|Too Many Husbands (1940)
Run time: 81 min
Genres: Comedy | Romance
Director: Wesley Ruggles
Writers: Claude Binyon, W. Somerset Maugham
Stars: Jean Arthur, Fred MacMurray, Melvyn Douglas
It’s been a year since Bill Cardew was declared dead by drowning, and his widow Vicky is now married to his old friend and business partner, Henry Lowndes. When Bill unexpectedly returns from the island where he was marooned, what is Vicky to do? Well, having twice been a rather neglected wife, Vicky finds all the attention from two husbands competing for her favors delightful, and is in no hurry to make a decision…much to the discomfiture of hapless Bill and Henry. Written by Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Release Date: 21 March 1940 (USA)
Though one might suspect "Too Many Husbands" as being in the same vein as "My Favorite Wife," it's actually based on a Somerset Maugham play. The stars of this 1940 film are Jean Arthur, Melvyn Douglas, Fred MacMurray and Harry Davenport. After her first husband, Bill Cardew (MacMurray) was lost at sea, his grieving, lonely widow Vicky marries his friend and business partner, Henry Lowndes (Douglas) six months later. Boy is she surprised when Bill shows up alive. So is her new husband and her father (Davenport). It then falls to the confused Vicky to decide which husband she wants.
This is a very amusing comedy with terrific performances from all the stars. Melvyn Douglas, one of the truly great American actors, had to do this type of film until he finally reached old age and could show the world how sensational he was. He's very funny, his voice cracking when he's upset. The men act like quarreling children, playing games of oneupmanship and chasing Vicky everywhere. Seeing the frilly guest room, Bill questions Henry's effeminate taste. "What's this fabric?" Bill asks, holding up a piece of curtain. "DOTTED SWISS!" Henry yells in a booming voice. In another scene, Bill impresses Vicky by jumping over furniture, causing Henry to give it a try. He falls flat on his face. Arthur does an excellent job as a somewhat dizzy woman who loves both men, and Davenport is a riot as her sober-faced, worried father. MacMurray has always seemed bland to me, but he holds his own as the returning husband who's been stranded on an island for a year.
Much better than I thought it would be, and Arthur fans will love it.
Fred MacMurray is the long lost husband who returns to the scene to find that his wife, Jean Arthur is married to new husband, Melvyn Douglas. Arthur's character must choose which husband to keep. The viewer is compelled to want both men to win Arthur's hand; they are both charming. The plot is simple but the fun, witty dialog and situations that develop are very entertaining. I loved MacMurray and Douglas' tails and top hats. The ball gowns were lovely to look at. It's amusing to watch the dancing style in the party scene; lively, silly and fun. A fine, light movie to enjoy with popcorn and the family or champagne with a friend.
Vicky Lowndes (Jean Arthur) leads a normal life with her husband of less than a year. Hank (Melvyn Douglas) does his best to avoid the subject of Vicky's previous husband, his best friend Bill Cardew (Fred MacMurray). However, when Bill comes back from the dead via a boat from the island he'd been shipwrecked on, the happy Lowndeses become a strange threesome. It is up to Vicky to choose which husband she prefers, but it isn't as simple as it sounds. She can't very well hurt the man she loves in order to be with the other man she loves.
Each cast member is adept at screwball comedy, which is what this film essentially is. However, there is a deeper vein too. Because both men are likable, it is suspenseful waiting for Vicky to choose a husband. This predicament triggers an emotional response as well. Arthur is reminiscent of Irene Dunne in her teamings with Cary Grant, but slightly funnier. Douglas and MacMurray couldn't be more different from each other, so that adds a new spin on the situation.
This movie is very much like My Favorite Wife starring Dunne and the incomplete Something's Got to Give starring Marilyn Monroe, but this film gives the wife two husbands, not the other way around. It is interesting to see how she handles the situation and how the men schmooze themselves silly to get into her good graces. In this way, it is quite a bit funnier.
I’ve just discovered this lighthearted film today on tv and must admit it has all the fine elements that make for a good stage play — plenty of sure-fire dialogue, continual momentum to the story (never a dull moment), and light touches of original music. There are some hilarious moments so downright comical it made me burst out laughing. Just accept it as one more comedy of that era and you’ll enjoy it nicely without having to make comparisons or look for weaknesses. Harry Davenport as the father adds his wisdom where he can. I feel all the actors had a good romp in this movie and I liked the repartee amongst them very much. Not sure precisely how it ended so will need to see it again some day. It’s a fun movie indeed.