Lord Love a Duck (1966): Axelord’s Comedy, Starring Roddy McDowall and Tuesday Weld

Based on Al Hine’s 1961 eccentric novel of the same name, George Axelord’s Lord Love a Duck is a darkly humorous comedy, satirizing pop culture, progressive education, unbridled ambition, and Beach Party flicks.

Made in 1966, it stars Roddy McDowall and Tuesday Weld, then at the height of her popularity as Hollywood’s bad girl, and two character actresses, Ruth Gordon and Lola Albright, playing crazy mothers.

When the tale begins, in a prison psychiatric ward, Alan (“Mollymauk”) Musgrave (Roddy McDowall) dictates his experiences of the previous year, which he dedicated to fulfilling the wishes of high school senior Barbara Ann Greene (Weld). Alan’s IQ is so high that he can predict the desires of every individual before he/she even open their mouths.

It’s quickly established that the daughter of Marie Green (Lola Albright), a cocktail waitress, a cynic who is in her forties, Barbara wants to be successful, popular, and desirable by everyone.

Signing a pact with Alan in wet cement, Barbara gets the 12 cashmere sweaters she needs to join an exclusive girls’ club. She drops out of school to become the principal’s new secretary and then gets involved in church activities run by the hyper-hormonal Bob Bernard.

When Barbara Ann decides to marry Bob, Alan obliges by keeping Bob’s eccentric mother, Stella (Ruth Gordon), who disapproves of Barbara, perpetually boozy.

Barbara then meets a schlock producer. T. Harrison Belmont, known as the king of Beach Party movies, and decides to become the biggest star that ever was. When Bob refuses his wife to a Hollywood screen test, Barbara asks for divorce.

Bob’s mother frowns upon divorce, and Alan takes matters into his own hands to kill Bob. Although Bob proves to be indestructible, by graduation time, he is in a wheelchair. At the ceremony, Alan pursues Bob with a tractor, killing him and everyone else on the speakers’ platform. Barbara Ann fulfills her ambition and goes to Hollywood for her debut film “Bikini Widow,” while Alan is sent to prison.

As written and directed by George Axelrod, the film works too hard to display its irreverent, black comedy approach, and the tone is erratic (and often, just off). In many way, ahead of its time in audacious humor and idiosyncratic strategy, which explains why it failed when it was initially released (during the Vietnam War) and why it has become a minor cult item and a quintessential Tuesday Weld movie.

With the exception of McDowall, the entire ensemble cast is good, particularly Lola Albright as Weld’s mother, who won the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the 1966 Berlin Film Fest. Just watch her suicide scene, when she kills herself due to her guilty feelings of ruining her daughter’s career.

Axelord, Hollywood’s expert writer of sex farces (“The Seven Year Itch” with Marilyn Monroe, “Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter” with Jane Mansfield) tells the story in flashback, as Allan relates his story to a tape recorder.

Running time: 105 Minutes

Cast

Roddy McDowall as Alan “Mollymauk” Musgrave
Tuesday Weld as Barbara Ann Greene
Lola Albright as Marie Greene
Martin West as Bob Bernard
Ruth Gordon as Stella Bernard
Harvey Korman as Weldon Emmett