My Favorite Wife (1940) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
79 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
8/10
Tremendous fun, if not the sharpest screwball specimen.
HenryHextonEsq26 March 2004
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.
41 out of 46 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Mostly Funny
kenjha20 July 2008
After his shipwrecked wife is declared dead and he takes on a new wife, Grant's first wife resurfaces, rescued after seven years on an island. This reteaming of Grant and Dunne after their success with "The Awful Truth" is pretty funny for the most part, as Grant tries to solve the problem of one wife too many while dealing with jealousy after learning that Dunne had a male companion (Scott) on that island. The only complaint is that the laughs stop in the last quarter of the movie, which is rather uninteresting as the focus shifts from comedy to romance. Bates, who is hilarious as a flustered judge, died in July 1940 but managed to act in 12 films released that year!
12 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
"You're Not Allowed To Have Two Wives, You Know"
stryker-513 March 1999
From the opening moments, when the big wooden doors part and usher us into a beautifully spare art deco courtroom with slanting shafts of sunlight enhancing the clean architectural lines, we know that this is going to be a deftly-made, elegant film. What follows does not disappoint us.

Attorney Nick Arden (Cary Grant) lost his wife Ellen in a shipwreck in the Pacific seven years ago. He has now decided to have her declared officially dead, so that he will be free to marry Bianca (Gail Patrick). The irascible judge eventually accedes to both the declaration and the marriage, and the newly-weds set off for a honeymoon in Yosemite. Meanwhile, who should turn up at the Arden residence, very much alive, but the long-lost Ellen? When she hears of the recent marriage, she heads straight for the honeymooners' hotel ...

"My Favourite Wife" is a fine example of those early Cary Grant farces, the ones in which he gawps with surprise, double-takes and mutters to himself as only he can. Irene smoke-gets-in-your-eyes Dunn is great as Ellen, unveiling a hitherto unsuspected gift for witty comedy. Scotty Beckett and Mary Lou Harrington come close to stealing the show as the Ardens' cute little kids. Randolph Scott is interestingly cast as Steve Burkett, the muscle-bound Adonis who spent seven years on the desert island with Ellen.

Some of the film's highlights are worth mentioning here, like the superimposition of Burkett performing gymnastic feats alongside Nick Arden's troubled face as he muses at his desk, conveying with economy the husband's jealous preoccupation. It is unfair to give away a film's jokes, but one gag which lose nothing in the telling is Ellen's outfit at the Yosemite hotel. She has been out of circulation for seven years, and she looks comically untrendy in her 1932 polkadots and lapels, and obtrusive hat. Watch for the derisive glances from the other hotel guests.

Such a light, charming piece of entertainment is hard to fault, but the film does have some shortcomings. Its central problem, which is not resolved, is what to do with Bianca. She married Nick in good faith and has done nothing wrong, yet she is neglected by Nick. Because there is no satisfactory way of dealing with her, she is simply dropped. Ellen's return from a watery grave after all those years would be a news story of international importance, but instead she arrives home having hitched a ride in a truck. Her entry into the country seems to have gone unannounced, even to her husband. The scene in which she persuades a shoe store clerk to pose as 'Adam' in front of Nick has enormous comic potential, but is abandoned after a few seconds. Nick's sleeping-in-the-attic scene is far too long for the humour it contains.

However, the film is a pleasant and very amusing romp, and such weaknesses as it contains do not detract from its appeal.
30 out of 36 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Entertaining Screwball
cutter-129 May 2005
...albeit a little slow-paced in the first half. Leo McCarey's chaotic pace which made The Awful Truth so much fun is missed here, but Garson Kanin directs capably in his absence and the script and actors deliver enough good wit and chemistry to keep it all balanced out in the end.

Cary Grant gets himself into an unwitting romantic pickle when he's confronted by his thought to be long dead wife on his honeymoon with his new bride. Hilarity ensues, as it does in every brilliant screwball comedy Grant was the star of, and there are some priceless moments along the way.

As in The Awful Truth, Grant and Irene Dunne make a fetching and compatible screen couple. Dunne's comedic felinity and tendency to affect nutty stereotypes in order to get what she wants is better than Katharine Hepburn's imitation of her in Bringing Up Baby and The Philadelphia Story. Grant and Hepburn were terrific in their movies together too, and not taking anything away from Great Kate, but Grant and Dunne's chemistry was just that much better and it's a shame they never made more comedies together.

Hilarious in-jokey scenes between Grant and Randolph Scott, and a near scene stealing turn by Granville Bates as The Judge round out a pretty funny flick.

