Cast & Crew
Monique Van Vooren
In New York City, Chris Walters comes home from work early to surprise his wife Alice on their thirteenth wedding anniversary. Alice is taken aback, then pleased when Chris presents her with a diamond broach, but the couple's efforts to share their affection is interrupted by a phone call from Alice's mother, the arrival of the Walters' children, Okkie and Debbie, and inquiries from the maid, Millie. Chris is further frustrated when delivery men arrive baring a television set, a gift from Alice's parents, Lilly and Arthur Gans. Believing that the inane quality of television programming destroys family life, Chris adamantly refuses to accept the set, despite the children's and Alice's pleas. Later, when Alice frets about Chris's explosive temper, he apologizes and agrees to keep the set, then suggests they need to get away for time alone together. Recalling their courtship days, Chris and Alice decide to sneak out of the apartment and dine at their favorite diner, then go to the hotel they used to visit. Later that evening, as the Walters arrive back to the apartment, Okkie notes their return wryly. That night at the El Morocco club, Chris's partner Bud dines with potential client Jeanette Revere, who, being a four time divorcee, is amazed to hear of Alice and Chris's anniversary. Late the next afternoon, Arthur and Lilly arrive early for the celebratory anniversary dinner party. Upon seeing the television set, Arthur chastises Chris for holding out against one for so long. That evening as the families dine together at the party, Lilly frets over Arthur drinking and Chris grouses at the children for having the television on loudly. Arthur continues to wonder how Chris can hate television and Chris admits that he and his father-in-law have had a long history of disagreements. When Chris wonders why Arthur allowed Alice to date him, Arthur declares he always trusted Alice to do the right thing. Slightly drunk, Chris then offers a toast to the year before the couple were married, declaring they had none of marriage's responsibilities and all of the fun. Startled, the Ganses demand an explanation and despite Alice's efforts to interrupt, Chris gaily admits that he and Alice carried on romantically the entire year before their marriage. Incensed at having been made fools for believing in Alice's pre-marital innocence, the Ganses depart in an angry huff. Alice berates Chris and refuses to accept his half-hearted apology. When Alice turns on the television in an attempt to ignore her husband, he furiously kicks in the screen. The next morning over breakfast, Chris tells Millie that he was forced to sleep on the sofa all night and bemoans the difference that marriage and children make to a relationship. Bud arrives to excitedly reveal that Jeanette has agreed to sign with their firm, but Chris is uninterested in work. Bud is startled to see the wrecked television and mistaking Chris's moodiness for a hangover, cheerfully declares he will handle the new account. Chris then pleads for forgiveness from Alice, vowing to personally apologize to Arthur and Lilly. Alice accepts Chris's invitation to lunch at Rockefeller Center, but once there, wonders aloud if their marriage is in serious trouble. Chris admits that his volatile temper is largely responsible for their disagreements and promises to mend his ways. Upon arriving home later, the Walters are surprised to find a new television set with a note to Alice from Bud offering the set as a gift. Chris reacts angrily, but recalling his new promise, struggles to squelch his anger. Alice telephones her parents and Chris apologizes and invites the Gans to dinner. While waiting for Arthur and Lilly to arrive that evening, Chris plays chess with Okkie and wonders vaguely about Debbie's whereabouts. Alice then turns on the new set and after several grating advertisements, the show "Kids Council" comes on and the family is shocked to see Debbie petitioning a council of school children for assistance. To their horror, Debbie explains that her parents' constant bickering has steadily increased and she fears they may be considering divorce. While Alice and Chris frantically attempt to telephone the station to stop the show, the council members request more information on the arguments. When Debbie blithely declares that their latest angry row occurred over pre-marital relations, the show abruptly cuts off. Apoplectic, Chris kicks in the television screen. As Alice and Chris burst into a furious argument at who is responsible for Debbie's breech, Bud and Jeanette arrive to celebrate her signing with their firm. Moments later, Arthur and Lilly arrive, adding to the chaos. Bud and Arthur are stunned about the ruined television, which only further antagonizes Chris. Just then, Debbie arrives home, delightedly waving a hundred dollar bond given her by the television show's company. Chris demands to punish Debbie, but fearful, Alice intervenes, supported by Arthur and Lilly. Outraged, Chris stalks out of the apartment. Over the next two days, Bud attempts to convince the angry Chris to return home, as Alice struggles to make explanations to Debbie and Okkie. Late one afternoon, Lilly shows up at the Walters' apartment with a suitcase, tearfully admitting she has left Arthur after subjugating herself to his ways for thirty-five years. Moments later, Arthur arrives, denying that he has driven his wife away. Bud then appears to relate that Chris is anxious to return and is, in fact, waiting outside to come in. Okkie and Debbie greet Chris effusively while Alice angrily declares that no one has taken her feelings into consideration. To Chris's consternation, Alice begins packing to leave when the couple is interrupted by a phone call. Equally dismayed and delighted, Alice reveals that her doctor has just told her that she is pregnant. Uncertain what to do, Alice's doubts dissolve when a new television set, a gift from Chris, arrives.
