Cast & Crew
A year after her husband Bill has been reported drowned in a boating accident, Vicky Cardew marries his business partner and best friend, Henry Lowndes. As Bill's name is being removed from the office doors, Vicky's father George receives a long distance call from Bill, and is shocked to learn that he is alive. Bill tells his father-in-law that he will be arriving in town that night by airplane. For the past year, Bill has been marooned on a desert island and is now eager to return home to his wife. Vicky and Henry go to the airport to meet Bill, but neither one can summon the nerve to tell him what has happened. As Bill makes plans to spend his first night with his wife, they finally tell him the truth. Trouble begins when both husbands begin lavishing love and attention on their mutual wife, who refuses to decide between them and instead embarks upon a dizzying flirtation to keep them both on equal terms. Though tempers begin to flare, Vicky enjoys the attention and competition between her husbands. As she mulls over her dilemma, the two men put on a show of strength for her, each trying to outperform the other by jumping over living room furniture, until both men suffer injuries. When the husbands become pals for a night and walk out on Vicky to teach her a lesson, she calls the police. The police investigators nab her husbands, but Vicky is unable to conceal her illegal living arrangement from the police and is hauled off to court. Although a judge decides that Bill is Vicky's legal husband, Henry refuses to admit defeat and continues to court her. Both men ignore the court ruling and vow to keep Vicky happy in the future and share a dance with her to show the sincerity of their intentions.
Arthur S. Black
M. W. Stoloff
Too Many Husbands
Sound familiar? It should. It's a variation on the 1864 poem "Enoch Arden" by Tennyson about a sailor lost at sea who returns years later to find his wife remarried to his childhood friend. The original story was filmed in 1915 with Lillian Gish, following Tennyson's more tragic tone, but later Hollywood versions preferred to find humor in the tale. A couple of months after Too Many Husbands was released by Columbia, RKO put out a movie the same year that was more popular in its time and better remembered today, My Favorite Wife, a variation on the story with Cary Grant as the remarried spouse whose former wife Irene Dunne returns from sea. Too Many Husbands was remade as a musical, Three for the Show (1955), with Jack Lemmon and Betty Grable. My Favorite Wife came back yet again as Move Over, Darling (1963), with Doris Day and James Garner.
The file for the film in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Library indicates that the Production Code Administration, the industry's self-censorship board, informed Columbia in October 1939 that the script of Maugham's play was in violation of the code because of its "apparent lack of any respect for the sanctity of marriage; its farcical treatment of the subject of bigamy; and its very frank and detailed discussion of the unsavory subject of divorce by collusion." There is no indication of what steps the studio might have taken to satisfy the PCA, but for the time, the picture was considered a bit risqué.
Too Many Husbands was filmed with two possible endings. In one, Arthur decides to say with MacMurray, in the other Douglas. A February 1940 news item in the Hollywood Reporter, a month before the film's release, said Columbia selected a jury of twelve female college students from UCLA to help decide which of the two endings would be used. Another news bit a short time later claimed all of the film except for the ending would be screened for coeds from UCLA and USC, and that they would discuss the ending with studio officials. The studio also reportedly sent out more than 10,000 questionnaires to college students throughout the country to help it choose an ending. Either the target audience for the movie was college students or the studio considered them uniquely suited to make such a decision. In any case, the film as released has a somewhat open-ended conclusion.
John P. Livadary was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Sound Recording for Too Many Husbands. The soundtrack included strains of the 1920 song "My Man," made famous first by Ziegfeld Follies star Fanny Brice and again by Barbra Streisand when she played Brice in the musical bio-pic Funny Girl (1968). The original music score for Too Many Husbands is credited to Frederick Hollander, aka Friedrich Hollaender, best known for composing songs for many of Marlene Dietrich's films.
Producer/Director: Wesley Ruggles
Screenplay: Claude Binyon, based on the play Home and Beauty by W. Somerset Maugham
Cinematography: Joseph Walker
Editing: William A. Lyon, Otto Meyer
Art Direction: Lionel Banks
Original Music: Frederick Hollander
Cast: Jean Arthur (Vicky Lowndes), Fred MacMurray (Bill Cardew), Melvyn Douglas (Henry 'Hank' Lowndes), Harry Davenport (George), Dorothy Peterson (Gertrude), Melville Cooper (Peter), Edgar Buchanan (Detective McDermott).
by Rob Nixon
Too Many Husbands
Somerset Maugham's stage play later opened in New York on October 8, 1919; as Home and Beauty it opened in London on August 30, 1919. This film was Wesley Ruggles' first picture as director and producer for Columbia. The file for the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library indicates that the PCA informed Columbia in October 1939 that the script of the play was in violation of the Production Code because of its "apparent lack of any respect for the sanctity of marriage; its farcical treatment of the subject of bigamy; and its very frank and detailed discussion of the unsavory subject of divorce by collusion." Although Hollywood Reporter pre-release news items and production charts list actors Mary Treen, Garry Owen, Mercedes Angell and Lee "Lasses" White in the cast, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. A February 1940 Hollywood Reporter news item indicated that Columbia selected a jury of twelve female college students from UCLA to help it decide which of two possible endings it should use for the film. A subsequent news item noted that all of the film except for the ending would be screened for coeds from UCLA and USC, and that they would discuss the ending with studio officials. The director had one ending in which Jean Arthur takes Fred MacMurray as her husband, and another in which she takes Melvyn Douglas. The studio also reportedly sent out more than 10,000 questionaires to college students throughout the country to help it decide which ending to use.
Too Many Husbands received an Academy Award nomination in the Sound Recording category. Another film based on the same source is the 1955 Columbia film Three for the Show, directed by H. C. Potter and starring Betty Grable and Jack Lemmon.
Released in United States 1940
Based on the play "Home and Beauty" by W. Somerset Maugham.
Released in United States 1940