The Doris Day/James Garner remake "Move Over, Darling" is memorable in its own right and viewed right after this would make for a good video double-bill.
24 out of 29 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Hilarious
mermatt29 August 2001
Cary Grant makes this the best of the numerous versions of the script -- later attempted as SOMETHING'S GOT TO GIVE (Marilyn Monroe's last film) and remade as MOVE OVER, DARLING.

Just the expressions Grant has on his face make this worth watching. It's a delightful look at him in a classic comic predicament -- a man who thinks his first wife is dead discovers on his honeymoon night with his second wife that wife #1 is still amongst the living. The next complication: she has spent 7 years with another man -- and Grant gets to do his best as the jealous husband.

This is just plain funny.
18 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Better than the remake
rac-214 May 2005
I agree that Move Over Darling is a very good remake of My Favorite Wife, but Doris Day and James Garner, much as I like them, cannot reach the level of sophistication of Grant/Dunne. Randolph Scott does nothing to detract from the picture. Certainly no more than Chuck Connors does in the same role in Move Over Darling. The courtroom scenes with Grant and Granville Bates as the judge are superior, and Donald McBride as the hotel clerk is exceptional. Cary Grant's facial expression on the elevator when he first sees Dunne after 7 years is so memorable that I can still remember it 35 years after first seeing it. If you are a Grant fan, you have to see this movie.
29 out of 36 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
My Favorite Wife
I_John_Barrymore_I11 March 2009
A curious one that leaves a mildly bitter taste in the mouth. It's funny alright (but never hilarious), and the acting from - and chemistry between - Irene Dunne and Cary Crant is exquisite as always. But the film's fundamental problem is that none of the characters are particularly likable. Throughout the film three of the four main characters take their turn to behave despicably, yet the new wife - a woman who's merely unpleasant - is the villain of the piece; constantly the butt of jokes and fair game for ridicule even though she's done absolutely nothing to warrant it. At times it's like watching two spoilt brats from the Hamptons bullying their visiting second-cousin from the Bronx.

The script is also strangely stunted, best witnessed in the scenes before the judge. They really should have been classic screwball moments - the ingredients were there - yet between the lengthy silences and repetitive parrot-dialogue it falls almost completely flat. The gaping plot holes and poor script continuity can't be forgiven either, even allowing for the fact the film's seventy years old.

Don't get me wrong, I laughed, and I enjoyed myself, and I thought it was a decent film. It's just that the character's actions don't stand up too well under scrutiny.
11 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
An Entertaining Use of the Idea
Snow Leopard24 August 2005
This gets pretty good comic mileage out of the often-used 'Enoch Arden' (or, as here, 'Ellen Arden') idea of the long-lost spouse who returns to find his/her spouse now involved with someone else. Numerous movies have used it both for drama and for comedy, and in this case, the premise is adapted to the screwball comedy formula that was so popular for a time in the 1930s and 1940s.

The story starts by slightly revising the usual setup, with Irene Dunne as the formerly shipwrecked spouse, Cary Grant as the husband who has since become involved with another woman (Gail Patrick), plus Randolph Scott as a wild card in the relationships. Practically every stage of the story is highly implausible (probably deliberately so) but amusing, and it is generally left to the cast to make things work, which they usually do.

Grant usually seems quite at home in this kind of comedy, and he and Dunne work well together, depicting their characters' relationship with the kinds of intangibles that help make the whole scenario more believable. Patrick is always quite good as an elegantly icy rival to the heroine, and Scott also works well here in his role. Amongst the supporting cast, Granville Bates gets some very good moments as the grouchy judge.

For as far-fetched as the scenario seems at times, it works pretty well. The cast is strong enough to carry the weight, and it would have been hard to improve upon their combination of talents. It doesn't have quite the depth of comic variety or the subtlety of implied commentary that the best screwball comedies have, but it's an entertaining movie worth seeing.
17 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Who's Two Timing Who
bkoganbing23 February 2006
Cary Grant's got a real problem on his hands. He thinks his wife was killed in a plane crash seven years ago. So he goes to court with Gail Patrick who he now intends to marry after getting the judge to declare Irene Dunne legally dead.

Wouldn't you know it, Dunne turns up the day of the honeymoon and puts Cary in an awful pickle. He's a lawyer and he's busy trying to work out all the ramifications of what's happened.

I've thought about it for a while and I came to the conclusion that it's Grant's professional training that prevents him from just confessing to one and all what's happened. Where a lot of the laughs come in is Grant trying to avoid marital consummation with Patrick until he can work it out.

