My Favorite Wife (1940): Garson Kanin’s Oscar-Nominated Screwball Comedy Starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne

Leo McCarey was supposed to both produce and direct the classic screwball comedy “My Favorite Wife,” but a car accident which occurred just before shooting was supposed to begin forced him to withdraw and the directig was handed to Garson Kanin.

Considering that he was more skilled as a writer—his collaborations with wife-actress Ruth Gordon are terrific–Kanin did a decent job with this fast-moving, enjoyable, if too talky comedy. But he is not McCarey in nunace and subtlety; no one is, for that matter.

This hilarious retread of the old “Enoch Arden” legend reunites Cary Grant and Irene Dunne, who scored a huge success the year before with “The Awaful Truth.”

Irene Dunne plays Ellen, who returns home to her husband Nick (Cary Grant) and children Tim (Ann Shoemaker) and Chinch (Mary Lou Harrington) after being marooned on a desert island for seven years.

In the intervening years, Ellen has been declared legally dead, and Nick has married a a second wife, Bianca (Gail Patrick). Upon discovering that Ellen is still alive, Nick seeks a reunion–until it discovers that she spent those seven lost years in the company of another man, the handsome  Barkett (Randolph Scott). Complications arise when Bianca, bitchy to begin with, also get mentally challenged.

The reliable supporting cast includes Granville Bates, as a flummoxed judge, who steals every scene he is, Chester Clute, as a meek shoe salesman whom Ellen tries to pass off as Barkett, and Donald MacBride, as a beetle-browed honeymoon-hotel clerk.

“My Favorite Wife” was remade in 1963 as “Move Over Darling,” with Doris Day and James Garner in the Irene Dunne and Cary Grant parts.

Running time: 88 Minutes

The movie was released by RKO on May 17, 1940.  Check out the DVD, which came out  June 1, 2004

Oscar Nominations: 3

Original Story: Leo McCarey, Bella Spewack, and Samuel Spewack

Interior Decoration (b/w): Van Nest Polglase and Mark-Lee Kirk

Original Score: Roy Webb

Oscar Awards: None


Oscar Context:

This was the only Oscar nomination for husband-and-wife Bella and Samuel Spewack, who wrote many Broadway hits, including the book for the musical “Kiss Me Kate.”

The Original Story Oscar went to Benjamin Glazer and John S. Toldy for “Arise, My Love.” The Scoring Oscar went to Leigh Harline, Paul J. Smith and Ned Washington for “Pinnochio.”