- by Zoë
Nick marries Bianca,
but a short time later Ellen, (his first wife) turns up after having been
stranded on a desert island for seven years.......
- by Jenny
My Favorite Wife is a screwball rendering of the Enoch
Emery tale, an old saw about a man thought lost at sea, who returns to find his wife
remarried. The twist is that it's Ellen Arden (played brilliantly by Irene Dunne) who
returns to find that her children don't recognize her and that her husband, Nick (Cary
Grant) has remarried to a shrewish bride named Bianca. This complication is enough to fuel
the movie for about a half an hour, making the first third of My Favorite Wife one of the
most sublimely silly and smoothly acted screwball comedies ever. Dunne and Grant's
chemistry in My Favorite Wife (this was their third picture together) is delicious as they
take turns acting out and reacting to each other's childish schemes.
Take the scene where Ellen is first introduced to Bianca.
Nick hasn't gotten up the nerve to tell his bride that his first wife's come back, so
Ellen pretends to be an old family friend, "from the south." She coos out one
musical barb after another while Nick squirms. Cary's scene-stealing reactions to her are
perfect. The fearful look in his eyes as he stirs a martini too loudly upon hearing
Bianca's version of their wedding night is one of my all-time favorite Cary Grant moments.
Unfortunately for the coherency of film, the Enoch Emery
bit didn't provide quite enough material for the entire movie, so some subplots were
added. Nick learns that Ellen spent her seven years of exile with a man she called
"Adam," played by Uberhunk, Randolph Scott. At first, Ellen convinces a short
guy who works at the shoe store to pretend to be Adam, but she is soon found out when the
real Adam spots her at lunch with Nick. Then Nick's jealousy prevents the couple from
reconciling and of course, Ellen's still got to find a way to explain to her children that
she's their mother. Add to this mess, a stereotypical psychiatrist, a bumbling judge and
Bianca's hysterical crying and you've got one very busy movie.
The ending of My Favorite Wife, strongly mirrors the
earlier Dunne and Grant hit, The Awful Truth. In some respects its an homage and in other
ways, it's just a pale imitation of the earlier classic. Leo McCarey who had directed the
Awful Truth was scheduled to make My Favorite Wife, but in one of those
"coulda-shoulda-woulda" tragedies of Hollywood, McCarey was hospitalized from a
car accident and unable to direct the movie. In places where the plot was clunky it would
have been wonderful to have McCarey's off the cuff ad-lib style of directing to keep
things breezing along.
Still, despite its flaws, My Favorite Wife is one of my
favorite Cary Grant movies. Dunne and Grant are always watchable and I find something new
to love in their performances every time I watch this gem.
Film Review - May 1, 1940
- by "Flin"
- submitted by Barry Martin
Irene Dunne and Cary Grant appear in the second of their series of
wife-and-husband romantic farces, picking up the thread of marital
comedy at about the point where they left off in 'The Awful
Truth.' With these two stars working again with Leo McCarey,
a surefire laughing film is guaranteed. McCarey is the
producer of the new picture, which is directed by Garson Kanin,
who filled in for McCarey when the latter was on the hospital list
after an auto smashup last winter. Film may not quite reach
the boxoffice high of its predecessor, but it will do very
The two stars do not require (and
do not get) very substantial material in order to extract a lot of
fun from any domestic situation, particularly if it is slightly risqué.
Plot of the new film is pretty thin in spots and it is distinctly
to the credit of the players and Kanin, that they can keep the
laughs bouncing along. In this connection they have able
assistance from Randolph Scott and Gail Patrick. Story is an
original by Bella and Sam Spewack and McCarey. The Spewacks
did the script. They have done better.
It's a pretty hard yarn to believe
at the beginning when Miss Dunne turns up at home after seven
years' absence from her husband and two small children, who were
infants when she left on a South Sea exploration. She was
shipwrecked and tossed up on one of those invisible Pacific
She returns, therefore, as a female
Enoch Arden, arriving on the day her husband has remarried.
Of course, if anyone had mentioned the truth to the new wife (Miss
Patrick) the story would have been over right then and there
before it gets underway. Nor does Miss Dunne mention that
Randolph Scott was the sole other survivor of the monsoon, and
that he had come back to civilization with her.