Another factor comes into play when Grant learns that Dunne spent several years on the desert island with hunky Randolph Scott. Grant starts to feel a little less guilty then.

The whole mess is dumped on the judge who originally declared Dunne legally dead, Granville Bates. His role as the judge gives him some of the best lines in My Favorite Wife.

I do feel sorry for Gail Patrick though. Usually she plays a lot of bad girls and other women in movies. But she really is the wronged party here.

Dunne and Grant worked well together in another marital comedy, The Awful Truth and they were just as bright in My Favorite Wife as they were in the first film.

One interesting footnote it was a remake of this film Something's Gotta Give that Marilyn Monroe did not complete. Eventually it was made over with Doris Day and James Garner.

That one was good, but this one is great.
17 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
A Shakespearian masterpiece of farce.
the red duchess25 July 2001
Garson Kanin's best films are so bright, fast and funny, and have been plundered by so many pallid, feel-good imitators, that it's easy to overlook how courageously critical they can be, of prevailing social norms, for instance, what society takes to be normal - 'natural' - about crucial concepts like family, gender, marriage etc. In 'My Favorite wife', Kanin takes the idea that a particular social order is natural, and tears it apart, by putting civilisation on one side, nature on the other, and revealing that there's nothing remotely natural about civilisation, or our places in it; that these things are man-made, and so can be questioned, negotiated, even changed by man (or, as is more usual in Kanin's world, woman).

'Wife' opens with an elaborate sequence showing the structure of civilisation at work in its most intrinsic form - the legal system. The hero is a lawyer, and is trying to declare his missing first wife dead so he can marry another. There are a few things we notice here: the judge is hilarious, a cantankerous old buffer, testy, capricious, and not at all rigorous, or even knowledgeable in his application of laws which, after all, structure people's lives, and which, we learn, are constantly overturned by the Court of Appeals, so that something that should be inviolable is shown to be provisional. there is room for manoeuvre, but there is also room for corruption.

More important for Kanin's purposes are two incidental details. The wife has been missing for seven years, a fairy-tale or mythical number in a site of legal process, undermining its claims to ultimate, 'official' reality. The hero's name is Arden, which might remind us of Shakespeare's Forest ('As you like it'), and the spirit of play that will inform the film, with people assuming and discarding roles, putting on costumes, using props, putting on 'plays' or performances to deceive, enlighten or outmanoeuvre others.

On one level, this warns us against accepting appearances in a civilised world that depends on appearances (all the talk about respectability); on another, it shows that certain roles - like being a mother, or husband - aren't God-given, but roles which have to be constantly rehearsed and refined. Play can be subversive - the way Ellen Arden dresses up as a man, breaks up a marriage, or tries to conceal a possible adultery - but it is also seen as a necessary process of socialisation: the children learn to imitate their parents, as they theatrically make their lost mother 'perform' her confession. They learn that society is fluid, not fixed; they also learn to lie. (the hero winds up in an Attic (as in Greek comedy), but that might be taking the analogy to far!)

Hitchcock once said that he often used Cary Grant because he wanted to work against his established image. But the figure of masculine immaturity and insecurity so richly realised in Roger O Thornhill ('North by Northwest') is already fully-formed here in a 'hero' who jumps at any chance to avoid making difficult decisions. Kanin, like Hitchcock later, makes brilliant, ironic use of Grant's most famous previous roles: 'Topper', another story about a professional flustered by a 'ghost'; and, especially, 'Bringing up baby', not just in the comically ghastly leopardskin bathrobe his second wife buys him, but in the animal imagery used throughout (kids going to the zoo; Steve as Tarzan etc.), contrasting with his civilised world that is making him desperately unhappy, his identity and masculine certainty fragmenting. (knowledge that Grant used to live with Randolph Scott adds further comic potency to their scenes)

This conflict between Nick's civilisation and the 'natural' order is typically complicated - Nick clearly married Bianca for her sexual prowess; Ellen and Nick are compatible because of their intellectual superiority to everyone else (which gives a streak of cruelty to their games, and makes one feel genuinely sorry for BIanca).

'Wife' is a masterpiece of farce, of shared rooms, opening and shutting doors, frustrated sexuality, mixed identities - but what makes it a true classic are the flashes of whimsy - the Steve diving sequence that results in some the most bizarre, incongruous, and sidesplittingly funny visions ever seen on film.
17 out of 25 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
The Truth Is This Grant/Dunne Vehicle Is No "Awful Truth"
evanston_dad4 December 2008
This romantic screwball comedy tries to recapture the zany chemistry shared between Cary Grant and Irene Dunne in "The Awful Truth," but the final product falls somewhat flat.

