MovieChat Forums > My Favorite Wife (1940) Discussion > Wow am I out of the mainstream

Wow am I out of the mainstream


Finally saw this all the way through (08/20/2013) on TCM and I have to say I didn't care for it and this is definitely my least favorite Cary Grant movie. Typically his stuttering and inability to get to the point hurts only him (in a comedic way) but in this case he really hurt a woman who seemed to care about him and wasn't the "not nice" person Nick's mom said she was. In fact it was pretty painful to watch the scene where Bianca pretended to not care about the kids playing piano and reciting (pretended as an actress, not as the new wife) because it was really the only character exposition that showed why she didn't belong with Nick, and it was way too forced. Also, since Nick didn't bother to tell the kids that Bianca was their new mother AND was way too chummy with a woman who was merely the daughter of his mother's friend AND as Nick ignored Bianca on what was supposed to be their honeymoon, I don't blame Bianca for having a splitting headache and leaving the room.

In sum, Nick's bumbling and stumbling around when he absolutely needed to be straightforward and direct made Burkett seem like a good move for Ellen, who, by the way, continued to lie to Nick all the way up until nearly the end of the movie. I also thought all of the scenes with Ellen stifling a laugh because Nick wouldn't come out and tell her he still wanted her and she wouldn't tell him that they were still legally married, to be contrived and an effort to milk laughs out of a long, labored gag that just wasn't funny; also, it showed her to be kind of a worse person than Bianca was. Ultimately, Nick was such a wienie that Ellen should have left with Burkett, and Ellen was such a liar, and cold-hearted, that Nick shouldn't have cared.

Yes, I know there wouldn't have been a movie if Nick had come out and told Bianca right away--but that would have been okay with me in this case.

The judge and the hotel guy were funny, though.

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I thought Irene Dunn was acting like a psycho. She reminded me of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. This could have been done as a drama.

I usually like this type of movie but I didn't think it was funny at all. Just kind of creepy.

I'll try it again in a few months. I own the disc. Maybe I'm just not in the right mood ...

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aasoloway wrote:

Maybe I'm just not in the right mood ...
Humor is very subjective, and I understand fully how it depends on being in the right mood.
I thought Irene Dunn was acting like a psycho. She reminded me of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction.
I don't understand that at all. Ellen never demands that Nick come back to her. She never threatens him, well, taking the children to an island, but she's not at all serious. If Nick chooses Bianca, she is out of there. That is not the case with Glenn Close.

She does not confront Nick and Bianca together and demand that he make a choice. She wants Nick, but only if he wants her. A lot of what occurs in the movie is Ellen giving Nick the opportunity to make up his own mind, rather than trying to force him.

I thought that Ellen was remarkably composed and sane. She never cries or becomes hysterical. Are you confusing that with being psycho?
This could have been done as a drama.
Yes, but that is true of a lot of comedies. Much Ado about Nothing almost turns into a tragedy.

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schwapj wrote:

Wow am I out of the mainstream
As far as taste in women is concerned, I think so, but there is no accounting for taste -- I know men who love the [supply appropriate ethnicity] American Princesses type -- and I'm not interested in arguing about personal preferences. If Bianca is a type that you like, then she is a type that you like.

