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My Favorite Wife (1940)

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Cary Grant plays a widower who remarries seven years after his first wife (Irene Dunne) disappears at sea. While on his honeymoon with wife number two (Gail Patrick), he’s shocked to discover Dunne survived her ordeal and is ready to rejoin her family. This comedy of errors co-written and produced by Leo McCarey (The Awful Truth) sees Grant charged with bigamy and on the verge of psychiatric care before the truth comes out. Matters are complicated when Grant learns Dunne wasn’t alone on her desert island — and the ‘Adam’ to her ‘Eve’ (Randolph Scott) seeks her hand in marriage.

While the talent is certainly present, My Favorite Wife is too similar and inferior to Grant and Dunne’s earlier pairing in McCarey’s The Awful Truth. But if you’re a fan of these stars, it’s still worth a look. It loses steam in the last fifteen minutes and verges on mawkishness where the pair’s children are concerned, but Grant gets plenty of opportunity to deliver his trademark brand of comedic exasperation. He’s at his best when trying to convince a doctor he’s not insane while trying on women’s clothing, or when he finally stalks down the hunk Dunne spent her last seven years with (in scenes that simmer with gay overtones, especially considering Grant and Scott were rumored to have been lovers in real life).

Prolific character actor Granville Bates is a scene stealer as the judge called upon to pronounce Dunne dead and marry Grant to Gail Patrick, only later to pronounce Dunne alive and annul the second marriage. “I’d like to get home and tell my wife about this. She thinks all my cases are boring,” he says drolly. The hotel clerk at the hotel (Donald MacBride) delivers more great reactions after checking Grant into two different suites with two different women. Directed by famed screenwriter Garson Kanin (Adam’s Rib, Pat and Mike).

Oscar Nominations: Best Original Story, Art Direction, Score