Newest Review: ... Bianca and left for Monterey and when she turns up at his honeymoon hotel, Nick tries to keep his two wives apart whilst he sorts out th... more
Doris is back from the dead
Move Over, Darling (DVD)
Member Name: ladybracknell
Move Over, Darling (DVD)
Advantages: It's as comforting as a hot water bottle
Disadvantages: Rock Hudson isn't paired with Doris in this one
Now my daughter has moved out and the house is all mine again, it means I can curl up in front of the telly on a Sunday afternoon and instead of watching her choice of viewing such as Sons of Anarchy or Glee, I can watch classier American fodder such as Doris Day movies. The films Doris Day made with Rock Hudson are my absolute favourites and there's no denying there was a wonderful comedic chemistry between them but I'm also very fond of this particular 'screwball' comedy in which Doris plays opposite a young James Garner.
The premise of the film is a great recipe for comedy and in the hands of the experienced Doris Day and James Garner, who though perhaps not a natural comedian shows himself as no slouch in the comedy department, plus a splendid array of supporting actors, this film is a retro gem. The film was originally intended as a vehicle for Marilyn Monroe to be called Something's Got to Give but due to Monroe's less than reliable attendance on set and then her subsequent suicide, the movie was remade with a completely new cast and a brand new title.
Ellen Wagstaff Arden (Doris Day) went missing five years ago when the plane on which she and her husband Nick (James Garner) were passengers went down into the sea. Nick goes to court to have her declared dead so that he can get remarried to his fiancée Bianca (Polly Bergen). At the exact time she is being declared dead, Ellen is in fact being rescued from a desert island where she's been stranded with Steve, a rather hunky young man and, of course, she hot foots it back home to be reunited with her husband and two young daughters. However, Ellen arrives just as Nick has married Bianca and left for Monterey and when she turns up at his honeymoon hotel, Nick tries to keep his two wives apart whilst he sorts out the bigamous mess he seems to have got himself into.
I recently heard someone describe Doris Day movies of the early Sixties as chick lit before the genre had been invented and there is a lot of truth in that. Doris Day carved out a niche for herself within the film industry as the heroine of what were then termed 'screwball comedies'. She invariably played the part of a feisty, independent woman, often with a great career. This remake of a 1940s movie, My Favourite Wife, starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne is slightly different from DD's usual role. Here she's already a wife, albeit one who's been absent for a while, so we don't get quite the usual 'virginal' heroine.
Ellen has spent five years on a desert island with Steve where they dubbed each other Adam and Eve but she's delighted to have been rescued and immediately heads for home to be reunited with her family. Doris Day makes a great job of playing a woman expecting to immediately be taken into the arms of her grieving husband and instead discovers he's remarried. In another film this might have been a fairly dark scene, but this is a Doris Day movie after all and on the whole it's played entirely for laughs, however, Doris Day manages to wring quite a bit of emotion out of these early scenes, especially with her screen children, and it certainly gets the viewer on her side. Doris's scenes with James Garner, too, are great to watch. As wife number one, she knows this man through and through and he, of course, is floundering. How on earth will he resolve this situation? Good as she is playing against her leading man, it's actually her scenes with the supporting actors in which she truly shines. The shoe shop scene is priceless and Ellen's substitution of the shoe salesman (John Knott) for Steve, the man she'd been stranded with, are wonderful.
Wife number two is played by Polly Bergen who plays her fairly straight role very well. In total ignorance of the resurrection of her predecessor, she's puzzled by her new husband's attitude to her, and shows herself to be a woman full of neuroses even before she meets Ellen. When the two wives first meet, Ellen is masquerading as a Swedish masseuse, giving Doris Day the opportunity to demonstrate her highly skilled comedy credentials. James Garner looks suitably flummoxed throughout this movie, constantly out-manoeuvred by both his wives but also by his mother , played by Thelma Ritter.
James Garner plays the role straight and most of his laughs come from his bewilderment at the situation rather than anything else. His attempts to keep his two women apart lead to some farce-like moments reminiscent of a Brian Rix Whitehall farce with doors (elevator and bedroom ones) opening and closing allowing players to just miss each other.
Thelma Ritter has a change of role here as well, abandoning her usual part as the caustic-tongued maid to become the higher status mother-in-law. She's delighted to see the return of her former daughter-in-law and works hard to bring about a happy ending. Though her role may have changed, she still gets some great lines and is every bit as acerbic as a mother-in-law as ever she was as the maid.
Another supporting role which is worthy of mention is that of John Astin, later to become Gomez Addams in the TV series of the Addams Family. He's the insurance broker, Clyde Prokey, trying to get the company's money back now that Ellen has been found alive. John Astin certainly plays 'slimy' to perfection.
The remaining members of the cast all play their parts very well. It has to be said that Chuck Connors as the hunky Steve isn't exactly my idea of a good looking man but he's suitably buff and old stager, Edgar Buchanan, as the bemused and somewhat grumpy Judge Bryson manages to completely steal the final courtroom scene.
The director, Michael Gordon, along with the entire cast of this movie both stars and supporting actors turn what could have been just another remake into a sparkling comedy heavily imbued with the feel good factor. It's true that the script doesn't have the smooth sophistication of , say, Pillow Talk, and I do feel that had Rock Hudson taken on the role of Nick, this would have raised the film up another notch, however, it's a very enjoyable movie with some real laugh out loud moments. It is somewhat dated now certainly in terms of moral attitude but somehow that merely adds to the film's charm. There's something very comforting about a Doris Day movie. Perhaps it's the predictability as you know it will feature a cookie blonde who will overcome all adversity to emerge triumphant and happy at the other end and in that respect this film is no exception.
You can currently pick this up for around £7 from Amazon.
Released: December 1963
Director: Michael Gordon
Ellen Wagstaff Arden - Doris Day
Nick Arden - James Garner
Bianca Steele Arden - Polly Bergen
Grace Arden - Thelma Ritter
Steve/Adam - Chuck Connors
Judge Bryson - Edgar Buchanan
Shoe Clerk - John Knott
Clyde Prokey - John Astin
Summary: A comedy romp which gives you laughter as well as the feel good factor