How To Murder Your Wife

Mr. Blandings and I celebrated our fifteenth anniversary last week. Thank you, but no congratulations necessary; we are just getting started. In a funny twist of fate, a very stylish friend loaned me the movie “How to Murder Your Wife.” The movie was made in 1965, coincidentally, the year Mr. Blandings and I were born. My friend, who would scoff at being termed “stylish,” though she is, thought I might enjoy Jack Lemmon’s apartment in the film.

Whoa. I have been searching the internet for a week, and have contacted our local paper’s movie critic, whom I adore, but to no avail. I cannot find one image other than the movie poster. I do know the film was shot on location in New York, but have no idea if the interiors were a set or not. Richard Sylbert was the production designer and his career is legendary. Think Rosemary’s Baby, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Manchurian Candidate, and, my favorite film of all time, The Graduate. This is the tip of the iceberg.

Anyway, do I give you advice? Well, do I give you advice often? I insist you rent/buy this movie. Insist. I will do my best to describe it with some visual aids, but you really must see it for yourself. (As a disclaimer, I refer here only to the sets. The movie itself is a mass of un-p.c. tongue-in-cheek, women are the death of us kind of stuff. It’s amusing, if you can manage to not over-think it.)

Lemmon’s character is a chic, single, swinging cartoonist who lives in a townhouse in Manhattan. (When we see him in his first adventure he is wearing a turtleneck and dark suit, the jacket of which has red lining.) His little slice of heaven is surrounded by new construction which he tries to ignore. The film begins with his butler, Charles, giving a tour of the place.

Lantern by Charles Edwards.

The entry is the only room on street level, a classic dream of black and white marble floors. Climbing the staircase with the iron railing you can’t help notice the fantastic lantern over-head. Entering the main floor of the townhouse, you are greeted with ebony-stained wood floors, a subtle Empire vignette in the hallway. Zebra rug, leather sofas, big, bold black and white painting over the fireplace.

Miles Redd via Patricia Grey – she has done a fabulous week of zebra.

Billy Baldwin via Patricia Grey, by way of Style Court.

Outside is a terrace that would make Dorothy Draper swoon. Trellis and iron, striped canopies; perfection.

The butler’s pantry is two long walls of ivory lacquered cabinets trimmed in black.

Two walls of cabinets like the box, top. Unbelievable. Boxes, West Elm.

Just to the right is the entry to the master, the doors of which could be by Fornasetti himself.

Screen image courtesy of
If you think bathrooms today are loaded with innovation, you will realize how little progress has been made when you see the bath. Travertine floor and ceiling, sliding doors encasing the sunken marble tub/shower with temperature control and multiple jets.

The bed itself is some kind of brass extravaganza. A mis-step in my book, but when a thing like this show up in a spot like this it makes me question my own taste and not the tastemaker’s. Barcelona chair in the most amazing buttery-camel leather and the most hilarious rickety TV stand and TV that will remind you of your grandmother’s. Pickings must have been slim in this area.

The butler’s room is quintessential English “man” room. Simple, classic, phone by the bed to be on the ever-ready.

OK, he’s a cartoonist, remember? The third floor is his studio. Two levels with soaring vaulted ceilings.

The movie itself is a delight if you like old screwball comedies. Verna Lisi plays the wife in question. The only issue Mr. Blandings had with the plot is why Jack Lemmon wants to get rid of her; she’s gorgeous, wants to fool around all the time, is an amazing cook and speaks no English. “So she’s the perfect wife?” I coyly asked. “No, darling, I have the perfect wife.” I can’t wait for the next fifteen years.

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21 thoughts on “How To Murder Your Wife

  1. OK…I’m off to Netflix! I have a keen eye for set design and I have a vague memory of having seen it, (surely when I was in my bassinet.)
    Now I have to rent it solely to see the butler’s room and the Butlers pantry of white cabinets trimmed in black!
    Congratulations on your Fifteenth Wedding Anniversary…you are still in for the best!

  2. What a sweet hubby you have 😉

    I’m with Halcyon- got to see the Butler’s Pantry and the rest of the apt. Sounds divine!

  3. Halcyon – it won’t disappoint! And thank you for your best wishes – it does seem to get better each year. But we don’t have teenagers, yet!

  4. Jennifer – thanks for your help yesterday, I needed to think outside the “box” so to speak. The Butler’s Pantry? The stuff dreams are made of. I can’t imagine what would happen to it if a tricycle runs into it…

  5. Mrs. B… the house i grew up in had a shower with multiple heads. The house was built in 1900, so there’s not much new in loos.

  6. Congrats on your 15 years!

    Late 50s-60s movies have the most amazing apartments. My favorite is Ingrid Bergman’s London pad in Indiscreet but now you’ve got me so intrigued to see “Murder.”

  7. Mrs. Blandings,
    Happy Anniversary!
    I thought of you when I read Thursday’s NYT (10/25), House & Home, and saw Ted Muehling candlesticks as part of “Best Sellers and Bombs, And What Stores Are Betting On”. You are on top of everything!

  8. Glamorous – thank you, and while all the above is true – he’s gone to Charlotte Moss and the Chicago Merchandise Mart and countless other such spots with me equally graciously. He’s a catch.

  9. Kathleen – thanks for coming by – I hope you like the movie – as I said it’s very un-p.c. The “wife” doesn’t even have a NAME – I’m not kidding. When anyone refers to her it’s as “Mrs. Ford.”

  10. wow! I just ordered it when I read the post and got it today. I’ll watch it tonight.

    By the way, those West Elm lacquered boxes are great in white with black. You are an enabler!
    Thanks again for the tip. Watching very attentively later tonight.

  11. Halcyon – now I’m nervous – hope you love it. As for the enabling – Mr. Blandings is always telling me other people don’t need my help spending their money. Sometimes I can’t help myself.

    Send me your review!

  12. I can’t wait to see it! FYI: William Kiernan is the movie’s set set designer.

    I’ve compiled a long list of films by the way, that people have noted for there set designs. If anyone is interested, I can email it.

  13. This is so funny! Netflicks recommended “How to Kill Your Wife” to me and I thought they were crazy. Now I see that they were right on the money to suggest it to an interior designer. I’m going to go put it in my queue right now!

  14. Absolutely love the lacquered boxes from West Elm. I have several of these in the office as samples. They are done by craftsmen in Vietnam (the style is so recognizable). We handle these for customers as well and so we keep a few samples around in the office – every time I look at them I think about how nice they look. I have a few at home as well, and friends always ask where they came from (to which I reply if you can buy 50 or 100 of them I can tell you 😉 )

  15. The townhouse set(along with most of the interiors-jail, courtroom, etc) was built at Paramount studios and it was said that the actresses husband was on the set constantly as his wife was infatuated with Lemmon

  16. I would just like to say that this apartment in New York was where my Great-Uncle Jimmy Stevens died. The chimney which was built for the movie on location collapsed on him and another fellow. They were on set after hours on the balcony. My Uncle was an actor who had not made it big, but was to be in the movie, in a small role.

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