In the course of the unscrambling
of this story, there are some very funny situations, chiefly when
Grant sets off to find the man who has been his wife's companion
for seven years, and discovers he is an acrobat, among his other
accomplishments. The finale has a new twist on bedroom
Principals perform with cleverness,
ably supported by Ann Shoemaker, Donald MacBride and Granville
Bates. Child bits are well played by Scotty Beckett and Mary
Production is first class in every
respect. Roy Webb's musical score aids the comedy in a
number of places and Rudolph Mate's photography is splendid.
Film is made to order for the top
first runs and smart audiences will have a good time.
NEW YORK TIMES
Film Review - May 31, 1940
- by Bosley Crowther
- submitted by Barry Martin
This is briefly to report the
discovery of a new island yesterday - a little island of joy at
Fiftieth Street West and Sixth Avenue North, where Leo McCarey's
"My Favorite Wife" floated into the ken of audiences at
the Radio City Music Hall. Let's hoist a flag and claim it for
King Comus, for this is the sort of refuge we all can find
pleasure in these days - a frankly fanciful farce, a rondo of
refined ribaldries and an altogether delightful picture with Cary
Grant and Irene Dunne chasing each other around most charmingly in
Do you remember "The Awful
Truth" (which was also a McCarey picture)? Do you remember
Mr. Grant and Miss Dunne as the interlocutorially divided lovers,
whose immediate return to domesticity was prevented by nothing
much more substantial than Miss Dunne's tantalizing contrariness?
Then you know pretty well what to expect in "My Favorite
Wife," only more of it. Mr. McCarey is, without compare, a
master of the technique of the prolonged and amorous tease; and
with an actress such as Miss Dunne through whom to apply it - she
with her luxurious and mocking laughter, her roving eyes and
come-hither glances - mere man is powerless before it. So
obviously Mr. Grant, normally susceptible male, is thrown about,
bewildered and helpless, like an iron filing, when he comes within
the magnetic field of Miss Dunne's allure.
For a story, Mr. McCarey and his
writers, the comical Spewacks, have followed the old line of most
resistance. This time it is Mr. Grant who is firmly attached to
some one else when his first wife, Miss Dunne, returns from what
everyone believed was a water grave. How to break away is his
first problem, and then secondly how to clear his mind of the
horrid suspicions which arise when he discovers that his wife
really spent seven years cast away on a desert island with
Randolph Scott. Poor Mr. Grant has his torments, which are finally
assuaged only after another one of those particularly tantalizing
chez-nous scenes with Miss Dunne. That man McCary is a sadist.
But to make it agreeable he has
provided a particularly Spewacky script, full of lively wit and
flashy back-talk which is clipped and stylized for speed. (The
direction of Garson Kanin is spotty, and there is evidence of
faults in editing - but who cares?) And the remaining cast is
excellent - Gail Patrick as the second and neglected wife, who
spends most of her time in negligee; Donald MacBride, as a darkly
suspicious hotel manager, and Granville Bates as an acid,
contemptuous and fuddle-brained judge.
In fact, Mr. Bates deserves a
separate mention for his masterpiece of comic creation. Such a
terrifying jurist you never saw. "Where did you go to
school?" he inquires sharply of Mr. Grant.
"Harvard," replies the latter. A black look, a lift of
the eyebrows, then a casual "I'm a Yale man myself"
leaves no doubt of Mr. Bates's sentiments. "My Favorite
Wife" owes a lot to him.
Also on the bill at the Music Hall
is an interesting short entitled "Cavalcade of Academy
Awards," which swiftly reviews the recipients of
"Oscars" over the last twelve years. It is in the nature
of an industry advertisement, but has a quaint reminiscent
ANGELES TIMES Film Review - June 29, 1940
- by Philip K Scheuer
- submitted by Renee Klish
The "I" of "My
Favorite Wife" is Cary Grant, and his favorite wife is Irene
Dunne. She was his first; but after she had gone off with an
anthropological expedition and had been reported dead, he married
Gail Patrick. Then she came home.
You can see what all this would
lead to. To complicate matters more, another member of the
expedition also returns. He has been in love with Miss Dunne
for seven years and has progressed to the point of addressing her
as "Eve," although no farther. She calls him
"Adam." (Randolph Scott in the role.)
