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I was surprised to see only one comment on this film in your files. It's been one of my all-time favorites since I was a youngster about the time it was made. Now that I'm reminded by looking it up here that it was a Preston Sturges film I can see why that's so. His classic comedies were unique. It must be also one of Rex Harrison's greatest films. Being a professional musician myself I can especially appreciate the symphonic ambience in which it takes place. I can also appreciate the possible parody Sturges might have had in mind of the great British conductor of those days, Sir Thomas Beecham. The greatest and most memorable visual effect of the movie (I've certainly remembered it all these years most vividly) happened when the Harrison character has to look up the directions for using the recording machine on which he was going to fake the evidence of his wife's still being alive. Onto the screen flashes the most outrageously complex electrical diagram comprehensible only to a professional electrician. This symbolized the inability of modern man to cope with advanced technology. One of the most hilarious moments in film I've ever seen. More viewers should catch up with this one.
It is rare when a film is so funny that it will give me fits of belly
laughter, and Unfaithfully Yours is one of them. Rex Harrison stars as an
English aristocrat and eminent conductor who, despite being madly in love
with his wife (played by Linda Darnell) realizes as a result of several
misunderstandings that she may be cheating on him. While he is conducting a
symphony concert he comes up with three different scenarios in his head of
how to deal with her alleged duplicity. Actually carrying out these plans
turns out to be an entirely different matter.
Preston Sturges is always an excellent writer and director, but his quick wit and double entendres are a revelation in this film. One almost has to watch it two or three times to get every comment uttered and facial expression portrayed by our protagonist (Harrison). His delivery is superb, sometimes almost funnier than the words he is saying. Darnell and the supporting cast provide excellent straight and slapstick moments. Dudley Moore starred in a remake of this film in the 80's which was also enjoyable, but having now seen this film, I highly recommend the original over the remake. It is an hour and a half of pure delight.
One of Director Preston Sturges' most enjoyable films, Unfaithfully Yours is
a dark comedy which uses the skills of it's leading actors Rex Harrison and
Linda Darnell, to perfection.
Harrison plays Sir Alfred De Carter, a famous symphony conductor who has recently wed the beautiful and much younger Daphne (Darnell). Upon returning from a successful concert tour, Sir Alfred is confronted by his brother-in-law August(Rudy Valle), whom he had charged to look after Daphne while he(Sir Alfred)was away. Merely wanting August to drop in on Daphne on occasion, Sir Alfred is shocked to find out that August instead, enlisted a private detective to shadow his wife around town. Outraged when presented with the detective's file, Sir Alfred refuses to even look at it. However, he is eventually confronted with the sleuth's findings, which to his chagrin, reveals that while he was away, Daphne made a very suspicious late night call to a man's room wearing only a negligee. He is further devastated to find out that the rogue in question is his own right-hand man, Tony (Kurt Kreuger), a handsome, dapper fellow more closer in age to Daphne. Believing the worst, Sir Alfred's pristine world is suddenly turned upside down, and he becomes a man consumed with jealousy and suspicion.
From here we watch Sir Alfred's gradual meltdown as the thought of his wife's infidelity haunts his every moment. Even the concert stage can't provide him any solace. While performing before a sold out audience, his mind is less on the music and more on how he will deal with the adulterous duo. With his baton wailing wildly, his mind plays out various fantasies; his first thoughts are of murder, concocting an elaborate scheme which will leave Daphne dead and Tony framed as the killer. In another scenario he sees himself as the forgiving saintly husband, allowing his young wife to leave with his blessing, even going so far as to write her a check to cover their anticipated needs. Finally, he envisions himself cast him as the crazed, pitiful victim, confronting Daphne and Tony and committing suicide before their guilty eyes. As the music ends Sir Alfred has settled on murder as his method of revenge. He abruptly ends his performance and proceeds to put his plan into effect. Hilariously, nothing seems to go quite as smoothly as it had in his vision.
Harrison is masterful as the prim and proper husband who becomes the green-eyed monster bent on revenge. Under Sturges direction, Harrison succeeds in conveying the frailty of the male ego, when faced with the possibility that the little lady may have found the grass a little greener in the neighbor's yard. Darnell as Daphne looks ravishing as the suspected spouse. She ably plays innocent enough to draw doubts about her husband's charges, yet sexy enough to make you believe that the accusations just might be true. A very entertaining movie, I would definitely recommend Unfaithfully Yours particularly for Rex Harrison fans, as this is one of his finest performances.
Though he directed a few more movies over the years, Unfaithfully Yours
was the last great hurrah from one of Hollywood's greatest comedy
writer-directors, Preston Sturges. But Lawdy, what a way to go out.
