Created by Timothy Harris and Herschel Weingrod
“A love story about womens’ rights… and lefts.”
— the tagline that says it all
Cheaper To Keep Her was a smirky 1980 romantic comedy with good ol’ boy singer/songwriter Mac Davis as a good ol’ boy skirt-chasing private eye BILL DEKKER, who’s hired by a hard-nosed and decidedly feminist lawyer named K.D. Locke (Tovah Feldshuh) to find out why two deadbeats (played by a pre-Deadwood Ian McShane and Jack Gilford) haven’t been keeping up with their alimony payments to her clients.
Adding to the hilarity, Dekker is a deadbeat himself, behind on his own alimony payments. He’s just packed up and left his own wife, who seems more than happy with her new guard dog and the community property settlement that put a lien on his detective agency, although of course she would like to see those alimony cheques.
Starting to get the drift?
Leonard Maltin tags this one as a BOMB, and deems it “Sexist, racist, and obnoxious.” He forgot to mention homophobic and outdated the moment it was released, but you get the idea.
I initially thought this was a made-for-television film–that’s how bad it was–but it turns out this cheesie was actually released in theatres. With an “R” rating, no less. My guess is the producers had high hopes of cashing in on Davis’ budding popularity and dubious status as a sex symbol (check out that poster!)–a conceit that probably amused Davis as much as anyone.
Too bad. Writer Harris had given us a very good, Chandleresque P.I. Thomas Kyd just a few years earlier. And Mac Davis, despite his sometimes smarmy bumpkin charm, has given far more memorable performances, both in the classic football flick North Dallas Forty (1979) and the 1991 made-for-TV thriller Blackmail, where he also played a private eye.
- “… a pathetic comedy… The comedy is lame, the sex is childish, and the only reason the film has an “R” rating is because of a single swear word. “Cheaper to Keep Her” is a cheaply made, sloppily photographed comedy that isn’t even on a par with the few made-for-TV movies I’ve seen. It should disappear from town in a week.”
— Gene Siskel, who tagged it his “Dog of the Week” on PBS’ Sneak Previews
- CHEAPER TO KEEP HER | Buy this video
(1980, Regal Productions/American Cinema)
Premiere: September 19, 1980
Teleplay by Timothy Harris and Herschel Weingrod
Directed by Ken Annakin
Starring Mac Davis as BILL DEKKER
Also starring Tovah Feldshuh, Bruce Flanders , Steven M. Gagnon, Jack Gilford, Patrick Gorman, Chuck Hicks, Gwen Humble, Priscilla Lopez, Rose Marie, Rod McCary, Ian McShane, Art Metrano, Pat O’Malley, Joe Regalbuto, Wallace Shawn, Jane Strudwick, Fred Stuthman, Shannon Wilcox
Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.