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Film / My Favorite Wife

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A 1940 Screwball Comedy film produced by Leo McCarey, directed by Garson Kanin, and starring Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, Gail Patrick, and Randolph Scott. It is loosely based on the Narrative Poem Enoch Arden by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, but with a Gender Flip and an Adaptational Alternate Ending.note  Strangely enough, it opened just a couple of months after another movie based on the same source material, Too Many Husbands.

Ellen Arden (Dunne) has been missing for seven years, so husband Nick Arden (Grant) has her declared Legally Dead and marries elegant but hard-edged Bianca (Patrick). However, Ellen has actually been shipwrecked on a Deserted Island all this time—coincidentally with handsome Stephen Burkett (Scott). Ellen and Stephen are rescued and return on the very day of the wedding—but after the ceremony itself. Hilarity Ensues.


Remade in 1963 as Move Over, Darling, with Doris Day and James Garner in the lead roles.note 

The film provides examples of:

  • Innocent Cohabitation: Ellen and Stephen both insist their life on the island was this ... although they did take to calling each other "Adam" and "Eve."
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Nick treats Bianca pretty shabbily, considering they've just been married. Fortunately, she's so unsympathetic that audiences aren't likely to care much.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: The clerk at the honeymoon hotel is highly disapproving when Nick books a room for Ellen and spends more time there than with his new wife. (Given the circumstances, it's not entirely a mistake.)
  • Mistaken for Gay: Nick is either this or simply Mistaken For Crazy when he and Stephen stop at his home to get some clothes for Ellen after she falls in the pool. Bianca has called in a psychiatrist, who looks at Nick quite suspiciously as he picks out a couple of outfits, explaining, "It's for a friend. He's downstairs in the car."
  • Never Found the Body: Ellen was last seen when a wave swept her overboard as she tried to board a lifeboat to get off a sinking ship.
  • Oops! I Forgot I Was Married: Half the premise.
  • Real Men Eat Meat: Subverted; Stephen is a vegetarian.
  • Remarrying for Your Kids: Discussed. Ellen suggests to Nick that this is the reason he married Bianca, and he leaps on the suggestion a little too enthusiastically. She isn't fooled, but she lets it go when he tells her unhesitatingly that she's the wife he wants.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: The other half of the premise.
    • When Ellen returns, her children (who do not recognize her) tell about how her their mother was drowned and how they put flowers on her grave every Easter.
    • Her mother also tells her that her funeral was "Lovely—Dr. Blake preached a wonderful sermon."
  • Reunion Kiss: Nick and Ellen have a joyful one in the hotel lobby.
  • Rule of Pool: When Nick and Stephen start arguing over who has more right to be with her, Ellen tries to make a grand exit but falls into the swimming pool instead.
  • Shirtless Scene: Stephen is first seen doing some flashy dives at the athletic club swimming pool.
  • Shout-Out: Nick Arden's name is a reference to Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem Enoch Arden, on which the story is loosely based.


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