ABC Film Review, December, 1968

The Bliss of Mrs. Blossom

by Philip Bradford

Bliss comes to Harriet Blossom (Shirley MacLaine) in the gangling shape of Ambrose Tuttle (James Booth), a sewing machine repair man.  Until his arrival on her scene, she has sat in her eccentrically decorated house with a lot of time on her hands while her husband (Richard Attenborough) puts all his energies into manufacturing brassiers.  He's known in certain quarters as "Orpheous of the undie world."

Ambrose does more than put Harriet's machine right.  He puts her right, too, sweeping her off her feet and making passionate love to her.  She decides that he must never be far away from her, and she hides him in the attic.  For many months her bra-obsessed husband doesn't realize what's going on behind his back--or, to be more precise, above his head.

When Mr B leaves for work each morning, Ambrose drops through the trap door in the ceiling to spend the day treating Harriet to an endless variety of amorous adventures.  In the evening, while she sits watching her husband  conducting orchestras playing on his tape recorder, Ambrose keeps out of sight.  And yet he isn't idle.  With the aid or Teach Yourself books, he transforms the attic into a comfortable penthouse.  He then goes on to teach himself about investing and banking, from which he gains knowledge of playing the stock markets.  Harriet passes his findings to her unsuspecting husband who thus makes a fortune and is able to invest  the money in realizing his life's ambition--perfecting a very special bra that is inflatable to fit all shapes and sizes.

"It is given to very few women in life to make one man happy," burbles Mrs. Blossom,  "and I am making two men happy and making myself deliriously happy into the bargain.  It's wrong, it's wicked.  But it's become a way of life with me and I enjoy it.  Something will happen--retribution, you'll see."

Indeed it does, and indeed we do.  But Mrs. Bliss's [sic] come-uppance is as richly comic as the rest of her experiences, and there's a neat twist in the tail that leaves her as blissful as ever for the final fade-out.

Harriet Blossom (Shirley MacLaine) manages to have an idyllic relationship with both Ambrose, the lover in the loft (James Booth, opposite page) and her adoring, unsuspecting husband (Richard Attenborough, above).  But, as can be seen below, the atmosphere is less lovey-dovie when hubbie wakes up to the fact that he's not the only bee buzzing around the Blossom.

A fantastic story, you might think.  Yet, believe it or not, it's based on fact.  The evidence is in the files of an American newspaper that gave the film its inspiration.

Many years ago there really was a bra manufacturer with a neglected wife who got a man to fix her sewing machine.  She took him into her bedroom and lay back on the bed eating bon-bons while he worked at her machine.  Every time he looked up at her she was wearing one less item of clothing.

The mechanic, like his film counterpart, lived in the attic, studied the stock market and gave the wife tips that made the husband rich.  The husband decided to move to Hollywood, and the wife insisted on a house with an attic.  The lover joined the house-warming party by disguising himself; this situation is used in the film,  as is the incident when the husband caught the lover raiding the fridge and,  mistaking him for a burglar, kicked him out into the rain, where he had to spend the night.

The wife and lover kept up their duplicity for nineteen years!  It came to an end when the lover killed the husband in a drunken brawl....but the film doesn't end tragically like this:  it's comedy all the way.  Yet despite the crazy things that are happening all the time, director Joe McGrath insisted on the three main characters playing their parts realistically.  "I wanted them to act for real," he says.  "I want audiences to believe in these characters.  The more they can believe in the actors, the better the comedy."

The comedy goes on all around the characters when most of the time they're unaware that anything laughable is happening.  For example, when Harriet and her lover are having a serious conversation, a ridiculously long cycle bearing fourteen men is pedalled through the scene.  And there are "day dreams" in which we see Harriet and her lover as Madam Pompadour and King Louis, Romeo and Juliet, d'Artagnan and the Countess, Lara and Zhivago, and a knight and his maiden (we pictured them in a special feature last month).

The film is also noteworthy for some stunning color photography that does full justice to such lavish sets as Mrs. Blossom's art nouveau house, a psychiatrist's den full of crazy psychedelic contraptions, and a large-scale convention at which Mr. Blossom's inflatable brassiers create a riot.

The Bliss of Mrs. Blossom is a Paramount release.