Monday, November 16, 2009

Too Many Husbands: Wesley Ruggles

LFF:The systematic exploration in recent years of the Columbia Studio's archives by Grover Crisp and his team of expert restorers has thrown up many forgotten Hollywood gems, most valuably from Columbia's beginnings in the late silent era and the pre-Code talkies, when Frank Capra and others were cutting their teeth. This hidden surprise comes from a decade later and seems to have been playing truant from the school of screwball comedy. More likely, it fell in the shadow of RKO's similarly-themes hit , 'My Favorite Wife', released the same year. Directed by veteran Wesley Ruggles, from a play by W. Somerset Maughan, the plot turns triangularly on a woman (Jean Arthur) finding herself with two husbands (Fred MacMurray and Malvyn Douglas) when the first turns ip a year after reportedly drowning on a boat cruise. To her increasing delight, they vie desperately for her affections. Kept light and pacey by Ruggles, the comedy sails surprisingly close to the censorship wind with Arthur's coquettish performance and a strong suggestion of her not being averse to a menage a trois. With hindsight, there is a pre-echo, too, of the more serious actuality of soldiers returningn home from WW2 to find their wives and girlfriends otherwise engaged. The casting is high-class, with Arthur a particular joy to watch as she appears in a succession of haute couture hats and expensive animal furs, and both Lionel Banks' art direction and Joseph Walker's black-and-white photography are impeccable. A welcome rediscovery from Sony-Columbia.

MGP: what the above omits is that MacMurray and Douglas were best friends running a publishing house together with the latter somewhat neglecting Arthur for his work. A pleasant film with fine performances from both men and a better one than I was expecting from Jean Arthur whose voice has always put me off. The premise is nonsense as surely six months is not enough time to have someone declared officially dead when there is no body but the trio carry the situation off well. The film has been available on DVD for some time, probably not in the restored version and its restoration is perhaps a surprise since it is far from being a masterpiece - and the nonsense contained in the sentence above about WW2 is just that, a nonsense.

1 comment:

pppatty said...

We must agree to disagree on Jean Arthur, but your knocking of the programmer's comments is well-founded.