'The Marrying Man' should be annulled


Something definitely went wrong with "The Marrying Man." Neil Simon, who did the script, has written some reasonably heavy material, but this one plays more like tragedy than comedy, and it was apparently intended to be a mix.

There are a few good laughs in the film, but "Marrying Man" should be funnier than it is. It frequently promises to be funny, but the tone is wrong. Most of what goes on here is leaden rather than light.

It could be that the off-screen business affected what was going on on screen. Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin star. She is reported to have said that some of the material wasn't funny. Simon is reported to have walked off and not returned.

True or not, there is something uneven about the film. It isn't funny, it isn't sad, and it isn't sad-funny. It's just there, moving at an almost sluggish pace.

The film begins in (or flashes back to) 1948. Baldwin is Charley Pearl, a toothpaste heir. Basinger is a lounge singer who "belongs" to mobster Bugsy Siegel (Armand Assante). Pearl, a brash young man, doesn't care. He is willing to take his chances because he just has to have this woman. He does, and when Siegel discovers them, on the floor of her dressing room, he arranges a shotgun wedding for the couple.

The millionaire and the singer marry, split, marry, split, marry, split then marry once more. They have four children along the way. He builds a movie studio and loses his fortune. She tires of hearing him say that he has sacrificed everything for her. That's the way it goes.

Simon is said to have gotten the idea for the script when he read that Harry Karl, who later married Debbie Reynolds, had married film actress Marie McDonald four times. That's all he took from them, says Simon. The real Karl-McDonald story might be more interesting.

JTC Simon may also have had Barry Levinson's "Diner" in mind because Pearl's good pals are four guys who bring actual people to mind, Phil Silvers, Sammy Cahn, Tony Martin and Leo Durocher. They're much better company than the guys in "Diner," but even they do little to hasten this film along.

It's not bad. It's just not that good, despite Basinger's presence, despite Baldwin's contribution. It is only fair, however, to add that some of the people who saw the film at an advance screening said they liked it.

Basinger does her own singing in the film. The voice is good. Some of the arrangements are not.

Robert Loggia plays the movie-studio owner who is father to the girl Pearl is engaged to when he meets the singer. It is not one of his better performances.

K? "The Marrying Man" opens here today. It's OK. That's all.

"The Marrying Man"

** A millionaire marries a club singer four times.

CAST: Kim Basinger, Alec Baldwin, Robert Loggia, Elizabeth Shue, Paul Reiser, Fisher Stevens, Peter Dobson, Steve Hytner, Armand Assante

DIRECTOR: Jerry Rees

RATING: R (sex, language, violence)

RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes

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