up-the-hips deal" (Bachelor Tip #22) at Rock'n Sushi in Hermosa Bach and laughing for the entire drive home (I still think in the "Me Too" age that "she raised her hips, your honor," will be used one day as a defense in court). Another one about the unpredictable spray direction of pee after sex could never be incorporated into the script, although the Farrelly's used it a few years later to pretty good effect in "ME, MYSELF AND IRENE."


Read "BM" scenes as they appeared in "LIMERENCE".
To give the script a structure, the framework for the story would be from a previous script by Dave and I that our agents hadn't liked, called "LIMERENCE" (a new-age psychological term for obsessive love).³ (You can read sections of that script that were incorporated into the finished film, at right). The main character in "LIMERENCE" (who we first meet as a fetus, trying to crawl back into the womb) is obsessed with a disinterested woman. She eventually moves into his house and dates his friends, and he can hear them having sex through a mutual bedroom wall. He then fakes louder sex with his date, and it escalates until they destroy the house. Our agents felt the main character was way too pitiful in his obsession (it was of course the closest I ever got to writing about myself in a screenplay)... So what we did was change the main character from an under-confident man obsessed with one woman into an over-confident man obsessed with EVERY woman. We named him "Ted," after the guy who introduced us. Instead of a failed artist, Ted would be a successful TV executive who produces popular entertainment. Instead of creating bad drawings, Ted expresses himself in animated fantasies in which he stars as "BachelorMan" and battles a female supervillain in a storyline that would mirror and comment on the main plot. We also improved the character of the love interest (now named "Heather," after someone who had just rejected me). Instead of mooching off the hero, living in his home and sleeping with his friends, the character now moved into the apartment next door, with their bedroom walls still adjacent. She takes a job as a phone sex operator -- so there were more comic possibilities to play with -- and the sounds of sex that Ted hears through the wall aren't real (although she still does date Ted's rival to drive him crazy in the Third Act).

It broke every 'studio note' rule I could think of, and we had a great time writing it. Meanwhile, Dave and I worked on the spec script instead of the Reitman rewrite... and then something completely unexpected happened:

VarietyVarietyInterscope nabs spec 'Figure': In the toon tradition of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," Interscope has purchased "Father Figure," a script by Jeff Hause and David Hines, about a man who discovers his dad's a cartoon character. The film, a co-production between Interscope and Storyline Prods., will mix live action with animation. The script was sold by Steve White and David Warden of Warden White & Kane for $150,000 against $350,000, with bonuses bringing the total to $500,000, sources said... It's the second sale for the scribes, who set up "Exchange Student" with Ivan Reitman at Universal. The scribes live in Oceanside, and divide their time between writing and caring for patients with Alzheimer's disease.

-- Michael Fleming (Daily Variety, April 12, 1994)


Steve "Don't Do That" White
My beleaguered agent
Dave and I actually sold our next original script -- for a lot of money, so screw your free rewrite, Ivan Reitman! Interscope Communications bought our spec screenplay called "FATHER FIGURE," and the publicity got us a lot of attention in Hollywood. It was based on a pitch we made for a Chevy Chase movie at Warner Brothers in 1991. We had proposed that Chevy would be going through a mid-life crisis with wild physical manifestations, which turned out to be because he was actually the son of Bugs Bunny, who had escaped into reality through an experimental 3-D process. Warner Brothers loved the pitch and took the idea to Looney Tunes animation legend Chuck Jones, who said coldly, "Bugs Bunny would not fuck a human," thus ending the project... so at the urging of the late, great Scott Nimerfro at Schuler-Donner, we made up our own cartoon character, called him "Wacky Wolf," and wrote it, anyway. As we revised the script for Interscope ("make him more likeable," "no voice-over", "that animation sequence is too expensive," etc.), our agent, STEVE WHITE, complained that we had nothing to follow it up with.


Ivy Isenberg
My beleaguered flirting target
Meanwhile, the "BACHELORMAN" screenplay I was writing for fun with Rodney was actually starting to come together. We had been assembling gags and scenes for quite a while, and had a lot of material. (For instance, an EIGHT PAGE scene of Ted buying a jockstrap, in which he's embarrassed because it's a "small" size -- and has to explain to everyone that it's the size of the waist, not the cup -- so yeah, it needed editing.) Rodney didn't have an agent and was constantly on me to submit the script to mine.