The picture, now at Pantage
Hollywood and the downtown Hillstreet, is one of those non-sense
affairs underlaid with shrewd psychological sense which Ernst
Lubitsch, and laterly Leo McCarey, have contributed to the
laughter of a world which needs it badly. Mr. Carey produced
"My Favorite Wife" and Garson Kanin, who gave us the
matchless "Bachelor Mother" a year or so ago,
directed. The result is nearly as gratifying as you could
I say "nearly" because
the logic hangs by so slender a thread that the necessity of it
occasionally snaps and has to be tied up again - as it may when
characters are shown to be intelligent. We know that THEY
know how easily a few words would clear up the whole mess but we
also know (as they do, that if the words were spoken there would
be no more story.) So we go along with them as far as we
can, parties to a deception which is as agreeable to us as it is
to them. When the end is inseparably reached - as it is here
in the second courtroom sequence - the rest is bound to seem like
The closing portions, therefore,
struck this reviewer as labored rehash of the hilarious bedroom
finale to "The Awful Truth," with the same stars.
Coyness in Mr. Grant is still
acceptable because he is so darned likable. However, I
thought I caught him smiling a couple of times when he shouldn't
have been, which is not like the careful actor he has demonstrated
himself to be. Coquetry in Miss Dunne is something else
again - but people seem enchanted by it and to interpose an
objection is futile. I still say that, for an un-coy type,
she does very nicely.
Scott is well cast as the
Adonis. There is a gem of a performance as the judge by
Granville Bates. The other players are pretty rough on Miss
Patrick, whose role does not make her as unsympathetic as perhaps
it should have - or is it vice versa? Ann Shoemaker, Donald
MacBride and two kids, Scotty Beckett and Mary Lou Herrington, are
The gay complexities of plot were
devised by Sam and Bella Spewack, with McCarey. It's a
beautiful job of writing.
Film Review - June 21, 1940
- by J.D.B.
- submitted by Renee Klish
It is no secret by now that Cary
Grant and Irene Dunne can play a blithe comedy obbligato on the
domestic symphone; that Garson Kanin is an important new director;
that Leo McCarey can turn out a crisp comedy, and that Bella and
Samuel Spewack are among the more practiced of farceurs.
Fresh from the RKO kitchens, "My Favorite Wife" bears
the collaborative mark of the aforementioned talents. It is
probably the funniest farce of the year to date and proves that an
assortment of distinguished chefs need not necessarily spoil the soufflé.
Soufflé it is, with perhaps just a
soupcon of bitter herbs in the sauce, though "bitter" is
putting it too strongly. The only real bitterness is that
provided by Gail Patrick as Bianca, the second Mrs. Arden, whom
Nick Arden (Mr. Grant) feels impelled to discard when the first
Mrs. Arden (Miss Dunne), an explorer, pops on to the scene after
being marooned seven years on a desert isle.
The Spewacks and Director Kanin
manage to protract the farcical dilemmas for 88 minutes while Nick
struggles to explain things to the second Mrs. Arden so he can
secure an annulment and remarry Ellen, the first wife. His
discomfiture is not eased by the discovery Ellen was marooned with
a fellow explorer, Steve Burkett (Randolph Scott), who would like
to marry her. Among the film's funniest scenes are those in
the courtroom over which Granville Bates presides with judicial
asperity and a supreme scorn for Harvard men. Nick's first
encounter with Ellen and, later, his meeting with Brukett are
funny too. But then, the film is full of funny moments,
thought the farcical upholstery becomes a bit overstuffed toward
the end to cushion the inevitable fall.
Miss Dunne plays Ellen with her
delectably cool and elegant comedy technique. Mr. Grant is
such a good comedian that he never has to rely on his good
looks. Gail Patrick is also particularly attractive, and it
is to her credit that she never relents in making Bianca
thoroughly unpleasant, the sort of woman who would attach herself
to a husband sailing through the South Seas in search of his first
wife. Randolph Scott is all smiles and athletic wiles as
Burkett. Ann Schoemaker as Nick's mother, Scotty Beckett and
Mary Lou Harrington as the Arden offspring, Donald McBride, Hugh
O'Connell, and Pedro de Corboda help whip up the domestic froth
for an excellent adult farce.
Click here to read Jenny's Crackpot
Reviews at the Cary Grant Shrine
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