Monique Van Vooren
David F. Doyle
Don De Leo
Don Hall Jr.
Tony La Marca
Richard C. Meyer
Jack Wright Jr.
The film's working title was Anniversary Waltz. The opening credits feature an animated greeting card, the front of which lists the film title, which then opens up to list the credits interspersed with cartoon figures of a middle-aged couple and jokes about married life. The closing credits feature the couple arriving in a cab at the Earle Hotel, where the husband and wife in the film conduct their romantic rendezvous. Hallmark Cards designed the title sequence. Makeup artist Herman Buchman's name is misspelled as "Buckman" in the opening credits. Happy Anniversary was shot on location in New York City. The film was based on the 1954 play Anniversary Waltz, by Joseph Fields and Jerome Chodorov, the Broadway run of which starred MacDonald Carey and Kitty Carlisle and was directed by Carlisle's husband, Moss Hart. The Variety review of the play noted that "...an unhappy minority might find it all pretty tasteless" and described the story as "a great night for tantrums." The Hollywood Reporter review called the play's premiere "...an engagingly dark evening" and described the story as having a "certain busy prurience."
In the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, correspondence from Edward Small Productions in September 1954 reveals his company's interest in producing a film of the play. The PCA indicated that they could not approve of the property as "the story [was] unacceptable, being a light comedy treatment of the subject of illicit sex." In October and November 1955 Desilu Productions and Sidney Franklin of Allied Artists, respectively, showed interest in the property, and each was given the same indication that unless changes were made, the PCA could not approve a treatment.
Throughout June and August 1956 George Schaeffer, representing Joseph Fields, corresponded with the PCA and its head, Geoffrey Shurlock, in an effort to overcome the play's narrative difficulties. A year later, Fields submitted several pages of a script, adapted by him and Chodorov, which were approved by the PCA. As the film began production in May 1959, a New York Times article quoted Fields as stating that the play's joke of pre-marital sex had not been altered for the film and had, in fact, been accepted by the PCA. The article noted "a new frankness in situations and dialogue on the screen, which is being enforced by the unexpurgated production of such films as Anniversary Waltz."
In September 1959, the PCA tentatively awarded a Production Code seal to the film, which had been renamed Happy Anniversary. By late Oct, however, Shurlock wrote to Fields that after screening the picture he had found it in violation of the code and could not issue the certificate. Shurlock wrote "It is our unanimous judgment that the unacceptability of this picture stems from an improper treatment of the pre-marital sex relationships between your two sympathetic leads... this relationship is presented as both acceptable and glamourous [sic]." A Hollywood Reporter October 28, 1959 article states that United Artists would release the film without the seal in the event that an appeal did not bring about a reversal of the PCA ruling.
Only two previous studio films had been released without productions seals, The Moon Is Blue in 1953 and The Man with the Golden Arm in 1955 (see below), both Otto Preminger productions distributed by UA. The Hollywood Reporter article notes that neither film suffered booking difficulties and each made money. UA announced that Happy Anniversary would premiere in New York on 10 November and on 18 November in Los Angeles, regardless of the appeals board decision. On November 6, 1959, Hollywood Reporter reported that UA had agreed to add a "wild line" of dialogue recorded by David Niven which, as stream of consciousness, would state "Chris's" regret for having taken "Alice" to a hotel before their marriage. The line is heard after the party, once Alice has angrily locked Chris out of the couple's bedroom. According to correspondence in the PCA file, this adjustment would provide the necessary "moral compensating value" and allow the certificate to be issued. An November 11, 1959 Variety article noted that the original PCA press release indicated that this alteration made it unnecessary for the review board to vote on UA's appeal. The film's producers, however, indicated that the review board had overturned Shurlock's original decision, content with the addition of the wild line.
The Variety article went on to note that "what puzzles some observers is how the addition of a comparatively frivolous laugh line such as the one to be inserted into Anniversary [sic] can seriously provide `moral compensation.' Or, for that matter, why the Code chose to pick on Anniversary in the first place. Several of the execs on the review board represent companies which turned out, or will be releasing, pictures of a much `stronger' nature, with themes ranging from rape and homosexuality to juvenile sex orgies, brothels, nymphomania, prostitution, etc."
Reviews of the film were mixed; the New York Times lamented the "fuss" made by the PCA stating: "The consequence of this attention has been to give an illusion of substance to a conspicuously hollow little picture that is about as wicked as an adolescent's joke." The review further criticized the picture for presenting "supposedly adult characters... more childish and subnormal than its kids." Variety, however, described the film as "chock full of laughs and suavely handled," and praised Mitzi Gaynor's singing of "I Don't Regret a Thing...." Hollywood Reporter called the film "one of those effervescent comedies that sends everybody out of theatre feeling happier."
Released in United States 1959
Released in United States 1959