By Love Possessed (1961)

It was the one night stand that made him a better person and fixed all that was wrong in the lives of those closest around him! (Except for his son’s girlfriend who committed suicide, but that was necessary for his personal growth, so that worked out, too!)

Arthur is a lawyer who is partners in a firm with his best friend Julius and his father-in-law, Noah. Arthur is a pillar of the community, a guy who believes in the black letter law of what is right and wrong, even to the point that he would rather get his crazy client acquitted for murder than have her convicted so that she could get mental health treatment!

The incident doesn’t play any real part in the film, but merely serves to illustrate the gulf that exists between Arthur and his typically clean cut yet brooding early 1960s son. Arthur insists on doing his job as a defense attorney, but his son Warren, who has every reason to hate his miserable existence, what with his wealthy upbringing and the torturous life he leads at Harvard, believes his father should do what’s best for the woman. Because like all moneyed college punks, he knows everything about life already by banging all the sluts at Smith College!

Arthur loves Warren, but somehow can’t get through to him. If only some terrible crisis could befall them that would bring them close together! Thank god then for the town tramp Veronica!

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It is only after Veronica (who has an obnoxious propensity to refer to herself in the third person) cries rape against Warren following a night of what the film calls “carnal knowledge” that Arthur really starts to connect with his son. Because he’s going to defend Warren!

But it’s not just the fact that his child is now a client that Arthur suddenly realizes that life isn’t just the law and that sometimes there really isn’t either a right or wrong. It’s that one night stand he had with his best friend’s wife Marjorie (Lana Turner from Peyton Place) that really enables him to grow as a person and realize that he loves his wife and his kid! (That this happened on the very same night that Warren and Veronica were exchanging carnal knowledge only serves to demonstrate how expertly structured the film is for maximum impact and more importantly, maximum laughs.)

And before all you women’s libbers with short haircuts and who wear earth tone colored slacks get up in arms about what a misogynistic goon Arthur is for using poor old Marjorie’s cooch as a bizarre form of therapy, Marjorie herself gets a dose of self improvement as well, finally getting the courage up to walk out on her crippled up husband Julius!

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And before any of high and mighty types condemn both Marjorie and Arthur for humping all over the trust that Julius placed in them, it is only when Marjorie says she is leaving that Julius finally breaks down and says that he still loves her, despite pushing her away all the years since the accident that somehow left him walking with a limp and ever more heinous, a limp crotch! And their marriage is instantly saved! Really, he ought to be sending those two a “Thanks for Cuckolding Me” card!

You know who else benefited when Arthur was helping his handicap friend by banging the crap out of his wife while he was off in Washington on a tax case? His old father-in-law who runs the law firm!

Lately, there’s some issues of missing assets in the trusts that old Noah has been managing. Arthur suspects that the old man has finally lost it and is an incompetent old dolt who needs to be put out to pasture. What a relief it is then that Noah is just embezzling all the money to pay off a bad business deal from 30 years ago! And with Arthur’s newly discovered humanity, instead of turning him in like he would of before going down on Marjorie, he’s willing to look the other way! Is it too much too soon to nominate this guy for a Nobel Peace Prize?

Don’t get me wrong though, Arthur isn’t an infallible saint. Warren’s girlfriend Helen (she was raised by Noah) comes to the law firm and wistfully looks through her safety deposit box and tells Arthur she’s leaving. He asks where’s she’s going and she says she’s not going to anywhere, but away from somewhere, the word “suicide” flashing in neon above her creepily vacant smile as she mentions that Warren told her he didn’t love her.

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One bottle of cleaning fluid later and Arthur beats himself up for five seconds before dealing with the fact that Warren has gone and jumped bail on his rape charge! Thanks goodness he has all that compassion and inner strength from sexing up that hot blonde the night before to draw on!

With Efram Zimbalist, Jr., Jason Robards, Turner, and George Hamilton, everyone in the film spews forth with appropriate conviction the often times ridiculous dialogue (“your generation doesn’t have a monopoly on sex, legal or illegal – you just talk about it more” Arthur snidely tells Warren during one heated exchange) and the cheating, rape allegation, suicide, and embezzlement are suitably lurid (and frequently punctuated loudly and without subtly by Elmer Bernstein’s very soapy score) to keep things interesting despite the fact that everything seems to get better only after Arthur and Marjorie commit adultery. Perhaps realizing how silly it all turns out to be, the film itself merely gives up in the end without actually resolving any of the outstanding issues or anyone getting their comeuppance for their misdeeds.

A moronically entertaining ode to a fleeting, bygone era where a one night stand was somehow both filthy and a path to self-actualization that helped everyone who felt its dirty, secretive caress.

© 2013 MonsterHunter

One thought on “By Love Possessed (1961)

  1. I love your take on the movie, it’s spot on! I lost it when Majorie tells Julius “…and yes, you are a cripple!” Definitely a fantastic view on how things used to be in Hollywoodland-

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