Already have an account?
Get back to the

‘What a Way to Go!’ — A Look Back at Shirley MacLaine, Paul Newman, Dick Van Dyke and more!

This classic film is turning 60! Catch up with the all-star ensemble


In the whimsical landscape of 1960s cinema, What a Way to Go! stands out as a delightful blend of comedy, romance and satire. Released in 1964, this star-studded cast captivated audiences with its clever premise, colorful visuals and stellar performances.

What a Way to Go! follows the misadventures of Louisa May Foster, played by Shirley MacLaine, a young woman who inadvertently marries a series of wealthy men, each meeting a tragic end. As Louisa’s life unfolds in a series of flashbacks, we witness her encounters with husbands played by leading men such as Dick Van Dyke, Paul Newman, Robert Mitchum, Gene Kelly, and Dean Martin.

Gene Kelly and Shirley McClain, 1964MoviestillsDB

With its whimsical premise, colorful set pieces, and sharp humor, What a Way to Go! offers a satirical commentary on the pursuit of wealth and the American Dream. Directed by J. Lee Thompson and produced by Arthur P. Jacobs, What a Way to Go! became a box office success and earned critical acclaim for its innovative approach to comedy.

Here, we look at the cast members of What a Way to Go!

MUST READ: 1964 Movies — 15 Classic Films Turning 60 and Where to Stream Them!

Shirley MacLaine as Louisa May Foster

Shirley MacLaine as Louisa May Foster in What a Way to Go
1964/2023Keystone / Stringer/ Getty; Steven Simione / Stringer/ Getty

Born on April 24, 1934, in Richmond, Virginia, Shirley MacLaine played the role of Louisa May Foster, a spirited young woman whose life is marked by a series of marriages to wealthy men, each ending in unexpected tragedy.

Prior to What a Way to Go!, MacLaine was already a celebrated actress, known for her versatility and range. She had appeared in numerous films, including Some Came Running (1958), for which she received her first Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. She got her second Academy Award nomination for her role in The Apartment (1960). Her third Academy Award nomination came from the movie Irma la Douce (1963).

Audiences loved her in the 1964 film What a Way to Go!, as much for her acting as well as her handsome male co-stars. She continued to have a successful acting career and in 1983 she finally won the Academy Award for her role in Terms of Endearment.

She continued to have box-office hits with Steel Magnolias (1989) and Postcards from the Edge (1990) in which she played Meryl Streep’s mother.

She continued to have a strong film career albeit it with smaller roles. She was a fan favorite in Bewitched (2005) which starred Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell. She was nominated for a Golden Globe for her role in In Her Shoes (2005) which starred Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette. She also appeared in Rumor Has It… (2005) with Jennifer Aniston and Kevin Costner.

MacLaine was also popular on the small screen. She was the star of Shirley’s World in the ‘70s and more recently, she’s appeared in Downton Abbey (2012-13), Glee (2014) and Only Murders in the Building (2022).

Did you know? MacLaine’s brother is the famed actor, Warren Beatty.

MUST READ: ‘Steel Magnolias’ Cast Then and Now — See What This Group of A-Listers Has Been Up to Since the Film’s 1989 Release

Paul Newman as Larry Flint: What a Way to Go!

Paul Newman as Larry Flint
1964/1995Bruce Bailey / Staff/ Getty; Bob Riha Jr / Contributor/ Getty

Born on January 26, 1925, in Shaker Heights, Ohio, Paul Newman played the role of Larry Flint, one of Louisa’s husbands and a successful businessman whose relentless pursuit of wealth leads to his untimely demise.

Prior to What a Way to Go!, Newman was already enjoying a success film career. He was known for his charismatic presence and piercing blue eyes. He had starred in numerous films, including Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) The Hustler (1961) and Hud (1961).

After What a Way to Go! Newman continued to enjoy success in Hollywood, starring in iconic films such as Cool Hand Luke (1967) and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969). Newman won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in The Color of Money (1986).

He continued to act in Nobody’s Fool (1994) and Road to Perdition (2002). Late in his career he did a lot of voice work including the voice of Doc Hudson in Cars (2006).

He passed away in 2008 at the age of 83.

Did you know? He was married twice. His first marriage was to Jacqueline Witte from 1949 to 1958 and his second wife was Joanne Woodward whom he was married to from 1958 until his death in 2008.

MUST READ: Paul Newman Movies: 19 Rare Photos of The Screen Idol’s 50-Year Career

Dick Van Dyke as Edgar Hopper: What a Way to Go!

Dick Van Dyke as Edgar Hopper in What a Way to Go
1964/2021Alexandre Fuchs / Contributor/ Getty; Paul Morigi / Stringer/ Getty

Born on December 13, 1925, in West Plains, Missouri, Dick Van Dyke played the role of Edgar Hopper, one of Louisa’s ill-fated husbands, a successful artist whose love for his work ultimately leads to his demise.