The movie stars Rex Harrison in what might be seen as a kinder, gentler cousin of his egomaniacal diction professor in My Fair Lady (1964). Here, Harrison is Sir Alfred de Carter, a world-renowned symphony conductor who is still astoundingly infatuated with the woman he refers to as his "bride," Daphne (charming Linda Darnell). The movie never declares how long or short of a time the Carters have been married, but judging from their passion level, one would guess they're still in the honeymooning stage.
(The far more down-to-earth married couple, Alfred's in-laws August and Barbara, are portrayed wonderfully by Rudy Vallee and Barbara Lawrence. Barbara gets all the great barbs off against her husband, who is only to happy to show his ignorance of them.)
One day, August accosts Alfred with the unfortunate news that he paid a detective to tail Daphne while Alfred was out of town. Alfred is so convinced of his wife's fidelity that his reaction starts at outrage and goes haywire from there. Little by little, though, Alfred is given reason to think that Daphne might have needed some spying-on after all. At his concert that evening, Alfred conducts three pieces by Rossini, Tchaikovsky, and Wagner, and with each piece, Alfred imagines the stylish revenge he will extract upon Daphne for her presumed cheating.
From this sober-sounding scenario, Sturges--as he always did--goes all over the place, from sparkling dialogue to skittering slapstick to rich drenches of sentiment. And the melange has never worked better than it does here. Just for kicks, take three of the movie's set-pieces: Alfred's achingly funny dressing-down of August for siccing a detective on Daphne, the first fantasy where Alfred hatches an elaborate murder scheme, and Alfred's drunken attempt to carry out the scheme. Three scenes of complete different tones, and they all plausibly fit into the same movie. Now try to imagine any modern-day comedy-maker whose work would display the wit of any of those scenes.
The Criterion Collection DVD of the movie does it full justice. It includes a seemingly irrelevant but nonetheless enjoyable critique of Sturges' work from Monty Python alumnus Terry Jones. And an interview with Sturges' widow Sandy, as well as copies of voluminous memoes to Sturges from uncredited producer Darryl Zanuck, demonstrate why the movie was initially a colossal box-office failure. Zanuck hounded Sturges to the point that the gifted creator of (to name but two) The Palm Beach Story and The Miracle of Morgan's Creek began doubting himself as a writer, resulting in the final humiliation of Zanuck cutting the film on his own. Then a timely scandal involving Rex Harrison forever killed the box-office chances of a black comedy starring Harrison as an ostensible woman-murderer.
Happily, Unfaithfully Yours, like Chaplin's similarly dark Monsieur Verdoux, survived its prudish times and has become renowned as a great movie. Alfred's take on Delius might be delirious (as professed by one of his fans, played by the great Sturges alumnus Edgar Kennedy)...but Sturges himself remains stupendous.
Unfaithfully Yours is a step down from his great masterpieces, Christmas in
July, The Lady Eve, Sullivan's Travels, Hail the Conquering Hero, and
Miracle at Morgan's Creek (I don't think I forgot any; I've seen all of his
films which are now thought of as important except Palm Beach Story; I also
haven't seen his film about Louis Pasteur or his final film, the one with
Betty Grable, The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Creek or some such title),
but it is masterful nonetheless. Sturges' script is exquisite - it has one
of the most unique structures I've ever come upon, which I will not ruin
any of you. It's also quite hilarious, as we can expect from the greatest
comedy director of all times, American or foreign.
