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Divorce American Style

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Title: Divorce American Style  
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Subject: Conrad Hall, Norman Lear, Dave Grusin, Shelley Morrison, Tim Matheson, Lee Grant, Love, American Style, Shelley Berman, Bud Yorkin, Eileen Brennan
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Divorce American Style

Divorce American Style
Theatrical poster
Directed by Bud Yorkin
Produced by Norman Lear
Written by Norman Lear
Robert Kaufman
Starring Dick Van Dyke
Debbie Reynolds
Jason Robards
Jean Simmons
Music by Dave Grusin
Cinematography Conrad L. Hall
Edited by Ferris Webster
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • June 21, 1967 (1967-06-21)
Running time 109 minutes
Country United States
Language English
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. Norman Lear produced the film and wrote the script 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 by 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're constantly bickering. When they discover they can no longer communicate, even to argue, they make an effort to salvage their relationship through counseling. But after catching each other emptying their joint bank accounts, they file for divorce.

Richard finds himself living in a small apartment and trying to survive on $87.30 a week. His take-home income has been cut to ribbons 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 fiancee. Nancy also wishes to marry because she is lonely.

Since Richard now cannot afford to be remarried, Nelson and Nancy plot to set up Barbara with a millionaire auto dealer, Big Al Yearling (Johnson).

Barbara begins a relationship with Big Al, but one night all of the principal characters end up in the audience at a nightclub show. A hypnotist puts Barbara in a trance and coaxes her into doing a mock striptease. But when instructed to kiss her true love, Barbara plants one on Richard, and just like that their marriage problems are resolved.

Nelson, not to be deterred, immediately tries to get Nancy interested in Big Al.



The film earned an estimated $5,150,000 in North American rentals in 1967.[2]

Critical reception

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."[3]

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."[4]

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."[5]

A more recent review in Time Out New York cites "Two or three very funny scenes . . . and a first-rate batch of supporting performances."[6]

Awards and honors

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.


  1. ^ "Divorce American Style, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved May 22, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1967", Variety, 3 January 1968 p 25. Please note these figures refer to rentals accruing to the distributors.
  3. ^ reviewChicago Sun-Times
  4. ^ reviewVariety
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ reviewTime Out New York

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