At the same time, Steve was pestering Dave and I for material to sell while we had some heat, as we hadn't written anything new in at least a year. So I showed an extremely rough draft of "BACHELORMAN" to Steve, expecting to hear the usual "Don't do that" after I did something inappropriate, but he FLIPPED. Suddenly everything that had been wrong in "LIMERENCE" seemed to WORK in this new unrepentant formula! Everybody in the office loved the script, and they didn't even recognize the story as the screenplay they had rejected a couple of years before. Steve left messages on my answering machine, reading me my own bits and laughing. Recognizing that everybody who had read the draft was a guy, Steve had his receptionist, Ivy Isenberg (who I flirted with constantly, to no great effect), read it to get a feminine view, and she liked it, too.⁴

Everybody agreed the script for "BACHELORMAN" had rough edges (half of it was written on cocktail napkins when we were drunk). So at this point, DAVE HINES joined us to tighten up the story and sharpen the gags and characters. We added a platonic female best friend to show the guy wasn't a complete misogynist, and a rival at work who uses more deceitful, disrespectful tactics to get women in bed and then blows them off, unlike our hero. I was starting to feel unhappy with this direction -- that we were starting to apologize for our hero instead of revel in his adventures, and it somehow made him seem less admirable. We were highlighting the flaws instead of the strengths. Still, everybody at the agency read the changes and loved the script, and we agreed on a release date. Steve notified the studios and production agencies who knew us that a new Hause and Hines script was coming, and that it was their funniest, yet.

We polished and revised the script until 2am on the night before the announced release date; We made 28 copies of the screenplay on the copy machine at Rodney's day job, in Jay Thomas's office at the Power 106-FM "Morning Zoo;" We attached a cover page that I drew up (at right), and delivered it to our agents, where the couriers were already waiting from various studios, to take the scripts to the appointed execs; bids would start at half a million. But it was not to be...

Beethoven


Rodney, Jeff and Dave
Reitman hated it. Brillstein-Grey hated it. Lauren Shuler-Donner hated it (although Scott Nimerfro added that he still thought we were the funniest gag men in Hollywood... while rejecting it). Kevin Moreton hated it -- and he set up "FATHER FIGURE!" When the development people read the script, suddenly all of the rules that we had felt so good about breaking were back in place again. Even if development execs had liked it (which I'm told was not a common occurrence), they weren't going to take it to their bosses and get lectured to about the rules, themselves. The screenplay was universally rejected, and the coverage that those execs wrote on it was killing off any chance of somebody else wanting it. It generated no bids, no options, and exactly one courtesy meeting, in which the guy said that we should make the characters more like Sam and Diane on Cheers. (Yeah, we could do that... or we could just watch Cheers, because they already have Sam and Diane.)

With the studios and major production companies out, and no big paychecks forthcoming, our agents (and Dave and I) basically lost interest in "BACHELORMAN," and we moved on to other projects. Over the next year or so, I would swing by the office of 'Warden, White & Associates,' if only to keep us in their thoughts. On one occasion, Dave Warden was getting yelled at over the phone, and he was wincing with each scream. After hanging up, he rolled his eyes and said, "BACHELORMAN call." Soon there was nobody left to send it to.

In the next year, the Interscope deal fell apart, too, but Dave and I moved on -- with enough money to live on for once, but with little inspiration -- we started a ghost screenplay that soon fizzled, and a spy story that fizzled, and then I started taking drawing classes in Hollywood at the Animation Guild, often sleeping on Rodney's couch. Finally, I moved up to North Hollywood with the final $100,000 check from Interscope, and started a salaried job as a content producer writing jokes for Sony's SW Network with Rodney -- for some decent money, too, which took some of the sting out of all the rejection occuring around me.

