How to Beat the High Cost of Living

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How to Beat the High Cost of Living
HowtoBeatHighcostofLiving film.jpg
How to Beat the High Cost of Living film poster
Directed by Robert Scheerer
Produced by Robert Kaufman
Jerome M. Zeitman
Bernard G. Wilens
Written by Robert Kaufman
Leonora Thung
Starring Jane Curtin
Susan Saint James
Jessica Lange
Richard Benjamin
Fred Willard
Music by Patrick Williams
Cinematography James Crabe
Edited by Bill Butler
Distributed by Orion Pictures
Filmways Pictures
Release dates July 11, 1980
Running time 105 min.
Country United States
Language English
Box office $7,500,000[1]

How to Beat the High Cost of Living is a 1980 comedy film, starring Jane Curtin, Susan Saint James and Jessica Lange. Also in the cast are Dabney Coleman, Fred Willard, Richard Benjamin, Eddie Albert, Cathryn Damon, and a cameo by Jane Curtin's fellow Saturday Night Live co-star Garrett Morris. The movie was released in summer of 1980, grossing approximately US $7.5 million.

Although the film was the first film released by Filmways Pictures under their own banner after buying American International Pictures, the film still carries a "Copyright 1980 by American International Pictures" notice during the end credits.

Exposition[edit]

Jane (Susan Saint James), Elaine (Jane Curtin), and Louise (Jessica Lange) are suburbanites in Eugene, Oregon. These three women, friends since high school, are currently all struggling with money.

Jane is divorced, trying to cope with the man she is dating, Robert (Fred Willard), her newly single father (Eddie Albert), who moves in with Jane after his wife leaves him for another woman, and her young children, who need dental work. Jane learns she is pregnant, which makes Robert unhappy since both he and Jane are nearly broke.

Elaine's husband, an architect, has left her for a younger woman. He has also left her with no money, no credit cards, and lots of bills, all of which are very overdue (leading later to a scene with a man at the power company (Garrett Morris)). Depressed, she gets drunk and her car is pulled over by police officer Jack (Dabney Coleman). Elaine makes a pass at him, trying to get out of the ticket. When he accepts, then reveals he is married, Elaine smacks him with her purse. She makes it clear that if she is arrested by Jack, her one phone call will be to his wife.

Louise owns an antiques store. Unfortunately, it's not a very successful operation, so she is always accepting funds from her veterinarian husband (Richard Benjamin) to keep the store open. While they are in bed one evening, in the early process of making love, the doorbell rings. Louise is served a court order and learns her husband plans on suing her to force her into bankruptcy to wipe away the enormous debt she has incurred.

The women become desperate. Elaine even tries a yard sale to raise money, selling her husband's possessions, including his deodorant. With nowhere else to turn, Jane, Elaine and Louise notice a "money ball" at the mall, filled with cash, and hatch a scheme to pull off a daring robbery by land and by sea.

Main plot[edit]

At the peak of their woes, Elaine visits the local mall, where an acquaintance (Cathryn Damon) has pushed her into helping out with lighting a small pageant being held there. Making a phone call, she stares at the large, clear ball in the middle of the mall which is soon due to hold thousands and thousands of dollars in a giant cash "give away" and suddenly formulates the idea of stealing the money so the three of them can all get the money they need. She calls them to the mall, where they scheme to steal the money during the "give away" by drilling a hole beneath the cash ball and sucking out as much cash as possible with a high-powered vacuum, then escaping to the river in back of the mall.

