Talkie of the Week: My Favorite Wife
USA 1940, 88 minutes, black & white, RKO Radio Pictures. Director: Garson Kanin, Written by Bella & Samuel Speweck, Leo McCarey, Based on Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem “Enoch Arden”. Cast: Cary Grant, Irene Dunne, Randolph Scott, Gail Patrick
Plot summary: When Nick gets married seven years after his first wife went missing at sea, he does not reckon to end up being a bigamist by the end of the day.
Review: After seven years on a lonely island with the only other survivor of a shipwreck, Ellen Arden returns home only to find out that her husband got married to another woman. Unwilling to let go of him without a fight, she follows him to his honeymoon destination and stirs up his new life. As silly and entertaining as it sounds, this screwball classic was based on a poem by Arthur Lord Tennyson and received three Academy Award nominations including Best Story. And rightly so. Led by Cary Grant and Irene Dunne, the cast lived up to the decent script and turned My Favorite Wife into a success.
Using their chemistry to create a direct opposite to the nature of Nick Arden’s relationship with his new wife, Dunne stressed the warmth and sass of her character which benefited Grant’s despair and confusion. Convincing as always in his comedic roles, Cary Grant switched from disbelieving to enamored to jealous within a few short scenes, always allowing his fellow cast to sparkle next to him. Gail Patrick (who would later produce the Perry Mason TV series) did a beautiful job as his new wife Bianca, rejecting her unexpected rival and despairing at a marriage that turns out to be invalid. Randolph Scott gave an equally brilliant performance as Ellen’s former shipwreck partner, annoying Grant’s Nick Arden out of his wits.
Successfully remade as Move Over, Darling with Doris Day, James Garner, Polly Bergen and Chuck Conners in 1963, My Favorite Wife is one of those gems that never get old. With its stellar cast and excellent writing, the film is still diverting and funny on DVD today. It’s the perfect movie for a lovely spring night when you crave a smile and feel like watching a good movie with a couple of friends who enjoy the classics.