Bianca is not a type that I like.
but in this case he really hurt a woman who seemed to care about him
Well, she cared about being married to him. Beyond that I don't see much evidence.
And wasn't the "not nice" person Nick's mom said she was.
I don't agree at all. In any event, the audience is supposed to believe the mother, and thus not feel all that sorry for Bianca.
In fact it was pretty painful to watch the scene where Bianca pretended to not care about the kids playing piano and reciting (pretended as an actress, not as the new wife)
I don't understand what you mean. Bianca clearly does not care about the kids, and that is a situation in which parents have to pretend to be interested even if, at the moment, they aren't. That is basic parenting.
Because it was really the only character exposition that showed why she didn't belong with Nick
How many examples do you need? We are supposed to pick up on that by comparing the two women. I certainly did. If you would prefer Bianca to Ellen, that is your choice.
I don't blame Bianca for having a splitting headache and leaving the room.
I agree with that, but Ellen handles the whole difficult situation with extraordinary grace and calm and humor; Bianca does not.
made Burkett seem like a good move for Ellen,
That is a silly reason to choose a partner. Burkett would've driven me nuts after a couple of hours.
Who, by the way, continued to lie to Nick all the way up until nearly the end of the movie.
She doesn't initially tell him about Burkett. She introduces a false Burkett and she sets up the possibility that she will leave with Burkett. Where else does she lie?
also, it showed her to be kind of a worse person than Bianca was.
Ellen does not cry, or become hysterical, or do any of the things that a manipulative woman normally do. Nick seems to be more concerned about dealing with Bianca's crying and hysterics that he is about how his miraculously returned wife feels. How do you think Ellen felt when Nick repeatedly failed to tell Bianca? How do you think Ellen felt when Nick said that he needed time to think about it, and that he was concerned about scandal?
she wouldn't tell him that they were still legally married
But then the choice would not be up to Nick. Ellen does not want to trick or force Nick into coming back to her. She wants Nick to come to that conclusion on his own, and to be really sure about it.
Ellen was such a liar, and cold-hearted, that Nick shouldn't have cared.
Ellen is neither a liar nor coldhearted, but she does not want Nick unless he really wants her, and if you look at his actions through out the film, how he feels is unclear.

Ellen does put Nick in a situation in which he has to think about what he wants. I would not call that manipulative. Do you think that Ellen is coldhearted because she wants Nick to make up his own mind and understand what he really wants?

At the end, Ellen does want to get a little bit of her own back. He wouldn't tell Bianca, and she is going to make Nick wait a little bit in return. Fair is fair.

Very few woman could handle that difficult situation with the composure and humor that Ellen does. I admire that; I gather that you don't.

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Was she actually sleeping with the guy she was with for seven years. Could you elaborate on there relationship for us.

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lamont-harden wrote:

Was she actually sleeping with the guy she was with for seven years. Could you elaborate on there relationship for us.
I do not have any information that you do not have, but perhaps we have different conceptions of human nature, and perhaps you think that human nature has changed since 1940. I do not.

Stated sexual values have changed since then, but there was a very real sexual revolution after WW I, and you cannot judge what people actually did in terms of the values that the censors were upholding.

I think that it is extraordinarily unlikely that Burkett and Ellen, or better "Adam" and "Eve," did not have sex. After all, Adam and Eve were put in paradise to
Be fruitful and multiply
and you know what that implies.

Before they were expelled from Paradise, Adam and Eve had no more sense of sexual shame or morality than animals to. They did not even know that they were naked. Calling themselves "Adam" and "Eve" suggests that Burkett and Ellen saw themselves in a state of nature, and, I believe, acted accordingly.

I also think that it is extraordinarily unlikely that Nick did not have sex with a woman for seven years given that he was sure that his wife was dead. In particular, I suspect that he found it so hard to tell Bianca that his wife has returned because he has been having sex with her based on the promise that he will marry her when he is legally allowed to do so.

If you want to believe that "Adam" and "Eve" did not have sex, and that [Old] Nick was not willing to have sex outside of marriage, and that meant he had to wait seven years, then you are entitled to your belief.

But I believe that the movie is telling us what happened in their names -- Adam, Eve, Nick -- as it can't tell us explicitly because of the censorship.


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My reading is that the "Adam and Eve" stuff is the closest that they could come to implying that they had a sexual relationship on the island without violating the code. I think the key point about negotiating the code was that something that was forbidden by the code (like adultery) could be hinted at as long as there was a somewhat plausible explanation for why it may not have happened. We're left with the story that Ellen still loved Nick and that's what kept her from having sex with Steve for those eleven years -- it may seem pretty implausible but it's enough of a "fig leaf" to stay within the code.

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paul-987 wrote:

My reading is that the "Adam and Eve" stuff is the closest that they could come to implying that they had a sexual relationship on the island without violating the code.
It seems to me remarkably close given that Adam and Eve had no sense of sexual shame -- they did not know that they were naked -- any more than animals do.

There certainly seem to be many cases in the movies of the era in which the censors were concerned with upholding the exact letter of the law, rather than the spirit of the law.

It occurs to me that you can find this dichotomy in the movie. Technically, by the law, Nick is not a bigamist, but he sure seems to be married to two women at the same time. Similarly, technically Ellen committed adultery, but under the circumstances, who could blame her? I am not even sure that Nick blames her, but it certainly bothers him on a gut level as it would almost any man.

