Friday Flashback #81

From the March on Washington and discussions of pay inequality to the #MeToo movement, women’s issues are hot topics of national debate.

Just as they were in the “women’s lib” days of 1975.

That year, “The Stepford Wives” — Ira Levin’s satirical novel about suburban men and their fawning, zombie-like, beautiful and big-breasted wives — was released as a full-length film.

Stepford Wives, in a Westport supermarket.

Though Levin said he based the book on Wilton — where he’d lived in the 1960s — the movie was shot largely in Westport.

And most Americans made little distinction between the 2 towns. “Stepford Wife” quickly became national shorthand for the vapid, monotonous lives of suburban housewives — and the shallow regard they’re held in by the men who marry them.

It still is.

Alert “06880” reader Billy Nistico unearthed a 2001 documentary on the making of “The Stepford Wives.” It focuses largely on the screenplay and casting, but shows a few scenes from the film — including one near the train station — plus interviews.

Director Bryan Forbes recalls that he and his wife — actress Nanette Newman — rented a house in Westport for nearly a year. Their children went to local schools; their daughter graduated from Staples High.

Bryan Forbes directing Katharine Ross, in Westport.

“I enjoyed it,” he said of his time in Westport. He chose to film here for our “white picket fences and manicured lawns.” All scenes were real; no sets were built.

Others in the documentary recall renting houses near each other, eating outdoors together, and enjoying the suburban life their film was about to skewer.

And, Forbes notes, the film was not anti-female. It was actually anti-male.

“Anyone who wants to change his wife by enlarging her breasts” is someone of the lowest order, he explains.

Click below, to see the 2001 documentary called “The Stepford Life.” Discussion of Westport begins around the 12:00 mark.

 

11 responses to “Friday Flashback #81

  1. Joyce Barnhart

    I never saw it as satire. I saw it as critical and the men were villains. It was not a life any normal woman would aspire to, but the submissive, physically perfect wives seemed to be most men’s dreams. I remember some scenes felt very evil.

  2. The final scene was filmed at Waldbaums Supermarket where Barnes and Noble is now. I was outside in the parking lot on my bicycle (Raleigh Chopper 3 speed)….. 15 years old waiting to get a glimpse of Katherine Ross…

  3. Hi Dan,

    I read every single one of your posts and love the connection it gives me to Westport.

    I can’t figure out what you meant in today’s piece below when you said “It still is.” Do you mean “Stepford Wife” still is shorthand…or something about the men’s shallow regard? Very curious.

    Thanks, Ariane Ladd

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    • Thanks, Ariane. Sorry for not being clearer. I meant that “Stepford Wife” is still shorthand for what some people think are vapid suburban lives. Hope that helps.

  4. Ah, I remember it well. I was “supposed to” be a Stepford wife in the 60s, submissive and obedient. I refused. My subsequent life was much more interesting and meaningful.

  5. Have to say, this is fantastic Westport stuff! Had no idea Stepford Wives was actually filmed in Westport. That movie can creep me out even today. I loved Westport in the 60’s — life to me seemed like a happy, longer version of the Gidget tv show– school, beach, books, nature, friends, Big Top. I was a kid and not a wife then back then. Not thinking about boredom. Katherine Ross was/is one of the most naturally beautiful women to ever grace the screen – imo. And she remains so to this day — untouched by all of the botox, fillers, etc. Should note so as not to offend- nothing wrong with it if one chooses to enhance one’s self in those ways, I just love the natural look.

  6. Celeste Champagne

    Paramount filmed some of the interiors at Lockwood-Mathews Mansion in Norwalk, though that’s not covered in this story. The rotunda and its paintings remain today–part of the deal with Paramount.

  7. i played in the orchestra which recorded the music for this
    film, composed by Michael Small. i remember watching some playbacks and
    feeling that some things looked familiar, like streets and houses; now i know why !
    it was my old Home Town !

  8. thank you .. a former Stepford Wife Carole Mallory aka Kit Sunderson

  9. I didn’t realize Ira Levin lived in Wilton. I always thought he lived in Westport, not only because scenes from the original film were shot here, but also because the setting of his Broadway hit, “Deathtrap,” was definitely Westport.

  10. Dorrie Barlow Thomas

    YAY! great flashback!
    Some of the movie was filmed on my street–Snowflake Lane in the Coleytown area. Our neighbor’s house (the Hickey family) was used as one of the Stepford Wives’ home…they agreed to let their tennis court be torn up for the film (as part of the plot)! I was also amazed that filming was allowed inside the Hickey’s house…as kids we were never allowed to set foot in their very formal and pristine living room; but all those actresses got to be there, no problem! As I recall, each of the 5 (or 7?!) Hickey children got parts as extras in the film.
    As a little kid, it was thrilling to see our street sign and part of our front lawn be up there on the big screen! Wooo! Big times for us 🙂

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