Too Many Husbands (1940)

Too Many Husbands (1940)

Released less than two months prior to a similar (& essential) comedy My Favorite Wife (1940) this one was based on a W. Somerset Maugham play (with a screenplay by Claude Binyon) that begins with the same concept but the overall story and its execution isn’t nearly as good. It was produced and directed by Wesley Ruggles (Cimarron (1931)) and though its principle cast is almost as strong as the later film it drags through its 84 minutes because it recycles the same gag – Jean Arthur‘s indecision – over and over such that it really never ends.

Vicky Lowndes (Arthur) learns that her adventurer husband Bill Cardew (Fred MacMurray) is not really dead; he’d been thought drowned and after one year been declared legally dead by the Coast Guard. The problem with his being alive is that she has been married for the past six months to her thought-to-be ex-husband’s best friend and business partner Henry ‘Hank’ Lowndes (Melvyn Douglas) who has just had Bill’s name removed from their publishing firm. Of course the funniest parts are in the beginning when Vicky’s live-in father George (Harry Davenport) finds out that Bill is still alive when Vicky then Henry find out and after the two of them pick Bill up at the airport. Having been stranded on an island alone for all that time Bill naturally wants to resume marital relations with his wife as soon as possible upon his return so he can’t wait to get rid of his buddy Hank who now lives in the same house with Vicky. After Bill learns that Hank is Vicky’s husband and is about to concede things his friend boasts that Vicky would have been his if he’d met her first. This sparks Bill’s competitive nature he is athletic while Henry is more bookish and Vicky decides that she likes all the sudden attention for her affection (especially since Bill used to travel all the time and Henry is a workaholic). Her father is beside himself when Vicky refuses to choose between her two husbands in a timely manner (most viewers will be too).

Dorothy Peterson plays a small role at the beginning of the story as the publisher’s lovelorn secretary the scene is required to establish how Henry was there for Vicky after the loss of her first husband such that she’d fallen in love with him; Melville Cooper plays a requisite role in such comedies the befuddled butler. TV icon Edgar Buchanan plays a policeman that learns about Vicky’s illegal situation and Tom Dugan plays a fellow detective. The film’s Sound was nominated for an Academy Award.

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