My Favourite Wife (1940)

Marilyn Monroe took the role in ‘Something’s Gotta Give’ to extreme heights before bidding a farewell to everyone from this world. Doris Day, similarly in ‘Move over Darling’ was charming and did justice to her role.

While one movie had to be abandoned, the other was seen as a good remake of this 1940 movie.

My Favourite Wife is the one in the discussion that gave the source to the movies mentioned above while being inspired by Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem “Enoch Arden.”

This movie had a pre-cursor, plot-wise in the silent era, most notably D W Griffith’s epic ‘Enoch Arden’ in two parts made in 1911. Ellen Arden (Irene Dunne) is supposedly killed in a shipwreck seven years ago. Her husband, Nick Arden (Cary Grant), after having hoped all these years to see his wife come back, decides to have her issued dead in the court. This would ensure he could move on and marry Bianca (Gail Patrick) legally. Nick has two kids from Ellen.

Nick and Bianca get married and are on their way to their honeymoon.

Twist in the tale as Ellen appears after having been rescued by a ship from a distant island. She comes home and gets to know about Nick’s wedding and feels sad about him moving on with life. She decides to surprise him and goes to the hotel where the newlywed couples have booked their honeymoon suite.

The expression on the face of Nick upon seeing Ellen is a treat for audiences. He feels guilty about the fact that he cannot embrace his long-lost wife with the same compassion. At the same time, he cannot think about his newlywed status with Bianca.

Hesitation to come out with Bianca’s truth, he escapes from confrontation, and the scenes have been shot well, portraying Nick’s denial to face the truth. Nick is jealous that Ellen had spent the last seven years with a guy on that island. He was curious to know who that guy was. Ellen tries to camouflage this fact by introducing a dumb guy so that Nick doesn’t have an issue to get back at her. Incidentally, Nick, driven by jealousy, decides to find who that guy was. It turns out to be quite a handsome guy.

Unable to bear this, he expresses his irritation to Ellen. In the meantime, Bianca is confused as to why she isn’t able to live with Nick and keeps wondering what’s going on in Nick’s mind. He tends to avoid her whenever she tries to get close to him or when she is in a mood to make love.

Out of two wives, Nick has to make a choice. He chooses his favourite wife, and that being Ellen. One can sympathise with Bianca as I feel she has been wronged here. But, since this being a movie on the lines of screwball comedy, one can imagine having characters like Bianca.

Irene Dunne and Cary Grant match their previous success on a husband-wife theme, The Awful Truth. In particular, Irene Dunne looks fresh, and one cannot believe she was older than Cary Grant in real life. The scenes involving the hotel manager and the judge are mind blowing-ly funny. Randolph Scott plays the role of Steve Burkett, who accompanied Ellen on the deserted island.

Directed by Garson Kanin, this movie was initially slated to be directed by Leo McCarey. A freak accident prevented him from executing and hired Garson Kanin to do the honours.

The movie was a success and managed to receive three Oscar nominations for Best Art Direction, Best Music – Original Score, and Best Writing – Original Story (looks like by altering story and some of its elements from another play are considered original).

One thought on “My Favourite Wife (1940)

  1. After watching “MOVE OVER DARLING”, I went ahead and watched the original movie, “MY FAVORITE WIFE” with Irene Dunne and Cary Grant. I realize that most people would not agree with me, but frankly I found the 1963 movie a lot funnier. The humor and pacing were a lot sharper and the last 10 to 15 minutes didn't drag to a halt the way the 1940 movie did. I was surprised.

    Like

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