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USA 1940
Directed by
Garson Kanin
88 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

My Favorite Wife

Seven years after his wife, Ellen (Irene Dunne), disappeared at sea, wealthy lawyer Nick Arden (Cary Grant) marries again. As luck would have it, Ellen suddenly reappears the day of his marriage and reveals that she's been shipwrecked on a desert island for all this time. Nick is overjoyed to see her and ready to resume their marriage but how to break the tidings to his new wife (Gail Patrick)?  Then he finds out that Ellen shared the island with a man’s man (Randolph Scott) and becomes convinced that he's been cuckolded. .

The core idea for this would-be madcap comedy has some potential but with a sanitized script that persistently sidesteps the sexual implications of the various liaisons and routine, at times clumsy, direction from Kanin (see especially the poolside encounter between the three principals) it is a tedious affair that never manages to give the idea of a man juggling two wives the remotest credibility (a failure which is made worse by some huge continuity jumps).

If in its day the film was at best a superficial attempt to pander to a female audience (Grant strikes handsome poses, Dunne models the latest fashions) it now comes across as a protracted slog in which Grant’s performance feels run-of-the-mill and Dunne seems to be largely talking to empty space (the two had combined much more successfully three years earlier in The Awful Truth the director of which, Leo McCarey, co-wrote and produced this film).

The result is a film that will probably only appeal to fervid fans of the era and/or the actors.




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