I enjoyed early-60s Jane Fonda in Sunday in New York so much that I figured I’d pick up another of her mainstream sex comedies when Warner Archive had a sale.
Any Wednesday was made three years later (1966) than the previous, and accordingly, Fonda is now playing not a virgin, but a mistress. But first, she’s a kind of babysitter for art, a gallery employee sent to accompany paintings rented for ritzy parties. There she meets “business tycoon” John Cleves (Jason Robards), who has a running scam he pulls on his wife.
Every Wednesday, he tells his wife he needs to be out of town for business when he’s really spending the night with his special friend. He finds the travel weather report on the radio, then enlists his companion’s help in pretending to be the long-distance operator (expected to be a female voice, of course). “Mrs. John Cleves? One moment please. Chicago calling,” plus a mention of whether or not it’s raining there, is all that’s needed, it seems, to stay in New York while pretending to be across the country.
Those are the kinds of touches that I most enjoy about these older films, the elements of daily life and how people exploit them. (And 65 cents for a cab ride across town!) Like Sunday in New York, this was also filmed in the city, and it’s lovely.
Of course, things become complicated. Because Cleves is a manipulator, once he finally talks Fonda into succumbing to his “charms”, he sets her up in an apartment but pays for it through his business as an “executive suite” for visiting company officials. When a visiting Dean Jones needs a place to stay, a clueless secretary sends him to stay in the company suite, at the same time as Mrs. Cleves (Rosemary Murphy, who won a Tony when playing the same role on Broadway — this was a stage hit before it was a movie) shows up to redecorate the place.
Fonda’s character is something of a prototype pixie dream girl, the type who doesn’t want flowers because they die but instead wishes for a room full of balloons. Yet she’s got a certain amount of practicality, finally agreeing to Cleves’ months-long pursuit of her when she’s in the hospital and about to lose her quirky apartment for lack of funds.
Jason Robards, Jane Fonda, and Dean Jones in Any Wednesday
Fonda was nominated for a Best Actress Golden Globe for this. I was questioning that recognition at the beginning of the movie, but once I realized that most of the film takes place after Fonda and Robards’ characters have been in an “arrangement” for a while, it made more sense, because she does a great job with the growing desperation of this young woman. It’s her 30th birthday, and she’s freaking out about what she does (a groovy pad) and doesn’t (love or much of a future) have.
The movie moves fast, and everyone does a terrific job. In particular, Jones is more playful and charming than his better-known Disney persona. Any Wednesday probably seemed a little outdated near the end of the 60s, but 45 years later, it captures changing times adorably, especially once the farcical mistaken identities start. There’s a rather nifty shaped split screen effect with particular phone calls, too. Watch for the husband calling while everyone else is on the patio with the champagne battle.