Renowned conductor Sir Alfred De Carter (Harrison) has been Happily Married to his wife Daphne (Darnell) for a number of years. But when he arrives home from a trip, he receives distressing news. It seems his brother-in-law (Rudy Vallee) misunderstood when Alfred asked him to "keep an eye on" Daphne, and hired a private detective to follow her. Then it turned out the detective actually did find evidence that Daphne might be having an affair, due to seeing her enter and leave the room of Anthony Windborn (Kurt Krueger), Alfred's secretary.
Distressed over this apparent betrayal, Alfred has differing fantasies over what to do as he conducts a concert, each fueled by the three extremely different musical pieces, which he conducts during the performance. The first fantasy is about murdering Daphne and framing Windborn for the crime, played to Rossini's Semiramide overture. The second is about forgiving Daphne and letting her be with Windborn, to the overture to Wagner's Tannhäuser. The third is about confronting them over their affair, to Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet-fantasy overture.
And then he tries implementing these fantasies for real.
This film could have been many things with its premise, but it's actually a dark comedy about how Alfred deals with his feelings. This is suspected to be reason it didn't do well at first, but grew in reputation with audiences used to such subject matter.
Another possible reason the film did not do well was the suicide of Carole Landis, a film actress and lover of Rex Harrison. Landis took a fatal overdose of sleeping pills after Harrison refused to leave his wife for her. Unfaithfully Yours—a comedy in which Harrison plays a man who imagines murdering his wife—came out only four months after Landis's suicide and the ensuing scandal.
Contains Examples Of:
- Black Comedy: While mild by today's standards, making a comic plot about a man fantasizing about murdering his wife, then actually trying to do it, might have been too much for The '40s. The Russian roulette fantasy in particular is surprisingly graphic, as it averts the era-appropriate Gory Discretion Shot — Alfred fires the gun against his head, screams in agony, and falls down with a bloody hole in his temple.
- Cannot Spit It Out: Alfred could have resolved things sooner if he confronted Daphne sooner.
- Casting Gag: Alfred's brother August, a boring stick-in-the-mud who says "I really hate music", is played by Rudy Vallee—singer, saxophone player, pop star.
- Crazy Jealous Guy: Alfred increasingly becomes this.
- Dream Sue: In Alfred's daydreams, everything goes perfectly for him. He successfully kills his wife and frames Tony; he martyrs himself in the name of love in the best Humphrey-Bogart-in-Casablanca fashion; and he manfully dies in a game of Russian Roulette after dramatically confronting the cheaters with their crime. However, reality proves
- Certain things work in the fantasy sequences that wouldn't at all in reality. For example, speeding up a phonograph recording of Alfred's own voice is sufficient to make it sound exactly like that of his wife. Though he was never able to make the machine speed up his voice in real life afterward, he wouldn't have sounded like his wife even if he had; he'd have sounded like one of the Chipmunks.
- Fantasy Sequence: Alfred gets three of them, set to three different pieces of music. However, it doesn't go quite so smoothly when he tries to carry these fantasies out in reality.
- Foreshadowing: It's established in the opening scene that not only is August a boring drip, his wife Barbara (Daphne's sister) can't stand him. Turns out it's Barbara, not Daphne, who is having the affair with Alfred's assistant Anthony.
- Funny Foreigner: Max, Alfred's sidekick, who speaks with fractured syntax and a vaguely Eastern European accent. Sometimes he angrily mutters in Russian.
- Hilarity Ensues: Alfred trying to fulfill the first fantasy.
- I Just Want My Beloved to Be Happy: The second fantasy.
- It Works Itself: The claim for the instructions of the recorder, which are a clear lie when tried in practice.
- Love Triangle: Or at least it seemed to be one.
- Mental Story: The fantasy sequences.
- Mistaken for Cheating: Daphne. It was all a misunderstanding.
- Narm: Invoked with the intentionally over-the-top dialogue in the second, I Want My Beloved to Be Happy fantasy sequence.Alfred: I could not understand music as I do, if I didn't understand the human heart a little.
- Opera Gloves: Daphne wears a particularly pretty, sequined pair to accompany her black strapless gown throughout almost the entire second half of the movie.
- The Perfect Crime: The first fantasy, where he frames another man for the murder he commits.
- Phoney Call: A variation in the first fantasy. Alfred sets the phonograph on a time delay, and then carefully arranges for the hotel operator to be listening when Tony barges in and knocks the phone off the hook, leading the operator to think she hears Daphne screaming.
- Pimped-Out Dress: Daphne's dress for the concert, and the dress "with the plumes at the hips".
- Pretty in Mink: Several, with Daphne even asking her sister what fur she would be wearing so Daphne wouldn't end up wearing an identical one. So she goes to the concert wearing a grand white fox wrap to complement her black dress.
- Public Domain Soundtrack: Wagner, Rossini, and Tchaikovsky pieces, played by Alfred's orchestra, are the soundtrack.
- Rule of Three:
- The different fantasies Alfred has.
- When Alfred is trying to get the recording machine to work in "real life," as he fiddles with the controls, the machine's arm twice lifts the disc off and drops it to the side of the machine. The third time, when Alfred reaches out his hand to catch the disc, the machine instead flips it over and puts it back on the spindle.
- Russian Roulette:
- The third fantasy has Alfred force Windborn to play this with him.
- Subverted when he tries to actually do it with Daphne, and she gets confused over which game."My father and I played it all the time."
- Screwball Comedy: From Alfred accidentally setting an office on fire, to him wrecking his penthouse.
- Socialite: Daphne and her sister.
- Zip Me Up: Subverted. Daphne asks Alfred to zip up her tight-fitting dress, but he is in a state of high agitation because he thinks she cheated on him. He winds up ripping her dress in half and triggering an argument.