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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

My Favorite Wife (1940)



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Cary Grant's name on a screwball comedy from the 1940s is a wonderful heuristic for finding hilarious and wholly satisfying classic movies. He tended to appear in top notch material anyway, but it's like he was made to star in these sorts of comedies. His classy, debonair yet down to earth demeanor make him instantly likeable, and true to the rules of comedy, he is funny by being characters who are unaware that they are funny.

If Bringing Up Baby and Arsenic and Old Lace rank in the top tier of Cary Grant screwball comedies, while I Was a Male War Bride and Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House make up a strong second tier, My Favorite Wife ranks right in the middle. It's about a woman (Irene Dunne) who is presumed dead after being shipwrecked on a desert island for seven years and returns to find her husband (Cary Grant) just beginning his honeymoon with a new bride. This puts him in an understandably sticky situation, at least until some twists turn the tables around a few times.

They don't make 'em like this anymore. My Favorite Wife shows just how rich the potential is for smart comedies structured around social conventions, moral thresholds, and etiquette. Today there are scarcely any of these things to threaten for comic tension. Nonetheless, though the film is certainly a product of its times, its appeal is timeless.

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