Something's just missing this time around, and it's a shame, because the story has serious screwball potential. Dunne plays Grant's supposedly dead wife, who shows up alive just after Grant has remarried. The rest of the movie is about Grant promising to tell his new wife (Gail Patrick) about his old one and finding ways out of it, and then getting jealous when the man (Randolph Scott) who shared seven years with Dunne on a deserted island when they both were supposed to be dead reenters the picture and threatens to steal Dunne away. The premise is dynamite, but the humour feels somewhat strained and many of the jokes fall flat. It doesn't help that Grant's character is a bit of a weenie, and the new wife, who we're supposed to think is a bitch but whom the film never establishes as such, comes across as a victim, which makes Grant's and Dunne's antics feel more mean than funny.

There is a memorable conclusion though that finds Dunne in bed and Grant dressed as Santa Claus.

Grade: B-
8 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Top-notch romantic comedy
robb_77220 April 2006
Two attempted remakes and dozens of rip offs have failed to diminish the hilarious complications and romantic musings of this often-imitated, never duplicated screwball farce. Loosely based on the Alfred Lord Tennyson poem "Enoch Arden" (Tennyson does not receive a screen credit in the finished film), MY FAVORITE WIFE piles on the fast-paced, snappy dialogue and outrageous, comedic misunderstandings at a frantic rate. Director Garson Kanin skillfully maintains the perfect serio-comedic tone throughout the film's runtime, and the picture is easily respected screenwriter's best film as a director. Interestingly enough, Kanin took over the directing duties from Leo McCarey (an Oscar winner as Best Director for 1937's THE AWFUL TRUTH, which also starred Grant and Dunne) after McCarey was injured in an automobile accident (McCarey also co-wrote the screenplay with Kanin and Sam and Bella Spewack).

The cast is marvelous, topped by yet another Oscar-worthy performance by Irene Dunne, who offers a multi-dimensional portrayal in a genre where one-note characterizations typically run rampant. Dunne was indeed a rare actress who could peerlessly balance madcap humor and genuine pathos, without ever appearing forced or contrived. Cary Grant is every bit Dunne's match as the befuddled husband who finds himself with one wife too many. Although his role doesn't permit him to display the jaw-dropping physical prowess that was showcased so remarkably in THE AWFUL TRUTH, Grant's mastery of internal comedy is given ample screen time here - especially in the final two-third when he discovers he may have a romantic rival.

The supporting cast is also diligently cast, although there's no animal scene-stealer, a la canine performer Asta's memorable turn as Mr. Smith in THE AWFUL TRUTH. Platinum-haired beefcake Randolph Scott is fun as Grant's rival for Dunne's affections, and the fact that Grant and Scott were lifelong friends and roommates only makes their scenes together even funnier (there's also a hilarious sight gag involving the two of them that will have even the most reserved viewer rolling on the floor with laughter). The appropriately rigid Gail Patrick plays the role of the stereotypical shrew as well as anyone could, and director Kanin also pulls natural performances from the two children in the cast. A comedy with a large dosage of wit and an ample amount of intelligence is quite rare, and MY FAVORITE WIFE has all of that and more in abundance - it's simply a picture where everything works.
6 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
(Almost) My favourite screwball comedy
Lejink12 December 2010
I played this to myself on a long flight back from a winter sun holiday and the near 90 minutes it took up simply (pardon the pun) flew by. I love the screwball comedy "genre" and will be endeavouring this Christmas holiday to seek out as many examples as I can, but I doubt many of them will beat this Leo McCarey production directed by young hot-shot (at the time) Garson Kanin.

The premise is as daffy as you would expect but boy do Cary Grant (at his effortless best) and one of his most supreme comic foils Irene Dunne run with it.

I laughed out loud many times in the first thirty minutes and anxiously looked at my watch wondering where the story and laughs were going to come for the next 60 minutes but it just kicked on with Dunne's hilarious attempt to hoodwink Grant as to the hunkiness (or lack of same) of her seven year companion on their desert island and the easy introduction of Randolph Scott as the All-American athlete she actually hunkered down with.