I cannot believe that Nick did not have sex with Bianca, and so technically he committed adultery, although he had no idea that he was doing so.


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Watch it again. Steven/Adam says that, "if (Nick) cares" they had "done nothing they would have to reproach themselves for in the 7 years" on the island--in the scene by the pool at the "Pacific Club" after Nick invites Steven to join Ellen and him for lunch. Ellen tells Steven Nick had remarried and Steven is really pleased. He says now it's okay for him to ask her to marry him....and then adds for Nick's sake the part about having done noting to be reproached about. Steven thinks Ellen is the best...and "playmate" is the closest he comes to anything either romantic or sexual.

As for Nick's relationship with Bianca, I don't believe they slept together either. For a number of reasons. She tells her mother he has completely ignored her and they drove all night, never stopping on the way back from Yosemite--so they did not consummate their marriage after saying, "I do." She also tells the psychiatrist he has never touched her. As for a relationship before the marriage, the kids call her "Miss" whatever, not like someone who stays over...she has never seen Nick shave, and there are other offhand comments about their lack of familiarity. She swears to something about never...? It is not the relationship of 2 people who are physically comfortable with each other. He does not kiss or touch her as he does Ellen. And she is not familiar with him that way either. There are none of the references that clued us in to such things in spite of censors. No references to trips, hotels, vacations, other activities. Since he lives with 2 kids and a mom, he's not having rendevous at his place late at night after dates...and there is never mention of her place either.

As I pointed out earlier in another reply, the references to relationships are much more prevalent when Grant and Scott are both in the scene. Things those who knew them would recognize but must have seemed harmless and meaning something entirely different to audiences back then who would not know Grant and Scott were very much a couple. I don't think the director was making inside references to audiences about sexual relationships between Nick and the women because he was busy making funny and harmless references to Grant's real life relationship with Scott: When Nick first sees Steven on the trapeze and diving board, he has to dab the perspiration from his forehead. Back in the office, he cannot get him out of his mind--NOT Steven and Ellen together, but Steven alone on the trapeze. Grant was in the circus as an acrobat. Now THAT is an inside joke. You'd expect a husband to have thoughts of "Adam" and "Eve" on the desert island--not the man alone on a trapeze. She did NOT call Steven "Tarzan," afterall. I don't where the Jonny Wismuller reference came from...maube I missed something?

According to a web site that has a great story on their very loving relationship--Grant and Scott lived together for 12 years, beginning in 1932, and were friends the rest of their lives, spotted holding hands in the back of a restaurant as older men--the days the scenes by the pool were shot at the Huntington Hotel (standing in for the "Pacific Club"), they took a room together and were very open about their relationship in front of cast and crew. Making the inside jokes pretty cute.

After the judge declares Ellen alive and Nick's marriage to Bianca annulled (an implication it was never consummated according to law at the time), so Nick can remarry Ellen, he says to Nick, "I don't know what you are going to do with him though." And points his thumb at Steven. Audiences would never have gotten the joke then, but insiders must have been laughing!

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cyninbend-149-610489 wrote:

Watch it again.
I do not know what that would accomplish. What we seem to have is a fundamental difference of opinion about how to interpret fiction.If you want to say that the movie is an extended inside joke, and that nothing happened on the island or with Bianca, because the men are both gay, then that is a reasonable way to look at it, but I think that you can be amused by the ironies, but still see it as a very real Romantic Comedy and true to human nature.We know that nothing could be made explicit because of the production code, so I have no idea why you believe what Burkett says. Of course there weren't any references to Nick shacking up with Bianca for the same reason. From the point of human nature — and that has not changed since the movie was made — it is flatly unbelievable that Burkett and Ellen did not have sex on the island, and it is flatly unbelievable that Nick did not have sex with Bianca. That would also account for why Nick was so reluctant to tell Bianca that his wife had returned. I think that "Adam and Eve" is quite explicit about their relationship, and I am glad that the censors did not object. If you want to turn this into some sort of fairy story — no pun intended — completely divorced from reality, that is your right, but it is really a very good Romantic Comedy.If nothing happened on the island and if nothing happened with Bianca, it is a rather uninteresting story, and there is no obstacle to Nick getting back with Ellen..But if you look at this as a real story, and not as some sort of fantasy set in an alternate universe, it is quite interesting. Nick has to come to realize that he wants to be with Ellen even though she undoubtedly had sex with Burkett on the island. He has to come to realize that he wants to be with Ellen in spite of the scandal. And he has to come to realize that he is really in no position to take the high moral ground.

