If you are a fan of 1960s era dark comedies (aka the golden age of macabre laughs) you couldn’t watch Brett Kavanaugh’s histrionic display of self-serving rage on Thursday without thinking about the “gloppitta-gloppitta” machine and the Button Defense.
“How To Murder Your Wife,” was one of the darker comedies released in 1965. Its own marketing campaign lauded the film as “One Of The Most Brutal, Fiendish, Sadistic, Bloodcurdling Comedies Of Our Time!”
Naturally I loved it, but I was 17 and, well, you know teenage boys, right Brett?
Anyway, Jack Lemmon played Stanley Ford, confirmed bachelor and cartoon artist with the hottest syndicated strips in America, the adventures of secret agent “Bash Brannagon.”
Long story short, after a night of drunken revelry and subsequent blackout (funny how that happens) Ford wakes up in the morning to discover himself married. The new mystery woman in his life (Italian actress Virna Lisa) speaks no English but she’s beautiful and solicitous to a fault.
Domestic life soon turns Ford fat and complacent, and in a Walter Mitty moment of spite, he produces a strip in which alter ago Brannigan murders his wife, deposits her body in a cement mixer (the gloppitta-gloppitta machine) and proclaims himself a free man again.
Seeing the strip the new wife disappears in the night (and who can blame her?) which leads the police to think Ford really did the dirty deed and then bragged about it via Bash.
Which brings us to the Button Defense.
During his trial Ford fires his incompetent lawyer and pleads his own case before an all-male (naturally) all-married jury. In a stream-of-consciousness oratory about the joys of bachelorhood and the indignities of marriage, Ford tells the jury he did it (he didn’t) draws a chalk circle the size of a button and invites the boys to “imagine if just by pressing that button you could make your wife disappear.”
Whereupon the guys in the jury box spontaneously acquit, give Ford a round of applause and carry their hero out of the courtroom on their shoulders – leaving the women in the spectator seats to shudder in horror.
Isn’t it funny how life imitates art?
It isn’t difficult to imagine the Republican men on the Senate Judiciary Committee shouldering their guy Brett out of the hearing room and into the hallowed chambers of the Supreme Court in a triumph of partisan politics against all logic, common sense and decency. The only difference between Ford’s Button Defense and Kavanaugh’s rant was that Lemmon carried off his role with an actor’s sly wit and hail-fellow-well-met smoothness that our boy Brett couldn’t hope to match.
On the other hand, Kavanaugh didn’t have to. He could afford the indulgent luxury of raving about Democrats destroying his life and traumatizing his wife and children knowing that the confirmation in the bag no matter what.
Lemmon at least had to con the suckers into ignoring the evidence. Kavanaugh hardly had to bother.
“How To Murder Your Wife” was a satirical ode to male privilege writ large. The Kananaugh confirmation farce is the same – only more irony than satire, more tragedy than comedy. The movie at least had the virtue of being Hollywood unbelievable. And it even had a happy ending, with Ford’s wife returning and the two of them presumably living happily ever after in a household where the man rules the roost.
The Senate sanctification of the next Justice of the Supreme Court offers no such happy ending, unless your idea of sheer bliss is sticking it to the liberal snowflakes and putting uppity women in their place.
In the Age Of Trump reality has become more bizarre than make believe. Women are chattel. Men get away with murder, figuratively if not literally. And the boys who will be boys get to live happily ever after.