“In Hollywood, an equitable divorce settlement means each party getting fifty percent of the publicity.” Lauren Bacall, movie actress.
It’s Academy Awards season. What better time to see how movies have handled divorce through the years? A popular topic since the advent of silent movies, A Bill of Divorcement (1922) was one of the first. Ten years later the remake starred John Barrymore and Katherine Hepburn and sound. The movie made Hepburn an instant star.
Divorce movies-comedies, dramas, foreign filmshave been made by the dozens in the decades since. They have covered custody battles, fights over property, anger and revenge-just about everything divorcing couples fight about.
In 1961 the Italians took a turn in Divorzio All Italiana. Marcello Mastrioani concocted an intricate plan to divorce his wife so he could marry his much younger and prettier cousin. It didn’t end up the way he had planned.
Debbie Reynolds and Dick Van Dyke teamed up in a silly comedy in Divorce American Style (1967), an enjoyable example of why Reynolds and Van Dyke were so popular during the 60s and 70s.
Things started to get more serious in the ensuing decades. Kramer v. Kramer (1979) starred Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep in an emotional battle over their young son. It won five Oscars and poignantly captured the impact of adult anger on children. Young Billy (played by eight year old Justin Henry) will tug at your heart strings.
Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas went to battle in the War of the Roses (1989). A comedy? A drama? A realistic look at divorce? Probably all three. This dark comedy depicts the lengths (depths?) to which some people will go to win.
I Am Sam (2001), although technically not about divorce, explores the love between a learning disabled father (Sean Penn) and his young daughter (Dakota Fanning) and his battle against a state agency’s efforts to take her away from him simply because he is disabled. The love between father and daughter and their sometime role reversals due to their intellectual differences makes I Am Sam among the best films of that decade. The soundtrack of Beatles’ cover songs is equally well done.
The 2012 Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film, A Separation was made in Iran, centers on the travails of an unhappy Iranian couple grappling with all the same issues American couples deal with, and proves that people are people all around the world. Languages, culture and governments may be different, but people are people. Take time out-see a movie.
“Dahling, I am an excellent housekeeper. Every time I get divorced, I keep the house.” Zsa Zsa Gabor, movie actress.