My Favorite Wife

7.31 h 28 min19407+
In this comedy, Nick is flabbergasted when his wife returns seven years after she was presumed dead and sets out to reclaim her former life - on the day Nick marries someone else.
Garson Kanin
Irene DunneCary GrantRandolph Scott
English [CC]
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Supporting actors
Gail PatrickAnn ShoemakerScotty BeckettMary Lou HarringtonDonald MacBrideHugh O'ConnellGranville BatesPedro de Cordoba
Leo McCarey
Warner Bros.
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4.8 out of 5 stars

1840 global ratings

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johnfReviewed in the United States on December 7, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
Good Classic Comedy from Grant and Dunne.
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“My Favorite Wife” reunited Cary Grant and Irene Dunne two and a half years after their great success in “The Awful Truth”. They would be teamed one final time in “Penny Serenade”, which was a tear-jerker. I wish they had done at least one more comedy together. Like “The Awful Truth”, this was a Leo McCarey project, basically a follow-up that put the actors into another comedy-of-errors, mixed up marriage setup, though as completely different characters.

Unfortunately McCarey was in a serious automobile accident and could not direct the picture. The directorial duties went to Garson Kanin, who was mainly known as a writer and had only directed four films previously, though he had assisted George Abbot on Broadway and directed a Broadway play himself. He did a good job, but the film missed the inspired improvised scenes that McCarey was known for. As good as it is, and it is a good film, it’s not quite on the level of wackiness as “The Awful Truth”.

Cary Grant plays Nick Arden, his name mirroring Enoch Arden, the character in the Tennyson poem after which the plot was modeled now with reversed genders. In the poem, Enoch was a sailor who, presumed dead, comes home after ten years to find his wife married; here, it’s Ellen Arden (Dunne) who returns home after seven years, only to find her husband has just remarried. The plot insists that these two must get back together, and the fun is in watching how.

Gail Patrick plays Nick’s new bride, Bianca, and I must admit it was almost shocking to see a huge smile on her face when first onscreen. She specialized in playing haughty, mean-spirited women as she did in “My Man Godfrey” and the smile was so wildly out of character. Here she’s seen to be a bit vain but otherwise a decent person. It helps that she gets more and more angry as the film progresses. Dunne is at her scheming best here, though her schemes never reach the level of sheer wackiness of pretending to be Grant’s burlesque star sister as in “The Awful Truth”.

Things are bad enough for Grant, who realizes that he must sever all ties in his new, unconsummated marriage when he’s suddenly presented with a new predicament. Up to now he’s assumed Ellen was alone on the South Sea island where she was marooned. But he finds out that a man, Stephen Burkett, was with her the whole time, and that they called each other Adam and Eve. He soon looks Burkett up, only to find him played by a super-athletic Randolph Scott. Grant’s facial reactions to this cascading turn of events is one of the funniest parts of the film.

There are also a couple of funny bits by character actors in the film. Donald MacBride is great as a suspicious Hotel Manager, who, after Nick checks in with his new wife, can’t help but wonder who Ellen is. For those too young to know, this was an era when hotel staff were expected to be morality police and no reputable hotel would allow any hanky panky by its guests. His growing exasperation is hilarious.

Best of all is Granville Bates as Judge Bryson, who bookends the film with appearances in his courtroom. He has a wonderfully strict, no nonsense demeanor, controls his courtroom with an iron fist, and has some of the funniest lines in the film. And it’s not just the lines, but also Bates’ perfect timing and delivery that puts them over. His appearance near the end was added after McCarey himself edited the film and noticed the way it is less funny near the end as the plot has to work itself out. He suggested a new scene with the judge, and it works perfectly to create some big laughs .

This film was the basis of a 1963 remake (of sorts, with many new scenes and updated dialogue) by Doris Day and James Garner. It’s one of the rare films that remakes a classic successfully. Day and Garner are hilarious as are some of the new bits, as when Day impersonates a Swedish masseuse. It’s the best of Day’s later films.
3 people found this helpful
Captain CriticalReviewed in the United States on June 24, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
Good But Not Quite Top Drawer Cary Grant Comedy
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A man who's just been remarried is surprised when his first wife, who's been lost at sea for seven years and recently declared dead, suddenly returns. For some reason that the script never satisfactorily makes clear, he's unable to tell his awful new wife that his wife is back. Added interest comes from Grant playing scenes with his real-life boyfriend Randolph Scott--they lived together for years--who's cast as the Tarzan who was stranded on a desert island with his wife. Cary Grant isn't in top form here, probably because of the wildly overrated Garson Kanin's second-rate direction. Watchable, definitely, but not quite as good as his other pairing with Irene Dunne, "The Awful Truth." Remade as "Move Over Darling" with Doris Day. Marilyn Monroe was working on a remake under the title "Something's Gotta Give" at the time of her passing, and the footage can be found online--check it out, she's genius in it--better than ever.
2 people found this helpful
P.Reviewed in the United States on July 26, 2015
5.0 out of 5 stars
Well worth watching, as is the later "Move Over Darling".
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I love both this version and the Day/ Garner version. There are a few differences, mostly in the ending and the characters of Bianca and Adam. The Hayes Act also meant there was less kissing in the Dunne/ Grant version (as well as the twin beds.) Both pairing of actors are wonderful. The quality of this release is very good, both in picture and sound.

