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Monday, 1 April 2013

Classic Film Review: My Favourite Wife (1940)

My Favourite Wife stars Cary Grant as Nick Arden, a man who has just declared his wife legally missing seven years after she was presumed dead in a shipwreck and married a second wife. The only problem is that on the very day he declares her dead, Ellen (Irene Dunne) manages to make it home. She pursues Nick and new 'wife' Bianca (Gail Patrick) to their honeymoon hotel and reveals herself to Nick. He's over the moon at her return but has difficulty telling Bianca. Just as he's about made up his mind to, he discovers that Ellen wasn't shipwrecked alone - there was a man, Stephen Burkett (Randolph Scott), on the island too and they called each other 'Adam' and 'Eve'. Hilarity and shenanigans ensue.

I loved this one. Grant is at his personable best as Nick, a man rightly disturbed by the idea of his wife spending seven years secluded with another man. Meanwhile, Dunne just lights up the screen from the moment she appears. Surprisingly, as the film went on, I found myself warming to Gail Patrick as her confusion at her 'husband's' bizarre behaviour grows. There is one sequence where she brings a doctor to the house that is downright hilarious. But, really, this film belongs to Grant and Dunne. Nearly all of their scenes are funny, though the laughs tail off a little towards the end as outside forces cease to be relevant.

One thing I really liked was the way the two children were utilised. Instead of breaking the news to them off-screen, Ellen tells them who she really in during a sweet little scene where they already knew. Whilst this is a comedy there are moments of poignancy scattered throughout. My favourite scene, though, has to be when Ellen has accosted a salesman and persuaded him to be Stephen Burkett for a few minutes, just to allay any fears Nick may have about him being an attractive man. Of course, what she doesn't know is that Nick's already scoped out the competition!

If you're looking for a nice, light comedy with some excellent lead performances as well as some amusing secondary players then this might just do the trick. Watch out for Granville Bates as the judge forced to unravel the case and Donald MacBride as the hotel clerk forced to get tough on the man with two wives in suites opposite each other.

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