Too Many Husbands (1940): Wesley Ruggles Romantic Comedy, Starring Jean Arthur

Yet another variation on the 1864 poem Enoch Arden, Too Many Husbands is a romantic comedy, directed by Wesley Ruggles, about a woman who loses her husband in a boating accident and remarries, only to have her first spouse reappear.

Based on the 1919 play Home and Beauty by W. Somerset Maugham, which was retitled Too Many Husbands when it came to New York, the film stars Jean Arthur, Fred MacMurray and Melvyn Douglas.

A couple of months after Columbia released Too Many Husbands, RKO put out My Favorite Wife, a variation on the story with Cary Grant as the remarried spouse whose former wife Irene Dunne returns from sea.

In 1955, Too Many Husbands was remade as a musical, Three for the Show, with Jack Lemmon and Betty Grable.  And in 1963, My Favorite Wife was remade as Move Over, Darling, with Doris Day and James Garner, after an uncompleted 1962 version entitled Something’s Got to Give starring Marilyn Monroe and Dean Martin was aborted upon Monroe’s abrupt death.

Jean Arthur plays Vicky Lowndes, who loses first husband Bill Cardew (Fred MacMurray) in a boating accident in which he is presumed drowned. The lonely widow is then comforted by Bill’s best friend and publishing business partner Henry Lowndes (Melvyn Douglas).

After dating for six months, Vicky marries him. Six months later, Bill shows up, having been stranded on a uninhabited island and then rescued.

Vicky has a tough choice to make between her two husbands (which was the title of the film when released in the U.K.).

Jean Arthur as Vicky Lowndes
Fred MacMurray as Bill Cardew
Melvyn Douglas as Henry Lowndes
Harry Davenport as George, Vicky’s father
Dorothy Peterson as Gertrude Houlihan
Melville Cooper as Peter, the Lowndes’ butler
Edgar Buchanan as Detective Adolph McDermott
Tom Dugan as Lieutenant Sullivan

Oscar Nomination: 1

John P. Livadary was nominated for the Best Sound Recording Oscar but did not win.