This lavishly produced, big-budget comedy (it cost $20 million in 1964 dollars) stars Shirley MacLaine as Louisa, a widow who is worth $200 million dollars.
However, she's convinced that her fortune is cursed, and she wants to give all her money to the IRS. As she explains her sad tale to her psychiatrist, Dr. Stephanson (Robert Cummings), it seems that when Louisa was young she had the choice of marrying rich playboy Leonard Crawley (Dean Martin) or poor but decent Edgar Hopper (Dick Van Dyke).
She chose Edgar, but soon he became obsessed with providing a fine home and fortune for her; he got rich but worked himself to death in the process. Despondent, Louisa flies to Paris, where she strikes up a romance with expatriate artist Larry Flint (Paul Newman).
When Larry invents a machine that creates paintings based on sounds, he becomes wealthy and famous -- and dies. Louisa returns to America, where she figures to break her streak by marrying Rod (Robert Mitchum), a business tycoon who already has lots of money.
He resolves to take life easier and becomes a farmer, only to die in a strange accident with a bull. Louisa is drowning her sorrows one night at a sleazy night spot when she falls for second rate entertainer Jerry (Gene Kelly).
They marry, and a now-wealthy Jerry develops a relaxed, carefree quality to his act that makes him a huge star, which leads to his being crushed by a mob of his biggest fans.
What a Way to Go! boasted a screenplay by Betty Comdon and Adolph Green that featured many amusing film parodies and a score by Nelson Riddle; it also marked the final screen appearance of comic actress Margaret Dumont, best remembered as Groucho Marx's straight woman in several films.