More

  • The C. THOMAS HOWELL ERA: Ponyboy ponies up!
  • The ROBERT DOWNEY, JR. ERA (lasting about ten minutes): A drunken Downey wakes up in a neighbor's house and we wake up without a lead actor.
  • The CHARLES WESSLER ERA: A Farrelly farts into Rodney's hand, and Wessler blows hot air.
  • The INDIE END-AROUND: Once everybody has said no, Rodney finds another way.
  • More


  • Poopmoose
    PEZ DISPENSER: In a scene that remained relatively intact from the first cocktail-napkin draft, Ted seduces a woman who is feeling old on her birthday by offering her a common symbol of the boomer generation's collective childhoods -- a PEZ candy (we witnessed something like this actually happen at Hennessey's Tavern). When PEZ proved too expensive to license for the film, the candy dispenser was switched to something called a Poopmoose, in which candy drops out of the rear end of a wooden moose when you lift the tail (eyew); Nobody had ever heard of a Poopmoose, let alone remembered it from their childhoods, thus ruining the point of the scene -- but whatever, we weren't sued. (I wish we would've kept the wax lips stuff in the bedroom -- gives the scene some personality compared to the typical 'she-kisses-her-way-down-under-the-covers' scene.)
  • SINGLE MOM: The first few versions of the script had Ted go out with more women, but as time went on (and the budget went down) many scenes and characters were dropped, condensed or combined -- which somehow made it more palatable to development people. (I guess an unintended result of combining characters was that it seemed like Ted was pursuing ongoing relationships rather than having one-night stands.) Anyway, this sequence was in an early draft but got dropped completely -- I don't remember why. These scenes were probably too expensive and complicated for just a short series of gross-out jokes with no plot or character development, and the woman and son never return... but a few years after the film's release, I brought the rollercoaster gag up to John Putch, he said that he knew a cheap way to film it. Maybe Donna or Sherry could've had a kid and returned in another sequence. Oh well, too late....
  • Vitale & Judd
    "I'm in there, baby!"
    SPORTSCASTERS: It wasn't just the scenes with female characters that were condensed and combined. The TCSN salesman played by Blake Clark is actually a conglomeration of real TV sports analysts and commentators such as Dick Vitale, John Madden, and Marv Albert, who were to give Ted plays and strategies to try on women at the sports channel -- but they were all cut along with the budget (including a depressed Chick Hearn wearing a thong on "Celebrity Axe-Throwing," because of an ambiguous clause in his contract: "And the Jello's jigglin'"). In fact, the entire sports channel was scaled back drastically -- you'd think more people would have noticed that all of the meetings at a supposedly high-tech sports TV network featured poster boards with wooden pointers and 25-inch TVs rolled in on high school-style AV carts (I even played with having Ted comment on it, to make it a joke).
  • TED DAVIS CONDOM PSA: As time went on, we cut a more and more of Ted talking directly to the camera, too. The sequence features a woman named Karen ("Sherry Kappleman" in the film -- I assume we changed it because our producer had the same name); Anyway, the full Karen sequence featured dinner in the kitchen, necking in the den, and sex in the bedroom -- and it was way too long, so this scene was cut out of the middle (now we go from eating straight to sex, just the way I like it). Again, I wish we would've kept the dialogue in the bedroom though -- it's kinda' funny, and has a different feel than the typical sex scene while it eases us into the superhero fantasy.

  • RIP, ultimate BachelorMan!
    MENTOR MATCH: The TV show that Ted and Gordie watch, "THEN CAME TREE," was obviously a stand-in for the seventies TV show "KUNG FU," starring David Carradine. ("Tree" was supposedly the illegitimate son of Richard Roundtree, the original "Shaft.") In the original screenplay, Ted and his friends constantly argue over which movie mentor was better: Lou Gossett Jr. ("AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN"), Mr. Miage, ("KARATE KID") or Master Po ("KUNG FU"). It results in Ted's big comeback show at the sports network.
  • FINALLY: At one point, James "The Coburn" Coburn was to have appeared at Ted's wedding to teach Kelly and Artie the move we named after him, in the last scene. Coburn and Rodney had met in 1999 when Coburn appeared briefly in "BEHIND THE SCREAMS," a movie Rodney was acting in. Unfortunately, Coburn had stopped acting by 2001, because he was suffering from severe rheumatoid arthritis that had crippled his hands and made even standing painful (he died in November of 2002, just a couple of months before the film premiered). So Coburn was replaced by "Tree," the main character of Ted and Gordie's favorite TV show, "Then Came Tree." (Coburn was inserted into the script during the Wessler era; before that, Ted gave PEZ dispensers to his single friends, Artie and Kelly, as gifts at the wedding -- Gordie was married.¹¹)

    Again, it's more believable that Coburn would have been in an L.A. restaurant carrying a PEZ than a fully-costumed Kung Fu character from a 70's TV show carrying a Poopmoose, but you work with what you have.
  • Video


    The Man... the Balls... the Legend.
    ¹—Ted, nicknamed "Big Balls" (because of his act, I swear, which included large prop testicles -- which were later inflatable) was my roommate in the dorms at Long Beach State, and he became a comedian who performed around the country with Rodney. He can also be seen in the "TesteFlex" TV commercial in the film, doing part of his act. The ad wasn't written by us -- it was a video promotion for his stand-up act, and it was inserted where "Full Contact Golf" was supposed to go before the gag was stolen.