The timing of all concerned, particularly the leads of course, is near perfect throughout, the comedic situations hilarious (bookended by a courtroom scene with a great turn by Granville Bates as an incredulous judge - an idea so good that Peter Bogdanovich lifted it almost wholesale for his 1972 homage "What's Up Doc") and climaxing in a homage of its own to the one that started it all, the famous "Walls Of Jericho" scene in Gable & Goddard's "It Happened One Night" and of course its own Grant / Dunne predecessor "The Awful Truth".

I keep coming back to Grant and Dunne as the keystones to the film's success. Both separately (Grant in his interplay with the hotel manager during extended avoidance of new, wholly undeserving bride Gail Patrick, perhaps the only actor in the film who fails to catch the arch mood of the piece) and Dunne (when she affects accents of contemporaries Hepburn and Davis to devastating comic effect) but especially together - these two play off each other to the manner born.

Even the scenes with their kids don't grate, there's admirably little recourse to the use of traditional slapstick and the way this sex-farce pushes the envelope out at the censor (especially Grant's preening himself with women's clothing and that ending when you know he's about to become literally "Bad Santa") just takes the biscuit.

A sheer delight, from start to finish.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
What was Mr. Arden thinking?
slymusic14 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
"My Favorite Wife" is a brilliantly witty romance comedy starring Irene Dunne and Cary Grant. Attorney Nick Arden (Grant) goes to civil court for two reasons: 1.) to declare his first wife Ellen (Dunne), whom he loved with all his heart, legally dead from being shipwrecked and supposedly drowned seven years prior, and 2.) to get married again, this time to a woman named Bianca (Gail Patrick), for whom he never held a high regard. Meanwhile Ellen, who has NOT drowned, returns home, finds out about Nick's remarriage, and shows up at the hotel where Nick and Bianca plan to spend their honeymoon. From then on, Nick's life becomes a series of complications, cover-ups, and embarrassments, which is what makes "My Favorite Wife" such a joyous picture to watch.

Here are my favorite moments from this charming movie (but please DO NOT read any further until after you have actually seen it). At the honeymoon hotel in Yosemite, Nick spots Ellen for the first time just after he and Bianca enter the elevator; as the door closes, Nick humorously moves his body to one side as he stares at Ellen through the increasingly narrow door opening. In trying to cover up for his lengthy absence from his honeymoon suite, Nick has a frantic phone conversation with Bianca in which he fumbles his words trying to make her believe he has left on a plane, not realizing that Bianca is only two phone booths away from him! When Nick learns that Ellen spent seven years on a desert island with a man named Stephen Burkett (Randolph Scott), Nick decides to pay a visit to the Pacific Club where Burkett resides, and he becomes horrified at the sight of Burkett's tall, rock-solid athletic frame as he performs a gymnastic workout above the pool. (The fact that this scene is accompanied by a familiar Strauss waltz makes it so much funnier!) Later on, Nick cannot concentrate in his law office as he sees images of Burkett's flashy performance. Back at the Pacific Club, Nick catches Ellen's conscience by proving that he knows who Burkett really is (the mischievous Ellen had earlier tried to fool Nick by having a very short-statured shoe salesman, played by Chester Clute, pose as Burkett in order to prove to Nick that there was nothing going on between Ellen and Stephen during their seven-year stay on the island); Ellen can only react to her little failed prank by laughing hysterically at herself. A visiting psychiatrist (Pedro de Cordoba) spots Nick grabbing some clothes for Ellen, but the doctor believes that the women's garments Nick selects are meant for a man, especially when Nick tries on the clothes himself! The most heartwarming scene in this picture is that of Ellen almost in tears when she realizes that her two children Timmy (Scotty Beckett) and Chinch (Mary Lou Harrington) know that she is their mother. And finally, the sight of Nick in a Santa Claus suit confirms that he and Ellen no longer need to fib to each other about their happiness in resuming their marriage together.

Last but not least, the casting of "My Favorite Wife" could not have been better. Irene Dunne was absolutely the perfect choice to play the lovable, mischievous, sweet-natured Ellen Wagstaff Arden, who loves her husband, adores her two children, and is full of playful pranks. The handsome Cary Grant, one of my favorite actors, was a wise choice for the role of the hilariously befuddled Nick Arden. Randolph Scott was quite appropriate for the part of the tall, lean, muscular, smiling Stephen Burkett, who is not above displaying his macho side to win Ellen's heart, but who also hides a large heart himself in understanding Ellen's faithfulness to Nick. And finally, Gail Patrick was perfect for the role of Nick's second wife Bianca, a cold, sensitive, high-strung woman almost devoid of personality, showing virtually no affection for the two Arden children.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
No more carrots
AAdaSC11 August 2014
The film starts in a courtroom with lawyer Cary Grant (Nick) getting his 1st wife Irene Dunne (Ellen) pronounced legally dead by Judge Granville Bates. Dunne has been missing for 7 years and it's time for Grant to move on. Specifically, with Gail Patrick (Bianca). The Judge, after painfully dithering about – some people find this funny, I didn't – then agrees to marry Grant and Patrick, and they go off to their honeymoon. But what's this……first wife Irene Dunne returns home! She's not dead. She heads for the honeymoon hotel. What is everyone to do….?

