Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Two For the Seesaw


Robert Wise directed this filming of a successful play by William Gibson (no, not the father of cyberspace; he was ten at the time). The stars on the stage were Henry Fonda and Anne Bancroft, her Broadway debut. I’d like to have seen that. Originally it was to star Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor, but it was eventually made with Robert Mitchum and Shirley MacLaine.

I could tell pretty soon that this was not going to be a story for me. Mitchum is a depressed lawyer wandering New York after fleeing Nebraska and his ongoing divorce from his wife of twelve years. Shirley is a “kook” (though she never really seems all that kooky), Gittel Mosca, who is always being taken advantage of by men, and no longer trusts them. (Slightly odd, to me, is that when Mitchum learns her name is Gittel, he asks if she’s Italian. Maybe if you come from Nebraska … well, the fact that she’s Jewish doesn’t faze him, which is good.) They start a relationship, which it is easy to see is doomed. She’s unwilling to accept anything from him, unwilling to open herself. He seems devoted to her … but in the end it is him that causes the breakup, because he can’t get his ex-wife out of his mind. When he doesn’t tell Gittel that the divorce became final two weeks ago, that’s the last straw. It’s all sweet and sad and the acting is good, but it’s not for me. I’m usually bored by people who are endlessly dissecting their relationships. I don’t feel many relationships can survive that.

I will say that this was probably pretty racy for 1962. They are unmarried, almost shacking up. But then, she’s a beatnik, I guess. It’s hard to remember, but a lot of beats didn’t look all that different from anyone else. The guys wore ties and the gals teased their hair and wore heels and petticoats. The “hippest” thing about a jazz party at the beginning is that most of the guys weren’t wearing suit coats, and somebody was beating on those awful bongo drums so typical of that era. Also, she asks him at one point if he is queer. I wonder how often that was said in movies prior to this?