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Based on Lord Tennyson's poem, "Enoch Arden," My Favorite Wife (1940) once again pairs Irene Dunne and Cary Grant in a romantic farce. The two first appeared together in
The movie was one of six films based on Tennyson's poem. McCarey originally planned the film for Jean Arthur under the working title, Woman Overboard, but she was committed to other projects (she eventually made a film - Too Many Husbands (1940) - which had a similar plot). Other versions of "Enoch Arden" include D.W. Griffith's film of the same name, which premiered in 1911. Another version,
The original premise of "Enoch Arden" concerns a married man who is shipwrecked on a deserted island. Over the passage of time, his wife, presuming he is dead, decides to move on with her life and takes another lover. Eventually, her missing spouse is rescued and makes his way home only to discover that his wife has remarried.
In My Favorite Wife, the roles are reversed and it is Ellen Arden (Dunne), who has been lost at sea. After seven years, Nick (Grant) has become romantically involved with Bianca (Gail Patrick) and made her his wife. It is on the couple's honeymoon that Nick sees his long lost wife for the first time. Frantic and understandably baffled, he shuffles between his two spouses in a futile effort to prevent wife number two from meeting wife number one. As if the situation isn't confounding enough, Nick soon learns that his wife was not marooned on the island alone. There was one other survivor, a handsome bachelor named Stephen Burkett (Randolph Scott), who is actively courting Ellen.
The pairing of Grant and Dunne as the conflicted couple is particularly inspired in this version of the story. The duo worked on only three films together, but developed a friendship that endured for decades. Of her onscreen partner, Dunne wrote, "I appeared with many leading men. But working with Cary Grant was different from working with other actors - he was much more fun! I think we were a successful team because we enjoyed working together tremendously, and that pleasure must have shown through onto the screen."
Director: Garson Kanin
Producer: Leo McCarey
Screenplay: Sam Spewack, Bella Spewack (based on a story by Leo McCarey, Sam Spewack and Bella Spewack and a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson).
Cinematography: Rudolph Mate
Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase, Mark-Lee Kirk
Music: Roy Webb
Cast: Irene Dunne (Ellen Arden), Cary Grant (Nick Arden), Randolph Scott (Stephen Burkett), Gail Patrick (Bianca), Ann Shoemaker (Ma Arden), Scotty Beckett (Tim Arden), Mary Lou Harrington (Chinch Arden).
BW-89m. Closed captioning.
by Mary Anne Melear