Classic Film Guide

Arrangement, The (1969) - full review!

It's ironic that Kirk Douglas's frequent co-star Burt Lancaster starred in a similar drama about a corporate executive's mid-life crisis (the origins of this term now used frequently for such men?) one year earlier titled The Swimmer (1968). Both films are unusual, introspective and lack wide appeal, the latter being superior to this overlong melodrama that was based on the popular novel by Elia Kazan (America, America (1963)), who also produced and directed it; still, it contains a certain truth if one is patient enough to wait almost two hours for it. The movie is rated R for several snippets of nudity, mostly at a distance and/or through sheer curtains except for a beach scene featuring Douglas with his character's mistress, second-billed Faye Dunaway, who each cover up the other's most private parts with their hands. It's interesting to note that frequent onscreen "bad girl" Dunaway would earn her only Best Actress Oscar seven years later playing a similar role as network executive William Holden's muse-mistress in Network (1976).

Eddie Anderson (Douglas) is a rainmaker advertising executive that appears to have everything going for him including a beautiful loyal wife Florence (Deborah Kerr) who tolerates his extramarital indiscretions, though she realizes that her husband's relationship with Gwen (Dunaway) was something more than just a physical one. Gwen had helped Eddie realize that he'd sold his soul to the devil for his multimillion dollar client, a tobacco company whose cigarette advertisements play constantly on every radio and television station. So, not liking who'd he'd become, Eddie attempts suicide. He survives and then refuses to go back to work; his wife thinks it's all about Gwen, but at that point Eddie hadn't seen her for more than a year. His mistress had become too demanding, so Eddie had discarded her when she'd refused to be controlled by him.

The plot develops slowly and the story is told out of sequence at times, featuring odd and intentionally comical edits, but we eventually learn about Eddie's other demons. For instance, his immigrant father Sam (Richard Boone) had been a successful merchant that fought with Eddie's mother over her son's education. Sam had always wanted Eddie to assume the family business but his protective mother had sent him to become college educated instead. But as Sam is dying, Eddie is the one that his father wants by his side. He's reunited with Gwen, who's living with a dependable man that protects her (though she gets her sex elsewhere) and her newborn child, which looks a little like Eddie. Additionally, the Anderson's lawyer Arthur (Hume Cronyn) manipulates Eddie during his vulnerable time to gain financial advantage for Florence, for whom the lawyer carries a secret torch. There are other characters, but most will recognize Harold Gould plays Florence's therapist Dr. Leibman and Michael Murphy as the "last rites" Father Draddy.

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