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Movies, Television and Broadway

What a Way to Go

20th Century Fox 1964

This was my fantasy film! Every young girl has a fantasy about starring in a film that has lavish benefits. Well, how about a half dozen superstar leading men, seventy-two costumes designed by Edith Head with a $500,000 budget, seventy-two hairstylists to match the gowns, and a three-and-a-half-million-dollar gem collection loaned out by Harry Winston of New York. Pretty good perks, I'd say.

I kept pinching myself to see if I would wake from this incredible dream but it was real! Thank heavens! After all I had become the number six box office attraction in America behind Doris Day, Jack Lemmon, Rock Hudson, John Wayne and Cary Grant… what a way to go! And my leading men were certainly not chopped liver. There was Robert Cummings who lived on vitamins, Dean Martin who lived on Scotch, Dick Van Dyke who lived on comedy, Paul Newman who lived, Robert Mitchum who lived on life and Gene Kelly who lived on the perfection of song and dance.

Once filming began my fantasy soon turned to reality! The filming became difficult… for me anyway. I had to adjust to a different leading man every two weeks and this was not easy for every good actor has his or her idiosyncrasies and that at times can become quite disconcerting and sometimes disruptive. It's sort of like having a love relationship with a different man every two weeks. The give and take of the relationships have different boundaries and barriers that must be overcome to insure a compatible relationship, and in my circumstance, a good performance on the screen.

Everyone on the film felt that it would be a blockbuster! Unfortunately, we were all wrong. Ironically, What A Way To Go symbolized the dream of wealth with it's lavishness but the title and symbolism were not prophetic in reality. The film was a dud. But, we would all bounce back. That's what actors do. And some of us came back with a vengeance that could easily be interpreted as a personal commitment to work harder in better projects. The other irony here is that this picture is now, almost 40 years later, considered a cult classic by many.

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Shirley in What a Way to Go
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