AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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My Favorite Wife
Director: Garson Kanin (Dir)
Release Date:   17 May 1940
Premiere Information:   Louisville, KY premiere: 2 May 1940
Production Date:   began 6 Dec 1939
Duration (in mins):   88 or 93
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Cast:   Irene Dunne (Ellen [Arden])  
    Cary Grant (Nick [Arden])  
    Randolph Scott ([Stephen] Burkett)  
    Gail Patrick (Bianca [Bates])  
    Ann Shoemaker (Ma [Arden])  
    Scotty Beckett (Tim [Arden])  
    Mary Lou Harrington (Chinch [Arden])  
    Donald MacBride (Hotel clerk)  
    Hugh O'Connell (Johnson)  
    Granville Bates (Judge)  
    Pedro De Cordoba (De Kohlmar)  
    Brandon Tynan (Dr. Manning)  
    Leon Belasco (Henri)  
    Harold Gerard (Assistant clerk)  
    Murray Alper (Bartender)  
    Earl Hodgins (Clerk of court)  
    Clive Morgan (Lawyer)  
    Bert Moorhouse (Lawyer)  
    Florence Dudley (Witness)  
    Jean Acker (Witness)  
    Cy Ring (Contestant)  
    Joe Cabrillas (Phillip)  
    Frank Marlowe (Photographer)  
    Thelma Joel (Miss Rosenthal)  
    Horace MacMahon (Truck driver)  
    Chester Clute (Shoe salesman)  
    Eli Schmudkler (Janitor)  
    Franco Corsaro (Waiter)  
    Pat West (Caretaker)  
    Cy Kendall (Detective)  
    Ronnie Rondell (Bellboy)  
    Matty Roubert (Bellboy)  
    Roque Guinart (Waiter)  
    Edward Emerson (Reporter)  
    Bruce MacFarlane (Reporter)  
    Joe Bernard (Reporter)  
    Bill Cartledge (Page boy)  
    Sue Moore (Maid)  
    Edna Holland    
    Victor Kilian    
    Ellen Lowe    
    Peggy Martin    
    Frank Ellis    

Summary: After being shipwrecked on an island off the coast of Indonesia for seven years, Ellen Arden returns home on the very day that her husband Nick has had her declared dead so that he can marry Bianca Bates. After learning from her sympathetic mother-in-law that Nicky has left for Yosemite on his honeymoon, Ellen flies off to the honeymoon lodge, the same one, in fact, where she and Nicky spent their own honeymoon. When Nick sees Ellen just as he enters the lodge elevator with Bianca, he can't believe his eyes, but soon discovers that his beloved Ellen has returned. After his initial elation at having Ellen back, however, he is soon confronted with the reality that he now has two wives. Although he admits to Ellen that he never really loved Bianca, whom he met on the boat on the way back from searching for Ellen, Nicky cannot bring himself to tell Bianca that she is a lame duck. Instead, he thinks of a variety of excuses why he must leave their honeymoon suite and not behave as a bridgegroom should. Bianca is certain that there is something wrong with Nicky, especially when they return home and he refuses to tell his children, Tim and Chinch, that Bianca is their stepmother. Ellen decides to torment him by masquerading as a friend of the family from the South. After Bianca goes to bed with a headache and calls her mother to complain about Nicky's eratic behavior, Nicky receives a late-night visit from an insurance investigator representing the company which paid Ellen's life insurance policy. He indirectly learns from the man that Ellen was not alone in her seven year ordeal, but was kept company by Stephen Burkett. He also learns that after their rescue, crew members of the Portuguese freighter that picked up the pair reported that he called her "Eve" and she called him "Adam." Nicky confronts Ellen about Stephen, whom she had neglected to mention, but she dismisses Stephen as a harmless old man. Now crazy with jealousy, Nicky decides to find Stephen, whom Ellen said would be residing at the Y.M.C.A., and, much to Nicky's chagrin, he discovers Stephen to be an athletic Adonis who is staying at the Pacific Club. Meanwhile, not knowing that Nicky has located Stephen, Ellen finds a mousey shoe salesman whom she thinks would be a perfect alter ego and passes him off to Nicky as her island companion. Pretending not to suspect anything, Nicky then takes Ellen to lunch at the Pacific Club, where he and Stephen finally meet face-to-face. The embarassed Ellen takes an unintended plunge into the club's pool, requiring Nicky to go home and get some clothes for her. As Nicky goes through Ellen's closets looking for a suitable outfit, Bianca sends in a psychiatrist whom she has called in to straighten him out. Just when the befuddled Nicky is trying to explain his actions to Bianca and the psychiatrist, however, the police arrive and arrest him for bigamy. In court, Nicky's domestic conundrum is finally exposed as he, Bianca, Ellen and Stephen try to sort out the complicated details of the case to the judge. After various unsatisfactory explanations are offered, the judge finally grants Bianca an annulment, and she happily leaves after socking Nicky. The judge then has to declare Ellen legally alive, reversing his former decision that she was legally dead, and decides to take the matter under consideration. With all of the strain of the last few days, Nicky declares that he needs time to think. Irked by her husband's lack of commitment, Ellen decides to go away and think as well, leaving Stephen to return to the island alone. Finally, Nicky decides to drive Ellen and the children, who still do not know that she is their real mother, to their old mountain cabin. He plans to leave, but the roads are closed and he is forced to spend the night. After the children happily reveal that they know Ellen is their mother, and after Mrs. Arden telephones Ellen to say that the judge has declared her legally alive and her marriage is intact, Ellen says goodnight to Nicky and tells him to sleep in the attic. Several attempts to sleep in Ellen's bedroom prove fruitless, and she tells him to take a sixty-day cruise and come back around Christmas. After hearing considerable noise coming from the attic, Ellen is soon surprised when Nicky enters the room in a Santa Claus suit and wishes her a Merry Christmas. 

