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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>
Tremendous fun, if not the sharpest screwball specimen.
There are some lovely, touching and dryly amusing scenes in this film. Kanin and the scriptwriters manage to form a substantive, if occasionally gossamer light, whole out of the playing of fine leads and canny comic incidents. The basic story may be the oldest of chestnuts, but it is here embellished with some degree of incisiveness. Grant's scene by the pool with Dunne and Scott reaches a fine pitch of hilarity, and who can forget the impressionistic scene of Scott's diving coming into Grant's mind and being presented in miniature on-screen?
That master player of light, witty material, Grant, is of course sublime, and I was surprised by Irene Dunne - who I had never previously seen in a lead film role. She was magnificently feline, as Pauline Kael says; dispensing slinky, fluttering phrases and quips, and making it clear what a laugh the character is having; she seems rather to be getting off on the entangled situation. The speech patterns are drolly created by Dunne; wonderful Southern hamming, or archetypal screwball dame quick-talk... Her warming, gadding-about voice is charms, along with deft facial acting; look at the "Oh Bianca..." scene at the hotel early on, where she sensuously reclines on a settee and gets Grant to pretend he is entering the room and kissing his new wife. Minxish mischief of the most heartwarming kind, aye...!
Remarkable to think that Ms. Dunne was over forty when this was made. She has the bearing of many years younger and conveys an impressive vigour. One takes to her unconventional good looks; her slight awkwardness as a 'star' is amusingly alluded to, under the surface, in her son's dialogue late on; very poignant little moment, that. Like Rosalind Russell and Kate Hepburn, she is no textbook beauty, and it is her characterful playing conveys a winking, winning attractiveness. Why is it that we have so few similarly idiosyncratic actresses around today? All - or rather much - has to be homogenised; pop star product looks are apparently required, and conveyor-belted into mainstream films. Film is missing the enticing depths of real-life when it opts for the conformist teenage boy's supposed 'dream woman' - mass-media-fostered - over a greater variety of people and appearances, as one encounters in actual reality.
The actor playing the world-weary, rather Robb Wilton-esquire magistrate ought to have been involved more than he was; an enjoyable turn, that would have been effectively woven deeper into the narrative. Randolph Scott amused slightly too, in his support role; a worthy foil. Things did perhaps get rather sentimental with the involvement of the couple's children, although this is hardly the worst such offender in Hollywood history. The insidious wryness seems completely blunted by the end, when the couple are finally reconciled. One may be charmed by the actors' performances, but it all starts to seem a bit indulgent, and the feeling grows that chances were missed.
But really, one must be indulgent, critically; there is priceless stuff in this film's fibre, and while it fires not on all screwball-comedy cylinders, it is a very pleasant feature with glorious screen presences making (deceptively) light of life.
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