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Often billed as a 'sophisticated comedy', this late 1940s Preston Sturges film is almost a bit too clever in its portrayal of human paranoia, leading man Rex Harrison not quite carrying the burden of a comedic performance requiring comic diversity. Even so, it's rated highly among critics and regularly features in the same sentence as the word 'classic'.
The film revolves around Harrison's character, Sir Alfred de Carter, a world famous conductor who asks his brother in law, August, to keep an eye on his wife Linda while he's away. Mistaking the concerned love for suspicion, the brother in law subsequently hires a private detective to follow her, and when he reports back to de Carter that Linda spent an amount of time in de Carter's secretary's room one evening while he was away.
Thus begins the main focal point of the film, set within an orchestral performance where the mood of three separate pieces of music reflects the scene unfurling in de Carter's mind. Three possible ways to approach the situation, all varying in degrees of seriousness and knee-jerk reaction, all played out in de Carter's mind, are shown on screen for us, each with its own level of comedy which should in all rights be hilarious. However, there was something invasive about the comedy, almost as if it just didn't suit the actors and the style of the film. Sturges could have had a masterpiece here, but there was something missing in the believability of the delivery from the cast.
Harrison failed to deliver the character at times, for me, and mainly within the comedy spectrum. The more serious scenes he's his usual charming and gentlemanly self, but when the comedy comes in, I thought it was lacking something vital to pull it off. The three scenes, matching the mood with the music, were a stroke of genius, but that last little bit nailing the coffin to make it genius were sadly just not there for me. I know others have praised the audacity and skill of script writing, and here I would agree: the concept and how it's created in theory are wonderful, such a very well conceived plot for a film. But it's the delivery for me that lets it down.
You can see Harrison really trying to nail this one and get it right, and perhaps it's the trying too hard that lets it fail. The rest of the cast seem to be performing at one pace and level, and Harrison is off to the races with extra flamboyancy and effort, almost overacting and being too sophisticated for this to work as a comedy. It's almost as if Sturges needed top reign him in, although you can see why he wouldn't want to, and I can't quite work out why the extra flair from the established leading actor didn't work. The balance should have done the job, but it didn't.
Overall, for all its billing as a classic film, Unfaithfully Yours failed to impress me. It's worth a watch to see how the cleverness of the script pans out, but the delivery of it meant that for me I lost interest quite a few times and almost had to struggle to get to the end. I'm glad I have seen it as I have heard quite a bit about it from various sources, but I can't say I'm impressed by what I watched.