One Is A Lonely Number

  • 1972
  • Movie
  • PG
  • Drama

An underrated picture that came and went before it got a chance to find an audience, this was two years ahead of its time in theme and execution. Now, of course, a surfeit of "women's films" examine all the problems of modern-day divorcehood, but this one does it better than most of those. Van Devere and husband Jenkins have been happily married--or so...read more

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An underrated picture that came and went before it got a chance to find an audience, this was two years ahead of its time in theme and execution. Now, of course, a surfeit of "women's films" examine all the problems of modern-day divorcehood, but this one does it better than most of those.

Van Devere and husband Jenkins have been happily married--or so she thinks--for a number of years. Then without warning Jenkins, a college professor, leaves and starts divorce proceedings. Though she's still young at 27, Van Devere has never been independent and fears being on her own. Elliot, Van

Devere's best friend, takes the shocked woman to meet Leigh, who is the president of a divorced-women's club. After a meeting with Leigh that disintegrates into booziness, Van Devere gets a job as a lifeguard (despite her excellent education), but she can't fulfill some of the requirements, for

she suffers from mild acrophobia and fears the high diving board. Douglas, Van Devere's grocer, is as lonely as she because his beloved wife of nearly 40 years has recently passed away. Van Devere and Douglas find much in common and establish a bond between them, disregarding the difference in

their ages. Elliot takes Van Devere to an art gallery opening party, where handsome Markham steps into Van Devere's life. He charms her into taking her to dinner and then back to his posh apartment. She knows what's going to happen and tries to change the subject, but Markham makes the expected

move, and she reacts in panic and exits hastily. Douglas escorts her to see Shakespeare in the Park, a performance of "King Lear," but once the two begin talking about how lonely they feel, tears begin to flow and the evening is ruined. She goes home and Markham awaits her. Now a bit more

confident about herself, she goes to bed with Markham, then realizes that she's been had in more ways than one when he admits he's already married. Van Devere next learns that Jenkins is living happily in Nevada with a teenage girl young enough to be his daughter, so she tells tell her attorney,

Beach, to go for her ex-husband's throat and wallet in the settlement. She seeks out Douglas but the store is shuttered and no one has seen him for a few days. She's worried that something might have happened to the kindly grocer and searches the city morgues where she sees scores of dead old men,

none of whom is Douglas. The following morning, as she is going to court, she spots Douglas and is glad to learn that he was away on a small vacation and she had no cause to worry. Once in court the defendants, led by Jenkins' lawyer, Leff, are surprised to hear her state that she wants nothing

from the man who left her, not one cent. All she needs right now is her freedom. That done, Van Devere heads straight for her job at the swimming pool, climbs to the top of the diving platform, and does a perfect swan into the pool, symbolically ending her quest for peace of mind. Along the way

she has faced chauvinists such as Lippe, her employment agent; her own attorney, Beach; and others who think that a divorced woman is fair game for any man.

The picture gets a bit glib at times and the denouement is not motivated enough, but this film has so many good qualities that it's worthwhile. Director Stuart has had a spotty career making some of the best and the worst films--from the sublime WILLIE WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY to the

ridiculous I LOVE MY WIFE. In a ploy to fill the empty seats, the title was changed for a while to TWO IS A HAPPY NUMBER, but it didn't help. Another proposed title stemmed from one scene in which an attorney hands Van Devere an ice cream cone filled with raspberry ripple; thus, both Stuart and

screenwriter Seltzer thought the title should have been "A Fine Day for Raspberry Ripple." (If nothing else, that would have been remembered.) But MGM had bombed with THE STRAWBERRY STATEMENT just two years before and wasn't into flavors, despite having a 1941 hit with THE CHOCOLATE SOLDIER.

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  • Released: 1972
  • Rating: PG
  • Review: An underrated picture that came and went before it got a chance to find an audience, this was two years ahead of its time in theme and execution. Now, of course, a surfeit of "women's films" examine all the problems of modern-day divorcehood, but this one… (more)

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