The epitome of fluffy 1960s escapism with Shirley MacLaine at her kooky best and a dream cast of leading men sending up their screen images. Add to this a big budget, the most outrageous costumes of an outrageous era, a witty script by Comden and Green that blends romance, satire, slapstick and just a pinch of cynicism. It's big and overblown and all the better for it. And I'm glad to report that it looks fantastic on DVD in widescreen and vibrant colour.
Shirley MacLaine made several screwball comedies in the 60s such as Woman Times Seven, John Goldfarb Please Come Home, and The Bliss Of Mrs Blossom (why isn't that one on DVD???) but What A Way To Go is one of the best. She is helped immeasurably by a galaxy of stars portraying the men in her life - smooth and oily Dean Martin, rubber-faced and loose-limbed Dick Van Dyke, bearded and self-spoofing Paul Newman, surprisingly charming Robert Mitchum, the always delightful Gene Kelly, and a somewhat manic Robert Cummings. As an added treat, the Marx Brothers' old foil Margaret Dumont is wonderfully over-the-top as MacLaine's dragon of a mother. You just don't get casts like that anymore.
Another nice touch is the way several genres of film are spoofed as MacLaine wistfully recalls the best days of each of her marriages. The musical extravaganza with Gene Kelly, in particular, is a real joy. Kelly was over 50 but still had all the moves while MacLaine reminds us what a fantastic dancer she was - with equally fantastic legs. I also loved Paul Newman as the world-weary abstract artist. Many people forget that he made a number of comedies way back then and that he was pretty good in them.
What A Way To Go was not a big hit when it was released, primarily because it was made at a time when the emphasis was on youth and this film was seen as an instant relic that would only appeal to the Doris Day/Rock Hudson crowd. How wrong they were. Forty-odd years on, What A Way To Go is still fresh and funny.