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pplkk

There was a remake of this movie called "Move Over Darling" starring Doris Day and James Garner.
I think that was made very late 50's, early 60's.

When it comes to the scene where Garner is getting an annulment from Polly Bergen, and Doris Day, who James Garner assumes will just go back to being his wife refuses, the guy she was on the Island with proposes to her.

I forget what happens but earlier she told Garner nothing happened between them for 7 years. At the hearing the judge couldn't believe it, and the "Adam" said something stupid, and Day beats the heck out of him.

Garner's mother played by Thelma Ritter asks "Adam" is that what he had to put up with (Day beating him up every time he made a pass) he said YES.

So if nothing happened in that remake a decade later, you KNOW for sure in 1940 they weren't going to get into it, and assumed the audience wouldn't think it could possibly happen.

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Liz01219 wrote:

So if nothing happened in that remake a decade later, you KNOW for sure in 1940 they weren't going to get into it, and assumed the audience wouldn't think it could possibly happen.
That does not follow at all. The later version was a Doris Day film, and at least the ones that I remember, tend to be squeaky clean and very careful to be that way.Do I remember correctly that in Lover Come Back they managed to get Doris married before a one night stand in which she got pregnant, and that marriage having been annulled, they get her married again as she is to delivering the baby.Movies before we got into World War II are frequently quite different. They were made for a much more sophisticated audience, and they are saturated with sexual innuendo. Bringing Up Baby is a long sexual double entendre. It is really quite amazing, but the censors either did not get it or stuck to the letter of the law.At least the more sophisticated viewers expected to find a lot of implied sex particularly in a Cary Grant film. That was part of what made them so funny.And, of course, the audience knew what would've happened in the real world as does Grant. The audience would also have known that Grant did not go without sex for seven years since he was sure that his wife was dead. I am sure that he has been sleeping with Bianca and promising to marry her when he could, and that is a large part of why he finds it so difficult to tell her what has changed.As is true in general of films in that period — at least the ones that I watch — it is left up to the audience to decide what happened based on their knowledge of human nature. Later, as in the Doris Day example above, the ambiguity was eliminated. She was definitely married and nothing "immoral" could possibly have occurred.If you want to believe that "nothing happened," then you can certainly believe that. I prefer to believe that all the people concerned behaved like normal human beings. In general, I am strongly in favor of explicit sex in movies, but in this particular case, the uncertainty that Grant feels — and that he comes to terms with — is an important part of the story.___________________________________________________________
http://dilbert.com/strip/2015-06-07

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Steven Burkett/Adam says that they have nothing to regret about their behavior on the island for 7 years when he makes it clear to Nick that he is so happy to learn Nick is married--since he (Stephen/Adam) wants to marry Ellen/Eve himself. Sitting outside by the "Pacific Club" pool after Nick invites him to join he and Ellen for lunch, Steven says, "If it's of any importance to you, about your wife there, we've nothing to reproach ourselves for during those 7 years." (I hope I caught every word...) Steven was the Southern gentleman, apparently only admitting his desire for Ellen now that he knows her husband has remarried.

The whole thing is hilarious and cute in the sense that Cary Grant and Randolph Scott (Steven/Adam) had been living together since 1932, and for the filming of the pool scene (at the Huntington Hotel), the two took a room together and were very open about their relationship, surprising the macho members of the crew, according to www.HomoHistory.com, which has a beautiful story about their relationship. You can see the chemistry between the two, and it's obvious they belonged together.

I think it was an inside joke the way they made Nick be so bothered about Steven, dabbing his forehead sweat watching him swinging on the trapeze (tho it was actually Grant who had joined a circus in real life) and diving in the pool...not being able to get Steven out of his mind in the office... After agreeing to nullify Nick's 2d marriage, so he can remarry Ellen, the judge even says to Nick, "I don't know what you're going to do about him though." and points at Steven/Adam. ;)

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I agree with everything you said in your original post, Schwapj.

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No, you're IN the mainstream. The audience this film was after was in the wading pool part of the mainstream. It's a movie for children!

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Then I'm a 63 year old child! :) I loved it.

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