Jack Lemmon screwball comedy from 1967 had Niagara Falls as its major co-star


Published April 11, 2022 at 4:24 pm

Elaine May and Jack Lemmon act out a scene in the 1967 film, "Luv", at Niagara Falls.

Long before it hit the movie theatres in 1967, “Luv” was a Broadway production of the same name which first hit the New York stage in 1964.

Oddly, it’s hard to imagine how the Broadway version managed to recreate a lengthy stretch of the story that’s set in Niagara Falls.

So when Columbia Pictures decided to make it a movie, well, director Clive Donner and the production team shifted things to Niagara Falls and countless scenes were filmed in and around the natural wonder of the world.

The movie was a wacky, screwball comedy where marital partners were swapped back-and-forth in a way that only the Swinging Sixties – the same decade that saw the Sexual Revolution – could get away with for a laugh.

Jack Lemmon and Elaine May share a scene at Niagara Falls during their “honeymoon.”
In an earlier scene, Peter Falk and May argue in front of Lemmon during their “marriage.”

The story follows lost soul Harry (Jack Lemmon) as he’s about to throw it all away and jump off a New York bridge. Just before he can leap, he’s stopped by Milt (Peter Falk), who claims to have know him some 15 years earlier.

Milt talks Harry off the railing and takes him home to meet his wife, Ellen (Elaine May). However, Milt has ulterior motives. He’s looking to unload Ellen on Harry so he can hook up with a beautiful younger blonde Linda (Nina Wayne).

Somehow, Milt convinces a barely-there Harry to make a go of things with Ellen so that she is not left lonely when he divorces her for Linda. It takes a while but Harry and Ellen eventually fall in love.

So here comes Niagara Falls as the backdrop because Harry and Ellen head to the Honeymoon Capital of the World for theirs. Well, it doesn’t take long for Ellen to realize Harry’s still pretty messed up.

In one scene with the falls roaring behind them, he unexpectedly stomps on Ellen’s toe in order to test her love for him. As she shrieks in pain, she screams, “What did you do that for?” In response, he asks her if she still loves him, and she says she does. (These days, we’d call that abusive but somehow it gets played for laughs in the 1960s.)

Peter Falk talks Jack Lemmon off a bridge early into the movie, left, while Lemmon tests
May’s love for him by stomping on her foot.

Well, now the wheels start to roll off both relationships. As the young and beautiful Linda starts to settle down with Milt, she quickly realizes that he has an addiction to selling household items and junk for a quick buck. She hates that so she instantly dumps him,

That causes Milt to want Ellen back when he realizes how much he truly loves her. Ellen realizes she doesn’t love Harry as much as she thought, as his bizarre day-to-day activities get to her.

So Milt and Ellen plot to get back together and convince Harry to divorce her. But no, addled as he is, he still loves her and sets out to prove it by getting a job as an elevator operator in a shopping mall.

Next, Milt and Ellen get the idea of trying to make Harry fall in love with the pretty blonde Linda. When that doesn’t take, it goes full circle as they try talking Harry back into commit suicide but, yes, jumping off a bridge.

Somehow, all four of them end up on the bridge and – wait for it – Harry suddenly finds love with a bikini-clad Linda.

Yes, it’s bizarre the themes that played for laughs in the sixties – rampant infidelity, urging people to commit suicide, divorcing junk-peddling spouses and yes, foot stomping. However, with Niagara Falls as a backdrop, at least the scenery’s awesome.

A brink of a marriage between Jack Lemmon and Elaine May at the brink of Niagara Falls.

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