There are a couple of problems, though. The situation and structure are brilliant, but the main character, while we can understand his mental anguish, becomes too mean as the picture progresses. As much as he seemed to love his wife in the first act, it is difficult to believe, even under the circumstances, that he would be that cruel towards her. Even if I did buy his awful temper (this guy's worse than Othello), it really is hard to forgive him for being such a tremendous *sshole when he comes around at the end. The film also suffers from what has to be the longest extended slapstick sequence in film history. It starts out great, especially the bit with the phone operator, but as the guy breaks more and more stuff, it just gets old. Also, with the telephone bit, the fourth time was the charm - it got a big laugh from me, but the fifth time was really too much. All and all, despite these criticisms, it still comes off as a pretty great and memorable film from a true master. 9/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
After 1944's MIRACLE OF MORGAN'S CREEK, Preston Sturges and Paramount
parted company. He was too independent a film creator, in a period when
film was made in a studio factory system with levels of producers
watching how films turned out. Most of his movies had been profitable
(one exception was his attempt to do a straight dramatic story - THE
GREAT MOMENT). But he was too big for this type of pressure. So he left
the studio and proceeded to make two independent (or semi-independent)
films. The first was THE SIN OF HAROLD DIDDLEBOCK with Harold Lloyd,
produced with Howard Hughes. The results were pretty good, but certain
flaws prevented it from being fully successful, and Hughes re-cut the
film when he re-released it. The second, done at Twentieth Century Fox,
was UNFAITHFULLY YOURS. Here, he had problems with Fox chief Darryl
Zanuck that mirrored the problems he had at Paramount. But the
resulting film was one of his best works. As mentioned elsewhere it was
his dark comedy, his MONSIEUR VERDOUX (which appeared a few years
Rex Harrison is the great British conductor Sir Alfred De Carter, who is married to the beautiful (but somewhat younger) Daphne (Linda Darnell). Daphne is sister to Barbara (Barbara Lawrence) who is married to a billionaire August Henschler (Rudy Vallee) Leading a major orchestra on tour, De Carter finds when he gets home that August hired a detective (Edgar Kennedy) to keep an eye on Daphne. There is a full report suggesting that her behavior was incorrect. De Carter is furious at August's actions, and goes to confront the Detective. But he finds Sweeney the Detective a fan of his music, and actually a fairly reasonable man. After an initial moment of anger, De Carter decides to read the report. He finds that the evidence suggests that Daphne has been having an affair with his secretary Anthony (Kurt Krueger).
The background of the story, and an interesting sequence showing Sir Alfred in rehearsal, takes up about half an hour of the movie to set up the story. We see Sir Alfred (deeply troubled, and already snapping at Daphne and Anthony) conduct Rossini, Tschaikovski, and Wagner in a three part concert. Each time he conducts he is thinking of his marriage partner and how to handle her. He imagines a perfect murder that pins the killing on Anthony. He imagines an overwhelmingly saintly version of himself being all forgiving and generous to his departing wife, leaving a self-hating Daphne in tears. He finally imagines confronting Daphne and Anthony with his pistol and playing Russian Roulette, ending with his own shocking suicide.
The concert ends, and the conductor goes home to put his schemes into effect, starting (of course) with revenge by murder. Of course, if this was a Lang or Hitchcock film the revenge would have been effectively carried out. It's Sturges however, so everything possible to carry out the "perfect" murder goes wrong. My personal favorite is a recording device that will enable him to make a record of himself saying "Help...Tony stop! Stop!" or something like that, and changing the pitch to resemble the voice of Daphne screaming! In the vision it was so simple. But the recording device falls through a window, causes Harrison to fall through a chair, keeps throwing the record off the turntable, and when he tries to follow the "easy to follow instructions" the plans look more complex than an atom smasher.
The same thing is repeated for the two other visions, with equally embarrassing failures. It is only at the tale end of the film that Sir Alfred is able to find a quiet way out of the mess of his life, without any real embarrassment.
Sturges did very well indeed in this film. Harrison was quite pleased with this role, which he felt (with THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR) was the best he did in Hollywood in the 1940s. He felt that Sturges' script was better than Shakespeare. The film also gave Sturges the chance to give Edgar Kennedy a splendid last moment on screen, as the Detective who loves De Carter's handling of Handel and Frederick Delius. Kennedy is only in the film about five minutes, but does well - even though he looks ill (he'd die in 1948). Lionel Stander, as Carter's business manager Hugo, keeps the annoyed conductor from ringing his idiot brother-in-law's neck several times. Linda Darnell is as sexy as she appeared in LETTER TO THREE WIVES, and to the end we wonder if she and Anthony did have an affair. And Vallee appears as hopelessly incompetent in being helpful as he was in romancing Claudette Colbert in Sturges' THE PALM BEACH STORY.
But the film failed. There is a downer atmosphere around it of death. First Kennedy's demise (mentioned above), and then the Harrison - Carole Landis Suicide Scandal as well. The idea (to a 1948 American audience, tired of death from World War II) of humor from subjects like murder and suicide was too much. The film flopped, and Sturges never regained his footing. Following it came the half-way decent THE BEAUTIFUL BLONDE OF BASHFUL BEND with Betty Grable, which ended his Fox years, then his living abroad in Paris, and then the awful THE FRENCH, THEY ARE A FUNNY RACE. One can only say that at least Sturges did do the string of great comedies that he was able to do while he could, and be grateful for that.