Prior to What a Way to Go!, Van Dyke was a versatile actor and comedian, known for his comedic timing and physical comedy. He had starred in the popular television series The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966) and had appeared in films such as Mary Poppins (1964).

After What a Way to Go!, Van Dyke continued to enjoy success in entertainment, starring in numerous films and television shows throughout his career. In 1967, he went against type when he was cast in Divorce American Style as a man going through a difficult divorce from his wife played by Debbie Reynolds. In Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) he starred as inventor Caractacus Potts, who creates a magical car for his children. Van Dyke returned to TV in 1971 with The New Dick Van Dyke Show where he once again played a family man working in TV. In 1993, Van Dyke played a crime-solving doctor in Diagnosis Murder. His real-life son, Barry, played his character’s son, a homicide detective.

In 2018, he appeared in Mary Poppins Returns, and the following years he guest-starred in Days of Our Lives and he appeared on The Masked Singer.

MUST READ: Dick Van Dyke Talks ‘98 Years of Magic’ Special and Reflects on His Career

Robert Mitchum as Rod Anderson

Robert Mitchum as Rod Anderson
1964/1988Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer/ Getty; Bob Riha Jr / Contributor/ Getty

Born on August 6, 1917, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Robert Mitchum played the role of Rod Anderson, one of Louisa’s husbands, a rugged outdoorsman whose adventurous spirit leads to his demise.

Mitchum rose to fame in the ‘40s. He was nominated for an Academy Award for the movie The Story of G.I. Joe (1945). He went on to make successful films including Out of the Past (1947), Angel Face (1953), River of No Return (1954), The Night of the Hunter (1955), Thunder Road (1958), The Sundowners (1960), and Cape Fear (1962).

After What a Way to Go! he continued to act and appeared in films such as El Dorado, (1966), Ryan’s Daughter (1970), The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973), and Farewell, My Lovely (1975). He was also known for his television role as U.S. Navy Captain Victor Pug Henry in the epic miniseries The Winds of War (1983) and sequel War and Remembrance (1988).

He played the role of Joe in the TV show A Family for Joe (1990) then played the part of Sam Duttan in the TV series African Skies (1992-94). His last film appearance was in 1997 in James Dean: Race with Destiny.

He passed away that same year at the age of 79.

MUST READ: ‘Viva Las Vegas’ Cast: Catch Up With the Stars 60 Years Later!

Gene Kelly as Pinky Benson: What a Way to Go!

Gene Kelly as Pinky Benson in What a Way to Go
1964/1990Avalon / Contributor/ Getty; Kypros / Contributor/ Getty

Born on August 23, 1912, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Gene Kelly played the role of Pinky Benson, another of Louisa’s husbands, a charming entertainer whose love for show business leads to his untimely demise.

Kelly was a legendary dancer, choreographer, and actor, known for his athleticism and grace. He had starred in numerous films including An American in Paris (1951) which won the Academy Award for Best Picture and Singin’ in the Rain (1952) which he also directed and choreographed. He also starred in Brigadoon (1954) and It’s Always Fair Weather (1955).

After What a Way to Go!, Kelly continued to work in entertainment, directing and starring in various films and television shows. He directed the box-office hit A Guide for the Married Man (1967), which starred Walter Matthau. He also directed Hello, Dolly! (1969), which featured Matthau and Barbra Streisand. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, winning three.

In addition to films, Kelly was also in TV starring in the series Going My Way 1962-1963. He also appeared in several other TV shows including North & South: Book 1, North & South, Sins and The Love Boat.

He passed away in 1996.

MUST READ: 16 Surprising Behind-the-Scenes Facts About ‘My Fair Lady’

Dean Martin as Leonard Crawley

Dean Martin as Leonard Crawley
1964/1988United Archives / Contributor/ Getty; Kypros / Contributor/ Getty

Born on June 7, 1917, in Steubenville, Ohio, Dean Martin played the role of Leonard Crawley, another of Louisa’s husbands, this one was a wealthy playboy whose lavish lifestyle leads to his downfall.

Born Dino Paul Crocetti, Martin was a legendary entertainer, known for his smooth voice and effortless charm. He had appeared in numerous films and television shows, often alongside his Rat Pack cohorts.

He starred in the war drama, The Young Lions (1958) alongside Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift. He also starred alongside Frank Sinatra in the film Some Came Running (1958) and with John Wayne in the Rio Bravo (1959).

He was a hit in What a Way to Go! That same year he appeared in Robin and the 7 Hoods, again with Rat Pack pals Sammy Davis Jr. and Sinatra.

He also found success on TV with The Dean Martin Show (1965-1974), The Dean Martin Comedy Hour (1974 to 1984) and The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts.

Martin died in 1995 at age 78 from complications to lung cancer.

How to watch What a Way to Go!

The classic is now available to stream on Amazon Prime, YouTube TV and AppleTV.

For more 1960s entertainment, click here!

Use left and right arrow keys to navigate between menu items. Use right arrow key to move into submenus. Use escape to exit the menu. Use up and down arrow keys to explore. Use left arrow key to move back to the parent list.