Divorce American Style

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Divorce American Style
Theatrical poster
Directed byBud Yorkin
Produced byNorman Lear
Written byNorman Lear
Robert Kaufman
StarringDick Van Dyke
Debbie Reynolds
Jason Robards
Jean Simmons
Music byDave Grusin
CinematographyConrad L. Hall
Edited byFerris Webster
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • June 21, 1967 (1967-06-21)
Running time
109 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$12,000,000[1]

Divorce American Style is a 1967 American satirical comedy film directed by Bud Yorkin and starring Dick Van Dyke, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Simmons, Jason Robards and Van Johnson.[2] Norman Lear produced the film and wrote the script[2] based on a story by Robert Kaufman. It focuses on a married couple that opts for divorce when counseling fails to help them resolve their various problems, and the problems presented to divorced people by alimony. The title is an homage to Divorce Italian Style (1961).


After seventeen years of marriage, affluent Los Angeles suburban couple Richard Harmon (Van Dyke) and his wife Barbara (Reynolds) seem to have it all, but they are constantly bickering. When they discover they can no longer communicate properly, they make an effort to salvage their relationship through counseling. But after catching each other emptying their joint bank accounts (at the urging of friends), they file for divorce.

Richard finds himself living in a small apartment and trying to survive on $87.30 a week after his take-home income has been cut dramatically by high alimony. Richard meets a recently divorced man, Nelson Downes (Robards), who introduces him to ex-wife Nancy (Simmons). Nelson wants to marry off Nancy to be free of his alimony burden, so that he can marry his pregnant fiancée. Nancy also wishes to marry because she is lonely. To end Richard's alimony woes, Nelson and Nancy plot to set up Barbara with a millionaire auto dealer, Big Al Yearling (Johnson), and the two begin a relationship.

On the night before the Harmon divorce becomes final, all three couples meet to celebrate the success of their plans. At a nightclub, a hypnotist pulls Barbara from the audience and puts her into a trance. After inducing her into performing a mock striptease, she instructs Barbara to kiss her true love. Barbara plants one on Richard, and they realize they love each other too much to go through with the divorce. An undeterred Nelson immediately tries to get Nancy interested in Big Al.



The film earned an estimated $5,150,000 in North American rentals in 1967.[3]

Critical reception[edit]

In his review in the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert called the film "a member of that rare species, the Hollywood comedy with teeth in it" and added, "Bud Yorkin has directed with wit and style, and the cast, which seems unlikely on paper, comes across splendidly on the screen . . . The charm of this film is in its low-key approach. The plot isn't milked for humor or pathos: Both emerge naturally from familiar situations."[4]

Variety observed, "Comedy and satire, not feverish melodrama, are the best weapons with which to harpoon social mores. An outstanding example is Divorce American Style . . . which pokes incisive, sometimes chilling, fun at US marriage-divorce problems."[5]

New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther disliked the film, saying that "it is rather depressing, saddening and annoying, largely because it does labor to turn a solemn subject into a great big American-boob joke." Crowther criticized Van Dyke's performance, remarking that "He is too much of a giggler, too much of a dyed-in-the-wool television comedian for this serio-comic husband role."[6]

A more recent review in Time Out New York cites "Two or three very funny scenes . . . and a first-rate batch of supporting performances."[7]

Awards and honors[edit]

Norman Lear and Robert Kaufman were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay but lost to William Rose for Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. Lear also was nominated for the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Comedy.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Divorce American Style, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved May 22, 2012.
  2. ^ a b "No Way to Treat a Lady". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 19, 2016.
  3. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1967", Variety, 3 January 1968 p 25. Please note these figures refer to rentals accruing to the distributors.
  4. ^ Chicago Sun-Times review
  5. ^ Variety review
  6. ^ Crowther, Bosley (1967-07-20). "The Screen: 'Divorce American Style':Solemn Topic Treated Too Much as Joke". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-15.
  7. ^ Time Out New York review

External links[edit]