Oregon, 1980: Jane, Elaine and Louise are all feeling the effects of inflation and cannot afford, as the title states, the high cost of living. Jane cannot afford a babysitter or get married and if she wants privacy with her boyfriend, she has to sleep in the car. Even worse, her war veteran father comes to live with her to turn her life upside down. Louise lives a happy life with her veterinarian husband, Albert.
She runs an antique shop on the side, but since it doesn’t take in any profit, the IRS considers it a hobby. She needs to come up with the money to keep it going, or she will be trouble with the IRS. Elaine’s husband has left her for another woman and without any money. She is in a constant struggle with banks, power companies, and gas stations. She needs money to get by and also catches the eye of police officer Jack. The local mall is having a contest that features a giant money ball that states it will help fight the inflation.
How to Beat the High Cost of Living is a 1980 American comedy film starring Jane Curtin, Susan Saint James and Jessica Lange. Also in the cast are Dabney Coleman, Fred Willard, Richard Benjamin, Eddie Albert, Cathryn Damon, and a cameo by Jane Curtin’s fellow Saturday Night Live co-star Garrett Morris. The movie was released in summer of 1980, grossing approximately US $7.5 million.
About the Production
Robert Kaufman had written the script in 1971-1972, and Kaufman (and then later with Jere Henshaw) had 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., and Universal Pictures, all interested in the project if he could land major stars. Kaufman and Henshaw could not get the movie made until Henshaw got hired at American International Pictures as executive senior vice president in charge of production. The pair first made Love at First Bite, this success gave them the go ahead to make How to Beat the High Co$t of Living with younger, lesser-known names.
Most of the film was shot in and around Eugene, Oregon. Eugene was chosen because they needed an indoor mall next to a river. The mall used for filming was the Valley River Center, situated next to the Willamette River. The budget for the project was $4.75 million with a 42-day shooting schedule. Filming began on September 5, 1979 and wrapped up in late October.
While filming an outdoor scene in Eugene, a middle-aged man drove by in a car and yelled, “Jane, you ignorant slut!,” in reference to Curtin and Dan Aykroyd doing their Point/Counterpoint segment on Saturday Night Live, and the crew cracked up laughing. Curtin and Saint James who would go on to star together in the sitcom Kate & Allie.
How to Beat the High Cost of Living (1980)
Directed by: Robert Scheerer
Starring: Susan Saint James, Jane Curtin, Jessica Lange, Richard Benjamin, Eddie Albert, Cathryn Damon, Dabney Coleman, Sybil Danning
Screenplay by: Robert Kaufman
Production Design by: Lawrence G. Paull
Cinematography by: James Crabe
Film Editing by: Bill Butler
Set Decoration by: Peg Cummings
Music by: Patrick Williams
Distributed by: Filmways Pictures, American International Pictures
Release Date: July 11, 1980