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My Favourite Wife Review

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Seven years after his wife Ellen was presumed lost at sea, Nick Arden marries Bianca, only to discover on their honeymoon that Ellen not only survived, but also spent her time on an idyllic desert island with handsome bachelor Stephen Burkett.

★★★★

Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem, `Enoch Arden', has been the basis of six films. Yet it's hard to imagine that the same source inspired both D.W. Griffith's eponymous 1911 melodrama and this delightful screwball comedy. Intially tailored as a vehicle for the in-demand Jean Arthur, this inversion of the tale of a returning castaway passed to Irene Dunne, who was supposed to reunite with the star and director of The Awful Truth. But a car crash forced Leo McCarey to pass the reins to screenwriter and occasional director Garson Kanin, whose task was greatly facilitated by Dunne's instinctive chemistry with Cary Grant.

Dunne is one of the Golden Age's least appreciated stars. She was a fine singer (Jerome Kern entrusted her with some of his best tunes) and a superb actress, whose ability to play comedy and drama with equal restraint are admirably showcased in a storyline that has her reuniting with the kids she thought she'd lost forever and attempting to pass off an unprepossessing shoe salesman as her desert island companion to prevent Grant from discovering that she's been shacked up with hunk, Randolph Scott (whose mid-1930s stint as Grant's roommate had prompted a Hollywood whispering campaign that they were, in fact, lovers). Indeed, her easy style perfectly complemented Grant's eccentric naturalism and the passion between them is evident from their first (re)meeting.  



However, such is the emphasis on Grant and Dunne that it's easy to overlook the contributions of both Scott and Gail Patrick. Parodying Ralph Bellamy's trademark `other man' tropes, Scott (who had teamed with Dunne on the 1935 Fred`n'Ginger musical, Roberta) demonstrates the awkward finesse that made him so convincing in psychological Westerns, while Patrick plays the neurotic second wife with an exasperated excess that should have had casting directors beating down her door.  



 In 1962, the Arden plot was reworked as Something's Got to Give for Marilyn Monroe. But she was fired from what would prove to be her final picture and the project passed to Doris Day, as Move Over, Darling (1963).

Criminally neglected rom-com with bags of chemistry between the leads.