Classic Movie Review: My Favorite Wife (1940)

Title: My Favorite Wife
Release Date: May 17, 1940
Director: Garson Kanin
Production Company: RKO Radio Pictures

Producer Leo McCarey, who directed The Awful Truth, reunites with Irene Dunn and Cary Grant for another great screwball comedy. The film begins with Nick Arden (Grant) getting his wife Ellen (Dunn) declared legally dead after she’s been missing for 7 years.  He then immediately marries Bianca (Gail Patrick, who was wonderful in My Man Godfrey, but unfortunately doesn’t get much to here other than react to the weirdness around her). Of course Ellen wasn’t dead at all, merely shipwrecked on a desert island, and she returns home that very same day.

Nick struggles to find a way to tell Bianca that his first wife is alive, and all sorts of hijinx ensue. Nick is also insanely jealous that Ellen shared the island with the handsome and athletic Stephen Burkett (Randolph Scott), and that they called each other “Adam” and “Eve”.  Eventually Nick’s bigamy gets sorted out through the efforts of the befuddled Judge Bryson (Granville Bates in one of the film’s most comical roles), but Nick says he needs to “think it over” regarding and so Ellen torments him in true screwball comedy heroine fashion.  The Arden kids (Scotty Beckett and Mary Lou Harrington) are much more resilient regarding their mother’s surprise return, and Dunn’s performance in the scene where she reveals her true identity is very moving.

It was bound to happen as I worked my way through a list of classic movies I’d never seen before, but so many elements of My Favorite Wife are so familiar I certainly have watched it already. In fact, it feels like I watched it relatively recently, but can’t figure out why I didn’t blog about it.  At any rate, it’s an enjoyable comedy that was worth watching again.

Rating: ***1/2