Marriage on the Rocks (1965): Donohue’s Comedy, Starring Sinatra, Deborah Kerr, Dean Martin

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Jack Donohue directed Marriage on the Rocks, a comedy starring Frank Sinatra, Deborah Kerr, and Dean Martin about a businessman’s wife who ends up divorced by mistake and then gets married to his best friend by even bigger mistake.

Marriage on the Rocks
Marriage on the Rocks (1965 film poster).jpg

Theatrical release poster

The picture, which was written by Cy Howard, would be the last feature partnership of Sinatra and Martin for 20 years, when they appeared briefly in 1984’s Cannonball Run II.

After 19 years of marriage, workaholic Dan Edwards’s wife Valerie is frustrated. Dan spends most of his time at an ad agency he runs with old friend, Ernie Brewer, a laid-back bachelor.

Once a swinger, Dan has become a bore to his family. By contrast, the kids look up to the exciting “Uncle Ernie,” who’s always there to give advice. Ernie does things her husband won’t–dances, compliments her, picks out the gifts Dan buys for her.

Val becomes so impatient she seeks lawyer’s advice about divorce. Back at the office, Ernie urges Dan to take his wife on  second honeymoon to Mexico.

Once there, Dan and Val get into an argument, and, before they know it, they’re divorced. An apologetic Dan makes it up to her and arranges for them to be remarried. However, urgent matter requires his presence back home to save his company’s biggest account. Valerie stays in Mexico to await Dan’s return, but the business matter is extended and Ernie travels to Mexico to explain to Val, unaware that she’s already put the wedding ceremony in motion. By mistake, she ends up married to Ernie.

Ernie anticipates a quickie divorce, but Val thinks she might enjoy the new arrangement. Dan, fed up with both of them, decides he’s not exactly broken-hearted. He rediscovers the joys of bachelorhood, cavorting with Ernie’s sexy playmates.

Ernie to run the business, which turns him into the same dull, inattentive husband that Dan had been.

In the happy end, however, everything is put right.

The film was originally titled of Divorce American Style, and Sinatra personally selecting Deborah Kerr for the role of his wife. Cy Howard’s screenplay was deemed offensive and rewritten under the title Community Property, then given its final title.

After a preview, Warner cut out 14 minutes before its release to underwhelming reviews in September 1965.

Nancy, Sinatra’s daughter, was last minute replacement for Mia Farrow; during the shoot Nancy broke up with husband Tommy Sands.

The Mexican Government was offended by the depiction of the country, and banned the film and other Sinatra films.

The picture was moderately successful at the box-office.


Frank Sinatra as Dan Edwards
Deborah Kerr as Valerie Edwards
Dean Martin as Ernie Brewer
Nancy Sinatra as Tracy Edwards
Tony Bill as Jim Blake
Joi Lansing as Lola
Cesar Romero as Miguel Santos
John McGiver as Shad Nathan
Hermione Baddeley as Mrs. Ginny MacPherson
Trini Lopez as Himself
DeForest Kelley as Mr. Turner
Kathleen Freeman as Miss Blight


Directed by Jack Donohue
Written by Cy Howard
Produced by William H. Daniels
Cinematography William H. Daniels
Edited by Sam O’Steen
Music by Nelson Riddle

Production companies: A-C Productions, Sinatra Enterprises

Distributed by Warner

Release date: September 24, 1965

Running time: 109 minutes
Box office $3,000,000 (rentals)