My Favorite Wife (1940) starring Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, Randolph Scott, Gail Patrick, Ann Shoemaker, Granville Bates, Scotty Beckett, Mary Lou Harrington directed by Garson Kanin Movie Review

My Favorite Wife (1940)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Gail Patrick, Cary Grant, Randolph Scott, Irene Dunne and Granville Bates in My Favourite Wife

Return of the Dead Wife

It's difficult because as a fan of Doris Day I enjoyed watching her and James Garner in "Move Over, Darling" but it's just not as good as the original "My Favourite Wife". The reason being is that the romantic fun of "My Favourite Wife" is much sharper, quicker and with it starring Irene Dunne and Cary Grant it is very hard not to like it. Even now over 70 years since "My Favourite Wife" hit the big screen it is just as funny, sharp and puts many modern romantic movies in the shade with it's comedy surrounding Nick Arden finding himself having two wives.

7 years after his wife Ellen (Irene Dunne) went missing on a boat trip, Nick Arden (Cary Grant - His Girl Friday) is ready to get married again, in fact he already has a bride in waiting but first he must get Ellen declared dead. But Nick doesn't know that Ellen isn't dead and has returned to their family home and when she discovers that her husband has just got remarried she heads off to where Nick and his new wife Bianca (Gail Patrick) are honeymooning before it's too late. If that wasn't messy enough when Nick, having seen Ellen after thinking she was dead, discovers that she spent 7 years stranded on an island with the handsome Steve Burkett (Randolph Scott) it gets even messier.

Irene Dunne as Ellen Arden in My Favourite Wife

The thing about the storyline to "My Favourite Wife" is that it is naturally repetitive or at least once the set up is out of the way with and what a great set up it is. The opening courtroom scene which sees Nick trying to get his missing wife declared dead and then straight away get married is so amusing because of Cary Grant's comical timing and the bumbling confusion of the judge. But once that is out of the way it does then become repetitive as we have Nick discovering that Ellen is still alive and in the sticky situation of how he is to tell his new wife. Having said that it doesn't feel so repetitive because every gag is sharp and once again Cary Grant's comic timing as Nick makes ever joke funny even when it is a rehash of a joke from just a few scenes back.

And being repetitive myself once things move on and Nick discovers that Ellen was stranded on an island with the hunky Steve Burkett it's still great fun because of Cary Grant. In many ways it is Cary Grant who makes "My Favourite Wife" work because he is so great at the exasperated comedy. Even in the final scenes it is Grant who makes them so amusing, so sharp despite good performances from the rest of the cast. In fact the final collection of scenes are some of the funniest and without giving anything away Cary Grant dressed in a Father Christmas outfit borders on the hysterical.

Aside from Grant there is of course the delightful Irene Dunne as Ellen and what a treat she is. To state the obvious Irene Dunne has a beauty and wholesomeness about her which makes Ellen so adorable and whilst she delivers plenty of amusing scenes it's all very subtle, or at least in comparison to Grant's more obvious comedy. Together Grant and Dunne work so well but then all the cast from Randolph Scott as Steve Burkett through to Granville Bates as Judge Walter Bryson all deliver equally as enjoyable performances. Even the children played by Scotty Beckett and Mary Lou Harrington are entertaining although a little too cute in an old fashioned cliche sort of way.

What this all boils down to is that "My Favourite Wife" was and still is a very enjoyable romantic comedy. Whilst the likes of Irene Dunne and Randolph Scott deliver entertaining performances it is Cary Grant who makes it all work thanks to his brilliant comic timing and the humorous expressions he delivers as Nick becomes more and more exasperated.