The cast are mainly good in this film. Cary Grant spars well with everybody, and especially with hotel clerk Donald MacBride. There are many funny scenes that include Grant's reaction in a hotel lift when he first sees Irene Dunne. He also has an amusing scene with Pedro de Cordoba (Dr Kohlmar) as he rifles through a wardrobe full of ladies clothes, explaining he is doing it for a friend, and "he's waiting outside". There is another amusing set-up with the story of Irene Dunne's male partner on the desert island – hunky Randolph Scott (Burkett). Dunne tries to pass off meek Chester Clute as the man she has innocently spent 7 years with to a knowing Cary Grant.

However, whilst, the film is entertaining and is easy to watch, it peters out at the end once the action moves to the mountain home. It gets sentimental and silly, and the film could have been resolved in a far more satisfactory manner. We are left with a few questions regarding the plot, such as what has Gail Patrick done to deserve what has just happened? Is Randolph Scott a complete carrot-eating moron? And Irene Dunne is actually pretty awful considering that she is meant to love Cary Grant. The children are a bit irritating and Irene Dunne has an annoying episode where she puts on a Southern accent, but, despite all of that, this is a fun film.
5 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
Hilarious!
calvertfan23 February 2002
This has got to be one of THE funniest films I have ever seen! Nick (Cary Grant) was married to Ellen (Irene Dunne) for 4 years before she was shipwrecked, and presumed to be dead. 7 long years later, he remarries (to Gail Patrick) - just as Ellen has finally been rescued. She turns up at his place only to find that he's on his honeymoon, so she hightails it to the hotel to go surprise him. Nick gets himself into an awful pickle trying to find the right time to tell his new wife (whom he has been married to for only a few hours) what has happened, and also telling the children that the new lady that they are enjoying the company of is actually their mother. The plot can only thicken when Nick finds out that Ellen wasn't alone on that island for 7 years, but she had company in the shape of a very athletic (and very single!) man..

Funnier than Grant and Dunne's previous comedy, The Awful Truth, and just as sweet as Penny Serenade; this is a definite 10 out of 10!
9 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
A classic screwball comedy
MOscarbradley14 September 2008
This splendid comedy is the one about the wife 'who comes back from the dead' only to find her husband, just that morning, remarried. Of course, she was never dead in the first place but stranded on a desert island with a hunky athlete as her only companion. The resulting complications are the stuff of a classic screwball farce and when the husband is Cary Grant and the wife is Irene Dunne and the writers are Sam and Bella Spewack you know you have a winner on your hands.

Bits of this movie have found their way into homages to the genre over the years and the whole thing was remade in 1963 as a vehicle for Doris Day and with considerably less zing. Leo McCarey, who directed Grant and Dunne in "The Awful Truth", (and won an Oscar for doing so), acts as producer here, leaving the direction to Garson Kanin who makes a very fine job of it. The supporting cast are pretty top-notch as well, with terrific cameos from Donald Mc Bride as an hotel clerk and Granville Bates as a somewhat bewildered judge. Even the children can act in this one and aren't in the least obnoxious in the way of most American moppets of the period.
6 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Cary Grant is a funny-man of the 20th century
patryk-czekaj26 May 2012
At first, I must say that this movie doesn't exceptionally stand out from the whole bunch of screwball comedies produced in the times of Great Depression in the USA. The first part of My Favorite Wife may be even called boring, due to a very slow narrative process and lack of any specific action. Of course, it's just an introduction to the plot and the viewer has to believe that in a moment something extraordinarily funny and crazy will happen. And it does, along with the entrance of, fantastic as always, Irene Dunne. The story presented in this movie is so ridiculous that it will make you laugh just reading about it.

