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Who wouldn't like a movie with Gary Cooper? Or one with Claudette Colbert? Or one directed by Ernst Lubitsch? Who wouldn't like a comedy film written by Billy Wilder? The answers to all of these questions would be very few people (among movie fans who have seen a body of work dating from the early years of Hollywood). So, when one film has all of these great talents involved in it, well most of us would probably expect the spectacular.
Unfortunately, "Bluebeard's Eighth Wife" is far from the mark. It's not bad, but it's not much better than mediocre. I am a little surprised that a few reviewers scored it a 10. But, with leveler heads, others noted some of the things I did about this film. Oh sure, it has some witty lines and scenes. In the opening we see Michael Brandon (played by Cooper) looking in a store window in what looked to me to be Nice, France. A sign welcomes people in different languages. A sign in Spanish, German, French and English reads that that language is spoken here. A fifth line, after English, reads, "American understood."
Then, as Brandon walks through the store, a salesman tries to interest him in one product after another. Walking beside him with a men's cologne bottle, the salesman says, "It's the contention of our management that the man who smells is a thing of the future." To which Brandon replies, "You ought to go a long way." But after that, the clever and funny lines are few and far between.
The next scene in the store is where Brandon and Nicole De Loiselle (played by Claudette Colbert) meet. It is amusing but not hilarious. And, from then on, the attempts at humor are mostly one-liners with no response. Cooper is very stiff and wooden in this film, and there is absolutely no chemistry between these two stars. Colbert is Colbert a very good actress at whatever she puts her heart into. But when the script is poor, as this one is, one actor is not going to save a film. The characters are not matched well, and the direction is lacking.
One other reviewer commented on the weak premise for this film, and I agree. That could have been part of why the film flopped at the box office. But, moviegoers in that day knew good actors and directors and writers, and so they probably expected something very good. I give this five stars for Colbert's performance and that of the supporting cast, especially Edward Everett Horton as her movie father. David Niven's part was OK, but in a couple of scenes, he seemed to be an afterthought of the screenwriter. I can see how some viewers felt bored about half way into the film. It did stretch out far too much, probably losing much of the audience interest at the point.
For some top Hollywood people of the time, Bluebeard would have to rank toward the bottom of their portfolios.
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