From IMDB’s user comments:
THE HAPPY ENDING might not seem special today, and may well seem very dated in some ways, but we must remember this is the pre-DIARY OF A MAD HOUSEWIFE era. I’m sure the film seemed pioneering in its day, questioning the role of the traditional housewife and demanding that women are entitled to the same satisfaction and autonomy that men expected. Writer-director Richard Brooks often dealt with social issues and political themes–that he took on women’s issues is no surprise. The film is especially an acting tour-de-force: Jean Simmons as the unsatisfied woman; John Forsythe as the non-understanding but well-meaning husband; Teresa Wright as Simmons’ mother; Dick Shawn and Tina Louise as a miserable couple; Shirley Jones as the woman who survived by having affairs with married men; Lloyd Bridges as a married man with Jones as his mistress; Bobby Darin as a lost and lonely gigolo looking for that one big score. I was also impressed by the film’s structure–with two parallel stories a year apart and various flashbacks all presented in such a way that the details of the relationship’s coming apart are given to us a little at a time, and we are gradually brought to the point where we understand WHY the present state has become what it is. It’s quite well-paced and creates tension throughout. Also, the unexpected and non-traditional ending is perfect. It’s tempting to wonder what these rich people are whining about when people in the same community are working two jobs, sixteen hours a day, or starving, or dying of cancer, but Ms. Simmons’ performance makes us care about and sympathize with her character. The film would perhaps also be of value as an educational tool for future generations who want to understand the ending of the pre-feminist era. Those who enjoy the teaming of stars Jean Simmons and Shirley Jones and director Richard Brooks should also check out his excellent film version of Sinclair Lewis’ ELMER GANTRY. Those who know Shirley Jones only from The Partridge Family might be shocked to see what a fine dramatic actress she is!