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Monday, 22 December 2014

Classic Film Review: The Constant Husband (1955)

The Constant Husband stars Rex Harrison as a man who wakes up one morning in Wales with no recollection of who he is. With the help of a professor (Cecil Parker), he tracks his life down to a swanky house in Hampstead and learns that his name is Charles Hathaway. However, when he is kidnapped he learns that he has a trail of wives behind him and that the police would like a chat. Kay Kendall also features as the Hampstead wife, Monica, and Margaret Leighton stars as council for the defence.

This is a gentle comedy which, once you know the premise, holds very few surprises. Harrison is perfectly cast as the bemused 'Charles', particularly in the opening scenes where he's trying to get his bearings. He also has a good rapport with the ever-dependable Cecil Parker as the professor. Their scenes together throughout the film are a highlight. I've adored Kay Kendall since watching her in Genevieve (1953, reviewed here) and The Constant Husband occupies a special place in her biography as it brought her together both personally and professionally with future husband Harrison. This adds an extra layer to their scenes together, especially for the film buffs like me. 

I think this film's problem is that it spreads itself too thin. Although we only really encounter Monica and Lola (Nicole Maurey) as 'Charles's' wives, the court scenes are diluted by the fact that we're focused on many women and not just one or two. Of course, that adds to the comedic effect but I always like a bit more character with my comedy. I did enjoy Margaret Leighton as the defence counsellor though, again, she was used more as a satellite to Harrison than anything else. 

Ultimately, this is a steady film to enjoy once and then rewatch perhaps for choice scenes. It's not awe-inspiring but Harrison puts in a congenial performance as the central character confused by the actions of a self he doesn't remember, tying the judge in knots as he tries to understand the peculiar 'defence' the bigamist puts up. It's all solid fun, though I watched it more for Kay Kendall than anything else. 

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