|TOO MANY HUSBANDS
(director/writer: Wesley Ruggles; screenwriter: Claude
Binyon/from the play Home and Beauty by W. Somerset
Maugham; cinematographer: Joseph Walker; editor: Otto
Meyer; 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), Tom Dugan (Lt. Sullivan);
Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Wesley
Ruggles; Columbia Pictures; 1940)
"Modest fluffy screwball comedy."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The modest fluffy screwball comedy is based on the W. Somerset Maugham play Home and Beauty, with a tepid screenplay by Claude Binyon. It was later remade as Three for the Show. Director Wesley Ruggles ("Bolero"/"I'm No Angel"/"No Man of her own") is unable to keep it from going flat, as he desperately tries to milk comedy from its one-joke premise. Its rather stiff execution and strained comedy soon wears out its welcome, as the same triangle love gag is played for the entire movie.
Lowndes (Jean Arthur) suddenly learns that her NYC
publisher adventurer husband Bill Cardew (Fred
MacMurray), who has been missing for a year and
declared dead for drowning in a shipwreck, actually
survived and was stranded on an isolated island. Bill
returns alive and well, and Vicky's in a quandary
about what to do because six months ago she married
Bill's supportive business partner publisher
Henry Lowndes (Melvyn Douglas) who was there
for her in her time of need. Vicky is in a tizzy, as
both appealing men stay overnight in the guest room of
her apartment as she tries to figure out which hubby
to pick. Her live-in father George (Harry
Davenport) advises her to sleep on it and by morning
choose one. Meanwhile the best friends become
competitive, as each wants Vicky as a wife. Their
macho rivalry results in some slightly amusing moments
between Bill, the younger and more athletic world
traveller, and Henry, the more nerdy workaholic type.
How Vicky chooses her mate is not imaginative, and the
film ends with an inconclusive and unsatisfactory
conclusion following a court ruling that states who
she is legally married to. Supposedly the studio shot
it with two different endings and tried them out on a
target audience of college co-eds. They would have
been better served by figuring out for themselves how
to end this farce in way that wasn't so silly as have
the three madly dancing together at a nightclub.
Supporting actors include Dorothy Peterson as the publisher's lovelorn secretary, Melville Cooper as the confused butler, and Edgar Buchanan as the cop who tries to settle the possible bigamist situation by calling in his superiors.
REVIEWED ON 8/24/2012 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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