One little thing for the folks too young to get the reference: the bed in the attic has a rope 'box spring' - pegs run around the frame and ropes are laced around the pegs to provide a flexible base for the mattress, which was stuffed with either feathers, horsehair or, in very old beds, straw. The ropes often became loose and needed tightening and they creaked with every move, like the lashing for sails. Hence the noise and his foot going through the bed as he gets up.
11 people found this helpful
Isabel SnowReviewed in the United States on February 2, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
Sexy, hilarious romantic comedy--great date night film
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Charming, funny, romantic film with one of the great screen couples of the 1930s and 40s: Irene Dunne and Cary Grant. Many who are new to film don't know Dunne, which is too bad. She is a fine comedienne, actress, and musical star in a variety of older films. Her films with Grant are sexy and sophisticated romantic comedies that make newer rom-coms look sadly lacking. This one is about a wife (Dunne) who returns after being declared dead and must reclaim not only her husband (Grant), who is on the verge of remarrying but her children and her life. Oh, and where was she? On a deserted island with a very, very handsome man... who is in love with her. Oops.
3 people found this helpful
Lady AnneReviewed in the United States on June 28, 2009
5.0 out of 5 stars
Another Dunne and Grant Classic
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This is often compared to "The Awful Truth", which also starred Grant and Dunne and it shouldn't be. It never attempts to mimic the screwball comedy of that movie. They are both very good comedies and deserve to be judged on their own merits and not compared with the other film.

Irene Dunne is great as Ellen Wagstaff; the supposedly dead wife of Cary Grant. She had been shipwrecked while on an expedition seven years earlier. The family dog greets her upon her return, but her two children think she is a stranger. They believe their mother to be dead and she can't find the words to tell them that she is their mother.

She discovers that her husband, Nick (Cary Grant) has just been married to Bianca (Gail Patrick), and they are on their honeymoon (at the same place he and Ellen went when the got married). They are checking in when he first sees Ellen; after escorting his new bride to their room he returns to the front desk to get a room for Ellen. Nick spends the remainder of the honeymoon going from room to room. Donald McBride is very good as the hotel clerk who tries to accommodate his guests and at the same time show his moral indignation with the "musical room" situation of Grant's character and his wife(s). This sets the tone for future scenes in which one of the spouses is trying to hide something from the other, and Grant's trying to keep Bianca in the dark even after an insurance agent shows up threatening to have him arrested for fraud. (One of the movie's biggest flaws is that Patrick's character is never fully developed thus leaving out potentially funny scenes that may have allowed the movie to stand on its own merit and not compared to the earlier film).

While he still loves Ellen he is unsure what to do or what to say or whom to say it to. In a way he's afraid of his snooty, high-strung new bride. Ellen attempts to tease him about remarrying saying "I can't turn my back on you for a second", which makes Nick feel guilty. His guilt turns to suspicions when he finds she has neglected to mention that she was on the island with a man.

When he confronts her, she tries to pass off a short, balding shoe clerk (Chester Clute), as her island companion, Stephen. She's unaware that he's already seen the tall, athletic Stephen (Randolph Scott), at the Pacific Club. When Ellen says she can live without either of them she finds herself going for an unexpected swim. Nick's then shows his jealousy by delivering some of the movies funniest one-liners aimed at the dumb-as-dirt Stephen.

Another performance worth mentioning is that of Granville Bates as the cantankerous and somewhat bemused judge trying who tries to sort the whole mess out.

We always know that Grant and Dunne will wind up together at then end but it fun watching them get there.
8 people found this helpful
PRETZELReviewed in the United States on April 19, 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
A Cary Grant fan!
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There are very few pictures that Cary Grant is in that I don't like. This man was a 'natural' romantic, and good at comedy too. (But I liked his romance pictures the best!) And he and Irene Dunn were a good romantic pair that had just enough comedy banter to make the picture fun to look at.
Delta D.Reviewed in the United States on August 22, 2020
1.0 out of 5 stars
Painful - absurd narrative and dire attempt at humour
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I guess this must be a passage of time problem, although I am a great admirer of many films from that period. This was a well-reviewed and highly successful film on its release

I only persevered because it forms a part of my Enoch Arden marathon. Interesting that the Arden name is carried into the film.

Not that it was the most important aspect for me, but the complete lack of empathy for the second wife struck me as disgraceful.
Amazon CustomerReviewed in the United States on May 12, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
Classic Movie, but...
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This is definitely a good, classic movie and worth watching. It has good acting with Cary Grant and Irene Dunne. However, my read is that the later remake titled "Move Over, Darling", with James Garner and Doris Day, is better. The remake movie is in color which is obviously preferred, whereas the original "My Favorite Wife" is in black and white; however, that isn't the reason I feel as I do. I just think the remake is better. That said, both are worth seeing.
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