    ²—The Reitman crew had been living off "GHOSTBUSTERS" for ten years, creating lowest-common-denominator shit like "STOP OR MY MOM WILL SHOOT," and were known all over town for pulling stuff like this. But Reitman, himself, probably had no idea how much those jerks hurt his reputation (and Quebec's) with writers. (This excludes Michael Chinich, however, who was a great guy -- and not French-Canadian, as far as I know -- although he did turn down "BACHELORMAN" and we never heard from him again, so... nah, he was still a great guy.) We had met in the studio parking lot that morning with Chinich and an exec with Universal named Carr D'Angelo (another great guy), who told us the film was greenlit and they planned to open in the "BEETHOVEN" slot (their first two films with "Beethoven" the Saint Bernard were moderate hits as springtime releases). We then walked over to Medjuck's office and when he finally walked in, he informed us he was disappointed and wanted it to feel more of a kids movie -- like "an After School Special" (his actual note). Goldberg then acted out a gag he said he'd just thought of, in which the hero is getting picked on by a bully until our teen-alien exchange student steps out of some bushes behind the hero and morphs into something threatening. The bully runs off in fear and the hero smirks proudly at how tough he must be -- not realizing the alien had saved him... and then Medjuck scoffed and accused Goldberg of repeating a bit from the last "BEETHOVEN" movie, just substituting the dog with the alien (so they were even dicks to each other). We were kind of disappointed that we had to make it like an "After School Special," but it was their project, so we initially agreed to do it...until they called our agent and demanded the free rewrite. We turned it down, and a few days later we had lunch with D'Angelo, who just threw his hands up and asked, "What the f@^% was that meeting about?" We could only shrug, offer, "Because they're French-Canadians?" and eat our last free business lunch for a while.

    ³—Everybody said "BACHELORMAN" was an offensive, rule-breaking screenplay -- but it was a actually very traditional script, with obvious film and literary influences:


      "OF HUMAN BONDAGE"
      prime comedy material!
      A) It might surprise fans of classic English literature (and quite a few film critics) that the origins of "BACHELORMAN" are actually rooted in the work of W. Somerset Maugham. The orginal screenplay, "LIMERENCE," was meant to be a modern (1990), comedic take on his 1915 novel called "OF HUMAN BONDAGE." In both stories, the hero is a failed art student who changes disciplines in school and becomes a doctor (a marriage counselor in our story). He then falls in love with a waitress who does not return his feelings, but eventually she moves into his house after getting fired and losing her apartment. Their relationship gets strained, and she starts dating the hero's rival -- both because he's cute, and to torture the hero. In Maugham's novel, the waitress ("Mildred") then wrecks his apartment, destroys his belongings, and burns the securities and bonds. She becomes an unwed mother, a prostitute, contracts syphilis, and then disappears from the story (in the movie version, Bette Davis gets a big death scene and succumbs to tuberculosis -- syphilis wasn't allowed during the Hays code). The hero settles down with a woman he doesn't love, raises a family and learns to settle for mere contentment... not exactly prime comedy material. So our story then veered away from Maugham and played out the relationship. In our version, the hero has to listen to the girl ("Monica") and his rival having sex through an adjoining wall between their bedrooms. In response, he brings home a date and fakes loud sex on his side of the wall, in order to make her jealous. This escalates -- faking orgasms, breaking furniture (played out prety much word-for-word in "BACHELORMAN"), until they eventually destroy the entire building in a fire while consumating their relationship. One of the fireman putting out the blaze then recognizes the naked hero standing near the smoldering ruins of the house and cancels his marriage counseling sessions. The hero, now destitute like her, proposes. At the wedding, he turns to the camera and says, "Never believe anybody who tries to tell you about love -- including me." We couldn't afford to burn down a building in the finished "BACHELORMAN" film, but other than that it plays out pretty much word-for-word with "LIMERENCE." In fact, it's so inspired by "OF HUMAN BONDAGE" that David DeLuise is lucky he didn't have to limp through the entire movie with a clubfoot, and Missi Pyle should be grateful that she didn't have to act out the debilitating effects of syphilis... although she did have one (fantasy) scene in which she was pregnant and had an STD sore -- so Maugham fans can celebrate how we remained true to our source material!


