My Favorite Wife (1940)

Directed by Garson Kanin

If ever there was a movie that could be called a situation comedy it has got to be 1940’s My Favorite Wife. Starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne, reunited following their success with The Awful Truth (1937), this is a genuinely funny movie. And Grant and Dunne are priceless in it.

A man’s wife goes away and is presumed lost at sea. After seven years of fruitless searches and no word whatsoever, the wife is declared legally dead. On the same day she’s declared so, the husband (who must care for two children) remarries.

And, also on that same day, the first wife returns.

Now the husband, Cary Grant, has two wives – his first, and mother of their children, and his new bride.

The film makes it clear, right from the beginning, that the husband and first wife (Grant and Dunne) are supposed to be together. The husband clearly doesn’t love the new bride (Gail Patrick).

But the love Dunne and Grant have is also of the combative, jealous kind. She wants back in her home and life with her husband and children. And she wants the new bride gone.

Unfortunately, Grant is a bit of a coward when it comes to breaking the news to his new wife. He keeps finding ways to avoid it.

Later, he becomes jealous too when he discovers his wife, who had been stranded on a deserted island, had not been alone. She had been with a powerfully built, athletic Randolph Scott and the pair had very cutely, ans supiciously (to Grant), called one another Adam and Eve.

What it amounts to is a terrific, quick paced romantic comedy that has a bit of screwball to it (though it’s not really a screwball comedy) and some great slapstick moments (my favourite shot is when Grant gets into an elevator and sees his “dead” wife for the first time).

Cary Grant and Irene Dunne work marvelously together. I don’t generally like vague terms like this, but their pairing is magical. What “magical” means is difficult to put into words.

You pretty much need to see them playing together. (I would say working together but their is no sense of work here, just fun.)

Of course, the performances are aided in a major way by a great concept and a great script. And a nicely blase, even cheeky performance by a golden looking Randolph Scott.

This is one wonderful, a tremendously funny movie. Highly recommended.

Stars: 4 out of 4.

See also:

  • The Awful Truth (1937)

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