August 29, 2011

Movie Monday: My Favorite Wife

This week it's an oldie, but a very, very goodie.

My Favorite Wife is one of my most favorite Cary Grant movies, and also a great vehicle for Irene Dunne. It happened to be on TCM last week, so naturally it found its way to my DVR. The storyline is a little fantastic, but that's what makes it so fun.

The movie opens with Nick Arden, a highly successful lawyer (Cary Grant) in a courtroom, petitioning a judge to declare his wife as legally dead. She went missing at sea 7 years earlier, and now he's decided to remarry. Right after the judge declares his first wife dead, Nick marries his new wife, Bianca.

While this is going on, Ellen, Nick's first wife, suddenly appears at their home after hitch-hiking her way from Portugal, where she was taken when a fishing boat rescued her from the deserted island she'd been living on the past 7 years. She comes home to find children who grew up with no memory of her and a mother-in-law who has to give her the startling news that, just that day, Nick remarried. Ellen takes this news in stride - after all, everyone thought she was dead - and decides to go crash Nick's honeymoon.

When Ellen shows up, Nick forgets completely about Bianca. Thankfully, Bianca is aloof, whiney and impatient - even for someone getting abandoned on her honeymoon - so we don't really mind. Unfortunately, even thought Nick realizes he loves Ellen much, much more than he loves Bianca, he still cares for Bianca and doesn't want to hurt her. So it takes him a good long time to tell Bianca that Ellen is back.

In the meantime, it comes out that Ellen wasn't alone on that island for 7 years. The very handsome and athletic Steven was also there, for the entire 7 years. Now he's come to New York and wants to marry Ellen. So rather than a love triangle, we have a sort of love square.

One of the best things about My Favorite Wife is how funny it is. We were rolling the entire time. There are tons of great one-liners as well as the over-arching premise of the movie. Cary Grant was always a fantastic male romantic lead, but what is often forgotten are his great comedy skills. Irene Dunne is also one who is well-known for her dramatic roles (Love Affair, Penny Serenade) but she was also fantastic comedienne. Her Ellen is witty, sarcastic, adorable - and yet when she finally decides to tell her children she is their real mother, you almost start crying with her. From start to finish, Ellen is full of heart.

There are some pretty unbelievable premises in the movie to overcome. One being that, for seven years, Nick has waited for Ellen until the very day she comes home. That might be believable, since he had a business and two children to raise on his own. But most men don't stay single widowers long. The other, where you really have to suspend your disbelief, is that Ellen and Steven lived alone on that island for 7 years and essentially lived like brother and sister, because "Ellen was so loyal to Nick." I think it's a sweet idea, but come on.

In any case, My Favorite Wife should definitely be in your Netflix queue. (I do hope you are keeping Netflix, btw. If you can find a better system for the same price or less, take it. But you can't.)


  1. I love Cary Grant and this is one of my favorites of his as well!

    I am keeping watch instantly but I canceled the mail delivery. There is a Redbox super close to my house if I have to see anything that is not on streaming.

  2. Every time I read one of your movie reviews I'm a: surprised at how vast your movie knowledge is and b: want to see the movie you write about!

    Also, I feel like we're strangers these days. :(

  3. I love love love this movie! It's one of my favorites with Cary Grant! I love that pool scene!


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