Sunday, August 2, 2009

Star Cominations: Cary Grant and Irene Dunne pt. 2.

I got stood up for a date today, so what better than to start reading Doris Day's biography, and watch one of my favorite movies!
If I had to pick a favorite movie overall, I think that 70% of the time my answer would be "My Favorite Wife" (1940). This was the first Grant/Dunne picture I saw, and it left me with an incurable case of the giggles that often overcomes me when I see a film that I really love.
"My Favorite Wife" is the story of Nick and Ellen Arden. After Ellen disappears in a shipwreck, Nick meets another woman, and marries her on the same day that Ellen is declared dead. Coincidentally, Ellen returns from her deserted island on the very same day and is determined to get back her husband!
I could go on for days about each line that makes me laugh. It is chock full of the same farcical fun you will find in its predecessor "The Awful Truth"-including a Southern impersonation, a cabin in the mountains, and of course the "Irene Dunne laugh". No one can sound snootier than Miss Dunne can.
I first saw this picture in my "Music at RKO" class in spring. This movie features a wonderful score provided by the great Roy Webb (of Notorious and Cat People fame). This film is a great example of an effect we call "Micky Mousing", when the actions of the orchestra follow the actions on screen. This can be clearly seen when Nick first sees Ellen in the elevator and falls as the door closes. The score also descends in a chromatic scale. It definitely adds comedy to the picture. I have seen some pictures where Mickey Mousing is used far too much, and it becomes a joke. Roy Webb does it perfectly in this picture. My Favorite Wife also has a wonderful, extremely hummable love theme that plays during the credits among other places.
Speaking of which, what complex credits! Each slide is its own embroidered (by hand I'm assuming) handkerchief. All that work for about 45 seconds!

Another wonderful addition to this film is the beautiful and under appreciated Gail Patrick. As usual, Gail is playing "the other woman"-Nick's new wife Bianca. Even though she is very stiff and rude to Nick and the children at times (actually, she's never nice to the children), I can almost see where she's coming from. In fact, I attribute my semi-sympathy to Gail's fantastic job as an actress. Compared to Polly Bergen's take on Bianca in the remake Move Over, Darling who is just plain stupid, Gail's Bianca is reasonably frustrated and chooses to project it on everyone else, I suppose.
My Favorite Wife is available on DVD, and canalso be watched on a certain video website. I own it as part of a5-DVD Cary Grant collection that also includes The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, Night and Day, and Destination Tokyo.
It's getting late now, but I will definitely write about Move Over, Darling tomorrow.

Also coming this week: my first entry about my classic hollywood collection. Get excited!!!


  1. What a beast - whoever stood you up! However, sounds like you had a much better time than you would have done going on a date!

    Your post has inspired me to create a Silver Screen Suppers double bill with recipes by Cary Grant and Irene Dunne - fabulous!

  2. Oh that sounds wonderul! I can't wait to hear how it tastes :)

  3. I am sorry you stood up, but having a date with Cary Grant is definitely a nice consolation. I too love "My Favorite Wife", but I have to admit I prefer "The Awful Truth". Of course, both are great so it is almost like saying "I prefer double fudge brownies over just fudgy brownies". I also had the same reaction to "Move Over, Darling". In fact, I ended up turning it off and re-watching "My Favorite Wife" to cleanse my memory of the disappointing remake.

  4. I did the same thing! I finished move over darling, but I watched my favorite wife afterward.

    I too love The Awful Truth, but I think I like My Favorite Wife (just slightly) better, probably because it was the first Dunne/Grant picture I saw.

    Stay tuned for a review of Penny Serenade!