I saw "The Couple Takes a Wife" almost 40 years after its first broadcast. It was produced by Universal, a studio that for most of the 1950s and 1960s made very light romantic comedies about "issues threatening the bliss of the heterosexual couple" —mainly, staying a virgin before marriage or not, as Doris Day did in several of those WASP vehicles of hers; or occasionally, the emergence of a "new, professional, and liberated woman", as Abigal Page, the character Paula Prentiss played in Howard Hawks' "Man's Favorite Sport?" In a way, this TV film was a sort of continuation of Abigail Page's life: under a new name (Barbara Hamilton), she is again working for a public relations firm, but she has been happily married for a while and gave birth to two little girls. When the Hamiltons' maid has to go back to Guatemala, Barbara has an idea: they must hire not a maid but a wife (watch the subtle funny faces Prentiss does when she realizes what she has suggested). Of course, the plan backfires, things get thinly complicated (and "sexy"), but following the rules of broadcast TV, light comedy, and the remains of the Hays Code, Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton are too "conventional" —or so she says, but he nods—, faithful to each other, and things have to be worked out. Everybody is too silly in the script by Susan Silver (especially the "hired wife", played by Valerie Perrine), but Silver managed to make me laugh out loud a couple of times. I guess that was the idea... and that was Universal's: to offer a safe, hygienic, good time. In spite of Jerry Paris' invisible direction (or no-more-than adequate, clean, efficient mise-en-screen), Prentiss and Bill Bixby seem to enjoy playing husband and wife. They worked together so well that it's a pity they were not reunited again.
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