It seemed like another regular wedding for Mr. Nick Arden (Cary Grant) and his new wife Ellen (Gail Patrick). His first wife is presumed dead after drowning somewhere far at sea seven years ago, and he wants to be form a happy relationship with a new woman. Guess what happens when Ellen Arden (Irene Dunne) suddenly shows up at their doorstep more alive than ever – all hell breaks loose and Nick becomes involved with two women at the same time. Additionally, his two wives (how grand it sounds) aren't particularly fond of each other and start to make Nick's life much harder than he imagined. And if this wasn't enough, somewhere on the road Nick meets Steve Burkett (Randolph Scott), a handsome man, with whom Ellen was stranded on a deserted island for seven long years. Level of jealousy goes through the roof, and the real 'fun' starts for all people involved in this ludicrous affair. Finally, Nick has to decide, who to choose, as it may seem that from a point of having two beautiful women at once he will ultimately be left all alone.

The movie provides a great amount of laughs, due to many amusing one-liners and gags, especially on the part of Cary Grant's perfect sense of humorous acting abilities. Every screwball film, in which he stars abruptly becomes much more entertaining, because of his irrefutable acting manners and charisma, so important for a funny leading man. And he does it differently every time. Even though the movies may seem similar, the portrayals of characters that he presents always have other specific comedic feels to it.

And the relationship that he forms with Irene is brilliant; you can sense that deep emotional attachment coming from their characters in every scene. Maybe seven years have passed, but the flame in their hearts still burns. They can't argue that their need to be together is so strong that it will surpass anything.

All in all, I can't call it My Favorite Screwball, but I certainly might recommend it to anyone, who is need of a light-hearted American comedy that may provide a positive shock in the sense of absurdity and amount of laughs that come with it.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
He's full of carrots.
Spikeopath23 April 2009
After seven years of his wife, Ellen, presumably being lost at sea, Nick Arden marries his latest flame, Bianca. Only to get on his honeymoon to find that Ellen has in fact survived and spent the seven years on a tropical island with another man called Stephen Burkett.

My Favorite Wife is based around the Alfred Tennyson poem entitled "Enoch Arden". Numerous adaptations have been made, but few, if any, are as frothy as this Cary Grant and Irene Dunne starrer. Grant and Dunne are re-teamed here after their massive success with the quite marvellous The Awful Truth in 1937, and tho the role of Ellen was touted to Jean Arthur, it was Dunne who grasped the role and created sizzling comedy once again with the fabulous Grant. The Awful Truth director Leo McCarey was all set to direct this piece but a car accident put paid to that and the reins then passed to jobber Garson Kanin, who, aided by a firing on all cylinders cast, weaved a splendidly delightful picture.

Tho the movie's obvious charm lies with it's two main stars, it would be a big disservice to forget the contributions of Randolph Scott as Stephen Burkett and Gail Patrick as Bianca. Scott's laid back persona is perfect foil to Grant's more batty approach work, while Patrick in the tricky role of the neurotic second wife is fabulous. It remains a mystery as to why she didn't go on to better and brighter things? Although the ending is never really in doubt, and the last quarter dries up on the gags front, My Favorite Wife still stands the test of time as a screwball picture of note. So see it if you get the chance, it should brighten your day. 7.5/10
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Changed my mind
ivan-2213 April 2002
I guffawed watching the remake ("Move Over Darling"). The original version seemed pale. Everyone seemed too polite and relaxed to be really funny. But after repeated viewing I began to appreciate this version too. The plot strains credulity: Man about to marry when his wife appears after seven years of absence. The second wife is conveniently vain and insufferable, and easy to dump. So, why is he marrying her in the first place? But comedy is built on implausibility. No big laughs in this one, just enjoyable, wholesome comedy. More high-brow than the remake, it prefers tongue in cheek than tongue out of cheek.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
5/10
A Screwball Comedy with Dislikeable Leads?
J-2629 July 2009
I'm a great fan of black-and-white 1940's screwball comedy but "My Favorite Wife" is far from being one of my own favourites. The playing is fine and there's some decent dialogue; the problem for me is that not only don't I relate to the characters, I actually feel hostility towards the leads! Both Nick and Ellen are self-centred, selfish, and manipulative – how someone can come back from a desert island thankfully saved after seven years and immediately become so devious, almost malevolent, I can't imagine. My difficulties are compounded by the treatment of Bianca - were she drawn as some sort of gorgon then she would be getting her comedy comeuppance, but she is in fact characterised as an innocent party stuck between the other two's unpleasant manoeuvring so that the treatment she suffers doesn't raise the expected smile.
7 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Marital mix-up nixes slapstick for droll humor
moonspinner5519 July 2007
After a Portugese freighter rescues her off an island in the Pacific, Irene Dunne returns to her husband and children seven years later--only to find spouse Cary Grant has only recently gotten remarried. Fans of Doris Day's 1963 screwball farce "Move Over, Darling" will find this original version of the story lacking in zesty humor. Director Garson Kanin keeps the comic confusion light on its feet, yet the results are possibly too sober (it's a dizzy farce without any fizz). Dunne and Grant are more like joshing pals than husband and wife, and their two tots are a little brash (there's a terrible interlude where the kids entertain the grown-ups, and the reaction shots of Grant look as though they were edited in from another movie). The wrap-up is over-stretched, cooling out all the fire from this scenario, and poor Randolph Scott (who shared the island with Dunne) is given the short shrift. There are some funny scenes, and merry musical cues which help pick up the slack, but this is an instance where the remake improves upon the original. **1/2 from ****
6 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
A delightful diversion on a rainy day
lwetzel29 March 2005
Cary Grant and Irene Dunne star in this nice little romantic comedy. They are both good in the film and Grant has a few nice moments. He was a great comedic actor and not afraid to make fun of himself or put himself in some pretty silly situations in this film and others. Randolph Scott (Grant's real-life room mate when they were getting started in the business) is pretty good too as a vegetarian Tarzan who has spent 7 years on a deserted island with Grant's wife Dunne. She shows up the day Grant has her declared legally dead and marries the tempting but vapid Bianca (Gail Patrick). The funniest moments are provided in the courtroom with Granville Bates as the bewildered judge who tries to make sense of the comic situation, and in a hotel with Donald MacBride as the hotel clerk, dismayed and in awe of Grant at the same time, trying to juggle his new bride and his wife in two different suites. Ordinary people would not resolve the situations in this movie the way it plays out, but then it wouldn't have been much of a movie or as much fun if they had.
5 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
"There's an ordinance in this state that don't allow necking in bar rooms."
morrison-dylan-fan13 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Once I sorted out some movies for a friend,I decided to start catching up on films I had waiting to view. Finding Vivacious Lady a cheerful Rom-Com,I was pleased to spot another RKO creation from the genre,which led to me meeting my favourite wife!

