Film moments #25: My Favorite Wife (1940)

8 October 2017


The film moments idea was started in honour of the citic Manny Farber, who once said that, 

A lot of the movies I went for were very much like the way we see and remember films – as fragments, gestures. We don’t retain whole shapes, but a sight gag from one, the cliffhanger from another, someone’s trousers from a third.

That was in mind when I watched My Favorite Wife, effectively a remake of The Awful Truth, which I wrote about here recently. Leo McCarey reunited Cary Grant and Irene Dunne, and had intended to direct the film, until he was injured in a car crash. Like The Awful Truth, the story is also propelled by the wife-who-isn’t-married, in this case one (Irene Dunne) is declared legally dead seven years after a boat she was on sank in the Pacific. Grant re-marries, and Dunne turns up again, having been rescued from an island by a passing freighter. 

The film is less than the sum of its parts, and the ending is a bit disjointed, perhaps because Leo McCarey, as producer, re-shot part of it when he concluded that the first cut of the film did not work, adding a second courtroom scene to add some comic energy. The judge was played by Granville Bates. All the same, it did well enough at the box office, being the second-highest grossing film in the US in 1940.

The moment: Having got herself home, Dunne re-appears at the hotel just before Grant arrives with his new wife for his honeymoon. It happens to be the same hotel where he went for is honeymoon with her. This moment–a sight gag–was copied pretty much shot for shot in the remake of The Parent Trap.

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