Production Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Production Text: A Leo McCarey Production
Distribution Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Director: Garson Kanin (Dir)
  James H. Anderson (Asst dir)
  Ruby Rosenberg (Asst dir)
Producer: Leo McCarey (Prod)
Writer: Bella Spewack (Scr)
  Samuel Spewack (Scr)
  Bella Spewack (Orig story)
  Samuel Spewack (Orig story)
  Leo McCarey (Orig story)
  John McClain (Contr wrt)
  Bert Granet (Contr to scr const)
Photography: Rudolph Maté (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase (Art dir)
  Mark-Lee Kirk (Art dir assoc)
Film Editor: Robert Wise (Ed)
Set Decoration: Darrell Silvera (Set dec)
Costumes: Howard Greer (Gowns)
Music: Roy Webb (Mus score)
Sound: John E. Tribby (Rec)
Country: United States

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. 17/5/1940 dd/mm/yyyy LP9879

PCA NO: 5974
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: RCA Victor System

 
Genre: Comedy
 
Subjects (Major): Bigamy
  Husbands
  Impersonation and imposture
  Insurance fraud
  Jealousy
  Missing persons, Assumed dead
  Wives
 
Subjects (Minor): Cabins
  Children
  Honeymoons
  Judges
  Psychiatrists
  Santa Claus
  Trials
  Yosemite Valley (CA)

Note: Although the film was based on a story by Samuel and Bella Spewack and Leo McCarey, it was very loosely inspired by Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem Enoch Arden in which a man who has been lost at sea for several years returns home to find that his wife believed him dead and remarried. According to information contained in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, J. R. McDonough, Vice President of RKO, was warned by the PCA to tone down scenes referring to a sexual relationship between "Ann" and "Burkett," as well as the suggestion in the final scene in which "Nick" tries to share "Ellen's" bed before his marriage has been declared annulled. The suggestiveness was toned down in both instances. The film's premiere was held in Louisville, KY, the hometown of star Irene Dunne. The film was nominated for the following Academy Awards: Best Art Direction, Best Original Score, and Best Original Story. In Dec 1940, the story was presented on the Lux Radio Theatre starring Laurence Olivier and Rosalind Russell. According to modern sources, Garson Kanin stepped in to direct portions of the film after Leo McCarey was involved in a near-fatal car accident. The story was to be remade by Fox in the spring of 1962 under the title Something's Got to Give . That production starred Marilyn Monroe and Dean Martin and was directed by George Cukor. Monroe was fired from the film for her frequent absences, however, and died shortly thereafter. All of the footage from that production was subsequently shelved and a new production was made by Fox in 1963 under the title Move Over Darling , directed by Michael Gordon and starring James Garner, Doris Day and Polly Bergen (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70 ; F6.3323). Some footage of the Monroe version was included in a 1991 Fox Television Network documentary on her. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   30 Apr 40   p. 3.
Film Daily   3 May 40   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Dec 39   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Apr 40   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Apr 40   p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily   3 Mar 40   p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily   3 May 40   p. 9.
Motion Picture Herald   2 Mar 40   p. 25.
Motion Picture Herald   4 May 40   pp. 36-40.
New York Times   31 May 40   p. 5.
New York Times   2 Jun 40   p. 3.
Variety   1 May 40   P. 18.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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