The plot:

After his wife Ellen has been declared legally dead, Nick Arden gets married to Bianca Bates. Unknown to Nick,Ellen has actually been alive and living on an island with Stephen Burkett. Returning home,Ellen finds out that Nick has gone off on his honeymoon. Learning this,Ellen decides to give the happy couple a special honeymoon gift.

View on the film:

Taking over at the last minute when Leo McCarey got hurt in a car accident, (with McCarey's injuries making the comedy atmosphere desired on set difficult to retain) 27 year old director Garson Kanin enters the production with an impressive ease,as Kanin,editor Robert Wise (and un-credited editor McCarey) & cinematographer Rudolph Maté stylishly break the frame in two,so that the set-up and reaction to the punchlines are shown at the same time. Starting without a script in place, the writers never quite overcome the sown-together feel of the movie,but do weave a number of wonderful threads.

Holding Nick and his two wives in the same hotel,the writers lock them in with sparkling Screwball Comedy dialogue which zips along Nick's very funny attempt to keep each wife unaware of the other. Introducing Bianca and Ellen to each other causes some of the one liners to lose their sparks to dry Drama,which gradually gets pushed aside by the playful rivalry between Nick and Burkett. Flatmates off-screen, Cary Grant and Randolph Scott both give terrific performances as Nick and Burkett,with Grant giving Nick shocked,slippery reactions to the sight of his "dead" wife",whilst Scott grabs the eyes of all the ladies,as a chiselled Burkett. Returning from the dead Irene Dunne gives a wickedly dead-pan performance as Ellen,whilst Gail Patrick hits the Screwball punchlines wide as Bianca,as Nick decides who his favourite wife is.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
"Do you take cabs, or just run alongside them...?"
Brucey_D16 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Lawyer Nick Arden (Cary Grant) has just remarried when his first wife Ellen (Irene Dunne) returns from presumed death by shipwreck seven years earlier. Not even her children recognise her, and in the meantime she has been declared legally dead and the life insurance has paid out.

This is a decent enough film and if you are a Cary Grant or Irene Dunne fan you will want to see it. There are not as many screwball laughs as there might have been, the character's motivations are not quite plausible and the plot is a bit lumpy but it is really quite enjoyable.

Remade as 'Move over, Darling' in 1963, whether you will prefer this version probably depends on whether you like your movies with the flavour of the 1940s or the 1960s.

I give it (in the context of the time) an 8/10.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews


Recently Viewed