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Ellen Arden arrives 7 years after being given up for dead in a shipwreck, to find her husband Nick just remarried to Bianca. The overjoyed Nick awkwardly tries to break the news gently to Bianca. But before he can do that, an unpleasant surprise--news that Ellen has spent the 7 years on a deserted island with fellow-survivor Burkett. Nick's jealousy tries to find out the truth. Hilarious confusion reigns before Nick chooses his favorite wife. Written by
Riaz Shaikh <email@example.com>
When Nick first tries to sleep in the bed in the attic of the cabin, he pulls a toy cannon from under the bed and throws it across the room. When he does this, the doll on the night stand falls over. You can see the trip wire swinging behind Nick. In fact, the pin at the end of the wire lands on Nick's head. See more »
From the opening moments, when the big wooden doors part and usher us into a beautifully spare art deco courtroom with slanting shafts of sunlight enhancing the clean architectural lines, we know that this is going to be a deftly-made, elegant film. What follows does not disappoint us.
Attorney Nick Arden (Cary Grant) lost his wife Ellen in a shipwreck in the Pacific seven years ago. He has now decided to have her declared officially dead, so that he will be free to marry Bianca (Gail Patrick). The irascible judge eventually accedes to both the declaration and the marriage, and the newly-weds set off for a honeymoon in Yosemite. Meanwhile, who should turn up at the Arden residence, very much alive, but the long-lost Ellen? When she hears of the recent marriage, she heads straight for the honeymooners' hotel ...
"My Favourite Wife" is a fine example of those early Cary Grant farces, the ones in which he gawps with surprise, double-takes and mutters to himself as only he can. Irene smoke-gets-in-your-eyes Dunn is great as Ellen, unveiling a hitherto unsuspected gift for witty comedy. Scotty Beckett and Mary Lou Harrington come close to stealing the show as the Ardens' cute little kids. Randolph Scott is interestingly cast as Steve Burkett, the muscle-bound Adonis who spent seven years on the desert island with Ellen.
Some of the film's highlights are worth mentioning here, like the superimposition of Burkett performing gymnastic feats alongside Nick Arden's troubled face as he muses at his desk, conveying with economy the husband's jealous preoccupation. It is unfair to give away a film's jokes, but one gag which lose nothing in the telling is Ellen's outfit at the Yosemite hotel. She has been out of circulation for seven years, and she looks comically untrendy in her 1932 polkadots and lapels, and obtrusive hat. Watch for the derisive glances from the other hotel guests.
Such a light, charming piece of entertainment is hard to fault, but the film does have some shortcomings. Its central problem, which is not resolved, is what to do with Bianca. She married Nick in good faith and has done nothing wrong, yet she is neglected by Nick. Because there is no satisfactory way of dealing with her, she is simply dropped. Ellen's return from a watery grave after all those years would be a news story of international importance, but instead she arrives home having hitched a ride in a truck. Her entry into the country seems to have gone unannounced, even to her husband. The scene in which she persuades a shoe store clerk to pose as 'Adam' in front of Nick has enormous comic potential, but is abandoned after a few seconds. Nick's sleeping-in-the-attic scene is far too long for the humour it contains.
However, the film is a pleasant and very amusing romp, and such weaknesses as it contains do not detract from its appeal.
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