Despite getting caught by officer Jack in the act of stealing some of the items needed for the heist, Elaine once again manages to sweet-talk their way out of being taken to prison. Later, on the evening of the heist, each of them finds an unexpected distraction but finally find their way to the mall, where Jane and Louise begin their work beneath the cash ball, and Elaine readies herself to throw the switch to the mall's light controls (which would give them all enough time to finish the job and escape unnoticed). Unfortunately, a minor occurrence takes place during both the give away and the pageant, nearly causing the police to notice the noise caused by Jane and Louise stealing the money. With no other way to distract the police, and the audience present, Elaine begins to rant about the high cost of living and how so many things cost "the shirt off your back - and even THAT'S not enough!" Very soon, she starts an impromptu striptease and ends with exposing her bosom to the crowd, effectively taking the attention away from what's REALLY going on. Shortly thereafter, one of the indoor light poles falls directly into the ball, sending cash flowing out into the mall, driving people into a frenzy as they dive to collect the cash. Noticing the uproar going on above, Jane and Louise make their escape with two large trash bags filled with dollar bills, only to have their canoe tip over when Louise stands up. They both fall in, and right away Louise yells she can't swim, leaving Jane to decide - quickly - to either save the cash or her friend. She saves Louise and the two bags float away.

Hours later, the sun is rising and both Jane and Louise are still on the bank of the river, crestfallen over the loss of the money after all the trouble they'd gone to steal it; Elaine works her way to them, wrapped in a blanket, distraught at the news. The three begin to fight, but within moments Louise notices a bag in sight and the three of them dive in after it...

At the film's end, Jane has married Robert and gotten her father a condo in a senior's complex; Louise reopens her store and takes back her husband, whom she'd left; and Elaine begins dating the officer, with enough secret money to bring her back to the level of living she'd been used to.

Production[edit]

Robert Kaufman had written the script in 1971-1972,[2] and Kaufman (and then later with Jere Henshaw) had 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., and Universal Pictures, all interested in the project if he could land major stars. The studio wanted Kaufman to ask Ann-Margret, Shirley MacLaine, Glenda Jackson, Faye Dunaway, Raquel Welch, Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, all to be in the film. Diane Keaton, Margot Kidder, Mary Tyler Moore, Julie Andrews, Dyan Cannon, Sally Field, Goldie Hawn, Madeline Kahn, Teri Garr and Jill Clayburgh, were also approached. He asked most of them, and even offered Ali MacGraw $1 million. None of them would sign on because they didn't want to be in a film with two other women in leading roles. They would all do the film with two men, but not two other leading women. Kaufman and Henshaw wanted younger female leads, but the major studios all kept insisting on older, more established stars. Kaufman and Henshaw could not get the movie made until Henshaw got hired at American International Pictures as executive senior vice president in charge of production. The pair first made Love at First Bite, this success gave them the go ahead to make How to Beat the High Co$t of Living with younger, lesser-known names.[2][3]

Most of the film was shot in and around Eugene, Oregon. Eugene was chosen because they needed an indoor mall next to a river. The mall used for filming was the Valley River Center, situated next to the Willamette River. The budget for the project was $4.75 million with a 42-day shooting schedule. Filming began on September 5, 1979 and wrapped up in late October.[2][4]

While filming an outdoor scene in Eugene, a middle-aged man drove by in a car and yelled, "Jane, you ignorant slut!," in reference to Curtin and Dan Aykroyd doing their Point/Counterpoint segment on Saturday Night Live, and the crew cracked up laughing.[5]

This movie featured both Curtin and Saint James, who would go on to star together in the sitcom Kate & Allie.

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=howtobeatthehighcostofliving.htm
  2. ^ a b c Kramer, Linda (August 23, 1979), "Another Big Scene In Eugene", Eugene Register-Guard (Associated Press) 
  3. ^ Anderson, Nancy (December 16, 1979), "This Wacky But True Story Sounds Like Scenario", The Evening News (Copley News Service) 
  4. ^ Kramer, Linda (October 11, 1979), "He Wants Oregon To Be A Big Star", Eugene Register-Guard (Associated Press) 
  5. ^ Royce, Bill (October 31, 1979), "'Skatetown' Premiere A Real Bomb", Boca Raton News (Kinght-Ridder Newspaper) 

External links[edit]