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The Stepford Wives

The Stepford Wives (1975)
Something strange is happening in the town of Stepford.
Bryan Forbes

Writing credits
Ira Levin (Novel)
William Goldman (screenplay)

Katharine Ross – Joanna Eberhart
Paula Prentiss – Bobbie Markowe
Peter Masterton – Walter Eberhart
Nanette Newman – Carol Van Sant
Tina Louise – Charmaine Wimperis
Carol Eve Rossen – Dr. Fancher (as Carol Rossen
William Prince – Ike Mazzard
Carole Mallory – Kit Sundersen
Toni Reid – Marie Axhelm
Judith Baldwin – Patricia Cornell
Barbara Rucker – Mary Ann Stravros
George Coe – Claude Axhelm
Franklin Cover – Ed Wimperis
Robert Fields – Raymond Chandler
Michael Higgins – Mr. Cornell

Review by Gary F Taylor

The Stepford Wives (1975)

The Perfect Wife,
She is a meticulous housekeeper, flawless cook, thrifty shopper, adoring mother, perfect wife, always well groomed, always ready to please. But not, of course, a career woman, particularly if her success makes her husband feel belittled. Even today, more than thirty years after Ira Levin’s bestseller startled the reading public, we are likely to refer to such a woman as “a Stepford wife”–a creature who seems both perfect and perfectly shallow.

The 1974 film version follows the Levin novel quite closely. Joanna Eberhart is a beautiful young woman of the era in which the women’s moment had come of age: intelligent, forthright, and meeting her husband on equal terms. Then she, her husband, and their children move from New York to the small town of Stepford, where she is dismayed to find that most of the neighboring women seem engaged in a competition to have the neatest house, the best-groomed children, the most satisfied husband. Joanna is relieved to find women like herself in newcomers Bobbie and Charmaine, but even so, it seems… odd. So odd that she begins to question her sanity.

The film works on several levels, not the least of which is the macabre sense of humor with which director Byran Forbes endows the film: it is often very funny in a disquieting sort of way, as when Joanna and Bobbie’s efforts to start a women’s group results in a gathering of perfectly manicured women exchanging recipes and comparing floor polishes, or when Joanna and Bobbie accidentally overhear a Stepford couple making love.

But for all the wittiness involved, THE STEPFORD WIVES is rooted in the women’s movement of the 1970s, an era in which “a woman’s place” was hotly debated on a national level. Just what is “a woman’s place?” And to what lengths might men go to keep their women in traditional roles? Unlike many similar films, THE STEPFORD WIVES has tremendous restraint–and moreover a truly exceptional cast. Katherine Ross’ talents were never before or after so well used, and Paula Prentiss gives perhaps her single most memorable performance here as Joanna’s friend Bobbie. The supporting cast is equally fine, most particularly so with Patrick O’Neal as the unnerving “Diz” and a nice turn by Tina Louise as Charmaine.

Ultimately, THE STEPFORD WIVES is something of a “one trick pony:” it works best on a first viewing, when you don’t know what’s coming, and on subsequent viewings the film tends to read as unnecessarily slow. Even so, it is an interesting little cultural artifact, an “almost classic” that is sure to give you pause the next time your better half announces he is joining a men’s club.


The Stepford Wives (1975)

Review by Wayne Malin

Well-done, entertaining thriller,
Possible spoilers, but you probably already know the ending. Katharine Ross, hubby and kids move from NYC to Stepford–a picture perfect town where all the women seem to be absorbed in housework. She slowly begins to realize that something is very wrong…

A huge hit in its day, this film is dated but still holds up. Some people might see the film as anti-female but, really, the men come off very badly. And they are the villains. The acting is good–Ross (whatever happened to her?) is excellent as is Paula Prentiss as her VERY energetic best friend Bobbi. Also interesting to see Tina Louise (very good), Dee Wallace and Mary Stauart Masterson (as a little girl–no dialogue) in the mid 70s. The film isn’t really scary (mostly because everybody knows the ending) and a little bit long, but it’s still well worth catching.

Also, personally, this film had a defining moments for me. I’m gay, and I saw the movie when I was 13 at a theatre. I didn’t know I was gay…I just knew there was something different about me. When they show Ross’ robot double with the HUGE breasts clearly visible my immediate reaction was “Ewwwwwwwww!” So, this movie helped me come out!

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70s Films

A tour through the great and not so great films of the seventies The seventies saw a huge change in styles and genres from the advent of the slasher horror movies like Halloween and the blockbuster summers films started by Jaws. More...

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