      "HOW TO MURDER YOUR WIFE"
      B) The tone and attitude of the story was derived from old George Axelrod comedies like "THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH," "LORD LOVE A DUCK," and -- especially -- "HOW TO MURDER YOUR WIFE." (Even "THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE," now that I think about it.) Axelrod was kind of a genius at portraying male panic through fantasy and satire. In "HOW TO MURDER YOUR WIFE" (which Axelrod wrote and produced), Jack Lemmon plays "Stanley Ford," the ultimate bachelor who creates a spy-themed newspaper comic called "Bash Brannigan," that he acts out with models and actors, to ensure realism. Ford lives in a stylish high-end bachelor pad/townhouse in New York City with a personal valet/butler (Terry Thomas) who talks to the camera and explains the advantages of the relationship-free lifestyle: "This is Mr. Ford's living room. Notice, if you will, the complete absence of the so-called 'woman's touch.' No gay little chintzes; No big, gunky lamps. In fact, everything masculine and perfect. In fact, the sort of place you could've had -- if only you had the sense not to get married." (If that sounds like a "Bachelop Tip" in our film, it was very intentional.) One night at a bachelor party (played like a wake), a beautiful Italian stripper who speaks no English pops out of a cake wearing a whipped cream bikini (Verna Lisi, whose character isn't even given a name during the film)... and Ford wakes up married to "The Girl" the next morning. She moves into his flat, replaces all the leather furniture with plush, frilly stuff, fills his bathroom with beauty products and lingerie, forces his butler to quit, gets him kicked out of his exclusive men's club, expands his waistline by fifteen pounds with fatty foods she cooks for him, and finally arranges for her mother to move in from Italy. Ford's spy comic becomes a family strip called "The Brannigans," in which his spy hero "Bash" becomes a bumbling Dagwood Bumstead-type husband. Distraught at his state, Ford kills the wife off in the comic strip: He drugs her with "goofballs" and buries her alive in "the goop from the gloppitta-gloppitta machine" at the construction site next to their home, so that Brannigan can resume his career as a secret agent. When Lisi sees the comic strip, she realizes that her husband doesn't love her and leaves in the night, moving back to Italy... but when people read the comic and notice that Ford's real wife has disappeared, he is accused of murdering her. When nobody believes Ford in court, he changes his story: "I ask you to acquit me! Acquit me on the grounds of justifiable homicide. And not for my sake... for yours." He is aquitted by an all-male jury when they realize how terrified their wives will be if they set Lemmon's character free. His butler moves back in and his lifesyle goes back to normal -- but Lisi returns and is waiting for Ford as they get home. The butler encourages Ford to finish her off, since he can't be tried twice for the same crime, as it would constitute double jeopardy... but Ford realizes he loves his wife more than his bachelor lifestyle and reconciles with her... and the butler even falls for her mom.

    ⁴—Ivy Isenberg is now an extremely successful casting agent. Back in the early nineties, she graduated from USC's Film School and then got a job as the receptionist at "Warden, White & Associates," where she battled with another assistant, Keith, to the point that he quit and became an emergency operator at a suicide hotline because it was less stressful (sounds like a joke, but it's true). She then became and agent herself and represented actors before going into casting at MGM Studios from 2001 through 2006. She now runs Isenberg Casting, a full service Casting Company that began in 2007 and casts Seth Green's Emmy award winning series, "ROBOT CHICKEN." Other clients include Sam Raimi's company Ghost House Pictures, and Cartoon Network's "ADULT SWIM." Around 2005, she remembered a treatment of mine called "GENDER BENDER" and wanted to develop it into a feature, but she started winning multiple casting awards and I got married and moved to Napa, so it never happened. IT'S STILL AVAILABLE, IVY!

    -- ©2007 by Jeff Hause   
    Revised, 2019   


    Home