World famous conductor Sir Alfred De Carter (Rex Harrison) is in love
with his young beautiful wife Daphne (Linda Darnell). He suspects her
of cheating on him and, while conducting three separate pieces at a
performance, figures out three different ways of punishing
her--including murder. When he tries to carry them out everything goes
This movie is, at times, very black. It starts out pretty funny with Harrison spitting out his lines rapidly and his sense of comic timing was just perfect. When he has the fantasies though it turns dark and is pretty gruesome--especially for 1948. However, when he tries to carry them out and things go wrong, the film is uproarious. I've seen this film three times and I STILL laugh out loud at the last section. I saw it at a revival theatre two times and people were literally bent over in their seats helpless with laughter! This isn't for everybody--it was a critical and commercial bomb in 1948 and a lot of people still find it too sick to be funny. I can see their point--there's nothing funny about a man trying to kill his wife, but this is a MOVIE--not real life. It all ends happily also.
My only problem, and this is minor, was Darnell. She seems miscast here. But the script is quick and witty, the cast is great and they all go full throttle and the use of music is superb. Basically one of the funniest black comedies ever made. A must see! This gets a 10 all the way.
"Purple with plumes on the hips"
Unfaithfully Yours (1948)
I've never quite loved Preston Sturges as a director or Rex Harrison as an actor, so having the two of them together here didn't bode well, and I thought I'd announce my bias. And sure enough, on this second viewing I was reminded of a kind of crisp calculation that both of them have. Sturges makes amazing movies, no question, and the best of them (Palm Beach Story is my favorite) are hilarious classics. To see this one for what it offers you might first see a classic Sturges screwball from 1941 or 1942. But even those are clinical at heart (if they have a heart), so it's a little like sipping a very dry, clean martini and getting drunk. Alone. No olives. Wit and sophistication do better in the hands of Cole Porter, somehow, but see for yourself.
Harrison the actor overcomes his harsh demeanor in a movie like My Fair Lady because the music and the style there give him some kind of liberty, but here he is supposed to be sympathetic in his demented cruelty, and I only wish him failure. He is, to be sure, plotting the death of his wife. Three times. And then the fourth, beyond the symphony podium, with its madcap bedlam. It's funny in that zany way you have to laugh at. And you will laugh.
I love classical music and like the structure of the film, but as usual with Sturges, this structure makes the whole process detached and too too clever. Sturges himself wrote the screenplay for this idea way back in 1932, and if it had been shot then, before the Hays code, before the real rise of screwball, we would have had a very different movie. But what we have here is admirable and interesting, for sure, if not the zinger it could have been with a different tilt.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Possible mini-"spoiler" may follow:
Was watching TV one night with my mother, many years ago, and this film was shown, uncut and only rarely interrupted by commercials. We got to laughing so hard, especially during a slapstick scene involving a very old-fashioned and cumbersome tape recorder, that I'll never forget that evening. The recording devices which would now be available to Rex Harrison's character, as a husband whose suspicions about his wife's fidelity have been mistakenly raised by his busybody brother-in-law, hilariously incarnated by Rudy Vallee, make that particular scene an antiquated curiosity. But so much of the rest of Preston Sturges' inventions and dialogues in this one more than stand the test of time.
A few years after that TV broadcast this film was shown at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood as part of an annual springtime marathon of classic films. On the big screen the full gloss of Twentieth-Century Fox's resources, so well employed by Sturges, were apparent. The print was pristine and the whole enterprise looked and sounded so much better than a TV broadcast or video transfer ever could. I'll never forget the scene where Harrison's elegantly imperious orchestra conductor confronts an unexpected fan (Was it Detective Sweeney or O'Brien the tailor? - Can't quite remember, though I'm fairly sure it was the former, so well played by Edgar Kennedy.) and bitterly upbraids him for his apparent appreciation of classical music and Sir Alfred's preeminence on the concert stage, yet this underling is engaged in an occupation that Sir Alfred regards as beneath contempt. How Harrison must have relished those lines!
With Alfred Newman doing yeomanly service in handling the complex musical chores involved in this project and Twentieth's own beauty, Linda Darnell, given a suitable opportunity to prove she was more than just a lovely subject for a cinematographer to lavish care upon, this film deserves a high ranking in the canon of Mr. Sturges. The 1984 remake, with Dudley Moore, is something I have studiously avoided and I note that it does not appear to be available on video.
Sir Rex Harrison shines in this Preston Sturges classic about a Conductor who thinks his wife has been unfaithful and devises different revenge schemes set to different orchestral works. Harrison's bravado and skill are utilized to their fullest as he turns in a gem of a performance in classic High comedy style. Linda Darnell is also wonderful as his wife,but the best supporting performance comes from Rudee Vallee as Darnell's stuffy music hating Brother.Sturges directs this film with a slick style and witty sense of humor.Harrison is nothing short of Oscar worthy.In short this film is a success for all involved and a rare treat for the viewer.
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