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Film / Merry Wives of Reno

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Merry Wives of Reno is a 1934 film directed by H. Bruce Humberstone.

The plot revolves around the now-Forgotten Trope of divorce in Reno, NV, a place that offered no-fault divorce when very few places in America did. Madge (Margaret Lindsay) and Lois are both wives in New York. Madge and her husband Frank have been married a year and are deeply in love. Lois and her husband Tom have been married 19 years and loathe each other. Through various plot machinations both become convinced that one Bunny Finch (Glenda Farrell) had sex with their husbands. Only Lois is right, but both head out to Reno anyway.

Frank, whose clumsy lies when the truth would have worked fine have him on the verge of divorce, heads out to Reno in a panic, Tom tagging along. Bunny is also going along, not because she's getting a divorce, but because her gullible husband Col. Fitch, who is entirely too fond of sheep, has bought a Nevada sheep farm.

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All of the above is basically an excuse for double entendres and sex jokes.


Tropes:

  • Awful Wedded Life: Lois and Tom haaaaate each other. The only thing stopping them from getting a divorce at the start of the movie is that she wants too much alimony.
    Lois: I suppose I'll never be lucky enough to have you killed.
  • Comically Missing the Point: One of the reasons that Lois and Tom's marriage is on the rocks is his constant drinking. Lois gets mad after Tom returns late, and very drunk.
    Tom: Hello, snookie wookie!
    Lois: Drunk again.
    Tom: Hooray, so am I!
  • Contrived Coincidence: Madge just happens to be sitting in the very next chair at the beauty salon while Bunny is telling her hairdresser about her night with Frank.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: The buzz of a vibrator (a piece of beauty salon equipment, it seems) causes Madge to miss the part of the story where Bunny says she did not have sex with Frank.
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  • Divorce in Reno: That's why everyone is there—or at least it's half of the reason why they are there. The other half seems to be that Reno is a nonstop bacchanalia of sex and drinking, with the newly liberated divorcees, mostly women, enjoying their newfound freedom to the max.
  • Divorce Is Temporary: A pretty cynical one from The Pre-Code Era, since two of the three marriages have spouses cheating and getting away with it.
  • Dramatic Irony: Tom says of the wife he loathes, "I wish she'd go to Reno", while having not noticed that Lois has done exactly that.
  • Eek, a Mouse!!: Used by Al the bellboy, in cahoots with Bunny, Tom, and Frank, to turn the tables on their spouses. Lois and Madge are scared out of their room by the mice Al put there, so he guides them to another room—the Colonel's.
  • Impairment Shot:
    • Frank's drunkenness is illustrated by the picture spinning.
    • Later, Lois's drunkenness is illustrated by a duplicate of the picture superimposed on the first.
  • Literary Allusion Title: To The Merry Wives of Windsor, of course.
  • Match Cut: The spinning picture of Tom's Impairment Shot is matched with the spinning wheel of the train carrying him to Reno.
  • Ms. Red Ink: Lois has bought an expensive necklace and simply does not care that Tom says he can't afford it.
  • A Party, Also Known as an Orgy: What Tom's alcohol-soaked rave is clearly becoming, at least as much as 1934 censorship would allow. Multiple couples are seen locked in embraces, including one couple who are kissing while lying on the floor.
  • Sexy Backless Outfit: What Bunny uses when attempting to seduce Frank.
  • Speech Impediment: One of the few men who has come to Reno to get divorced has a severe stutter, something that is used as a Running Gag.
  • A Threesome Is Hot: Alluded to twice. Lois and Madge get into a bed that unbeknownst to them the Colonel is already in. The Colonel grins and says "Shall I sleep in the middle?" Then at the end of the movie Al the scheming bellhop takes the two mink coats he got from Tom and Frank and puts them on the two women he's taking out of the hotel.
  • Video Credits: At the start of the movie, per Warner Brothers house style of the era.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Bunny has at least two boyfriends, Tom and some other random dude. She tries to make Frank her third, but while Frank rebuffs her advances, his awkward lies after he leaves his coat in her apartment get him in a lot of trouble.
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