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IN TRIBUTE TO THE MOST OUTRAGEOUS MOVIE YOU WILL NEVER SEE

Sontag attempts to define the sensibility known as camp, citing many works from popular and unpopular culture that manufactured or exude the camp aesthetic. Some of these works include Mae West’s she-womanness in She Done Him Wrong, Humphrey Bogart’s slickness in the seminal film noir The Maltese Falcon, and Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief; however, un-camp instances can also be found such as Anita Ekberg’s portrayal of the fountain-water nymph in La Dolce Vita.

What a Way to Go! was released in 1964, and it is a dark comedy starring Shirley MacLaine that swirls like an fantastical kaleidoscope of feathers, diamantés, and hairpieces, crisscrossing from dusty small-town America to Paris’ beatnik Left Bank to a glitzy midcentury Manhattan.

MacLaine has been married four times—four times as a bride, each time to a man who drove himself to death, driven by an insatiable hunger for money and power.

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A party is being held at the Pearly Gates, and an Avant-Garde film about Jean Cocteau is playing.

In case that isn’t enough to get you amped, the film’s trailer also boasts a chimpanzee named Frida who paints like Rembrandt and a pink Rolls-Royce.

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The fashion in this film is under-appreciated, and it’s hard to believe given how over the top it is. There is a lot to appreciate about the clothes in this film, starting with the expensive garments that were billed as “half-a-million dollars worth of the most magnificent clothes that Edith Head ever created” in the trailer.

Ms. Head has been responsible for some of the most iconic fashion moments in history, including dressing Hedy Lamarr’s curves in Samson and Delilah, helping Gloria Swanson play the part of deluded fallen film star in Sunset Boulevard, and giving us Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.

Shirley MacLaine is a superb actress, but her style is not well-known. Therefore, it’s unlikely that anyone else could have achieved the same results as she has.

In a way, it’s surprising that MacLaine is seen in such a barely there bikini only two years after Ursula Andress dropped jaws and raised eyebrows with her controversial Bond bikini. There’s also a gold lamé and fur-trimmed lampshade gown styled like Paul Poiret, and lots and lots of feathers.

In one scene, MacLaine is seen lying beneath sheets in a champagne coupe-shaped bed. This type of bed is no longer made like this, apparently.

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And then there’s the set design, a group effort from Jack Martin Smith, Ted Haworth, Walter M. Scott, and Stuart A. Reiss who whipped up 78 dazzling vignettes that seem to get bigger and bolder as the film’s 111 minutes go by. There are the aforementioned Champs Suite (a gala scene with an allée of chandelier-size candelabras where MacLaine makes quite the entrance), a mansion painted pink—pink from top to bottom and inside and out, as if someone had picked up the Hollywood mansion she called home (with husband number four) and plunked it in a giant vat of Pepto-Bismol.

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The film’s megawatt talent includes Dean Martin, who plays a fish out of his element in a small pond, Dick Van Dyke as the Henry David Thoreau-like material minimalist, and Paul Newman, who obsesses over MacLaine’s figure.

Robert Mitchum is the smarmy billionaire bachelor who spends most of his time on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. He is followed by Gene Kelly, who becomes a Hollywood superstar after dancing his way to stardom in “Pinky,” and last but not least, Bob Cummings, the psychiatrist listening to this entire story. Like a dizzying merry-go-round, the film ends up right where it started with MacLaine marrying Martin and living happily ever after.

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Some viewers may find the film too complex and overwhelming. However, this is part of its appeal to fans of director David Lynch, who has metaphorically plucked a lily and gilded it with diamond dust before placing it in a Baccarat crystal vase.

What a Way to Go! is a dark comedy starring Shirley MacLaine that swirls like a fantastic kaleidoscope of feathers, diamantés, …

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The storyline of the film follows MacLaine’s character through several attempts at simple romances which each become complicated by some kind of success. It’s a …

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