Sunday, April 12, 2009

Move Over, Darling

This is really your typical sixties sex comedy--all talk, but neither show nor action. It is, however, very entertaining. The plot concerns Nicholas Arden's (James Garner) marriage to Bianca Steele (Polly Bergen) and his subsequent discovery that his first wife, Ellen Wagstaff Arden (Doris Day), has been plane wrecked on an island for five years but is actually alive and well. Ellen Arden returns to civilization the same day Nicholas marries Bianca. When she finds out the news, she is determined to keep the newlyweds from properly enjoying their honeymoon. Nicholas, when he finds out about Ellen, decides to pretend he has a sprained back to get out of expected wedding night activities. For maybe the first half of the movie, Nicholas tries to tell Bianca that "his wife is alive". But, things get much more complicated when he discovers that Ellen was not alone on her desert island.

Certainly, this movie is not perfect, but it has it's moments. Whoever wrote the script knew what they were doing. For example:

After Nicholas Arden registers a hotel room for a woman for the second time:

Hotel Manager: I'd like to know what he thinks he's doing.

Desk Clerk: I'd like to know how he does it.

The dialogue between presumed other woman Ellen and the hotel clerk is absolutely priceless, as well as the scene where Bianca is the victim of a vigorous Swedish massage. Doris Day exhibits perfect timing when she says, "What are we going to do about...Binaca?" James Garner is divine as always, especially when he first catches glimpse of Ellen as an elevator door closes. It's shown in this clip at 4:35:

Here is a clip of the Swedish massage scene.

Again, there are faults. The judge, shown twice, is a fairly poor comedian, and there are one or two scenes of Ellen with her children that verge on excessive sentimentality. They are so different than the rest of the movie that they felt like they were inserted to take up time. Always a bad thing. And Doris Day's hair could have used a lot less peroxide. In the end, the question "What happened on that island?" is perhaps answered, but it feels as if there is room for reasonable doubt. Steven would have to have been even more annoying for that to be plausible in a movie. Real life, sure, but in real life most people would have the bad luck to be shipwrecked with an ugly man. Also, the movie might have been more interesting if Nicholas had told all in the massage scene above and the scene had been placed at the end with a bit of script reworking. The real tell all is slightly anticlimactic, even though it is very funny. Also, the title song makes no sense whatsoever coming from Ellen Wagstaff Arden. Maybe from Bianca, but not Ellen.

Because this is a remake of the remake of My Favorite Wife, Something's Got to Give, comparisons to Marilyn Monroe are bound to be abundant. Let me add my own. Both she and Doris sing similarly, with vibrato during sustained notes but not so much anywhere else. I honestly feel that Doris's type is better in this role because she offers such a contrast to Polly Bergen's Bianca. Few people are ever so different; there is room for jealousy because Bergen is arguably prettier than Doris Day, or at least competition, but she acts like a prima donna. The arrangement could pose a question: would you rather have the prettier wife or a the nicer one? Marilyn Monroe vs. Polly Bergen would be little to watch on screen. Bianca would probably have been divorced by text message if they'd had such a thing. Now, Marilyn Monroe vs. Doris Day would have been very interesting indeed, with maybe Marilyn as Bianca. The conflict might actually have been Nicholas choosing who he wanted to be with, rather than deciding how he is going to break the news to Bianca. There is a movie from the 30s or 40s with Jean Arthur and Fred MacMurray called Too Many Husbands which deals with something similar to that (picking which husband), but it is one of those films you prefer to forget.

Rating: 7 3/4 out of 10


Sarah said...

I've seen what's left of Something's Gotta Give, and Marilyn was great in it. I'm still happy they remade and finished it, tho!
I gave you the Splash Award! Hooray :D Details are on my blog.

Millie said...

OMG, Miss Merriam....WHEN did you get a blog? I have been seriously trying to get to get one for months now. Why did you not tell me?

I am SO angry with you...;-D

Hehehe, not really. But, seriously this is a good blog! I can't believe I had to find out about it from Sarah.

I guess I mentioned your Joanne Woodward-killing crimes once too often!


Millie said...

that was supposed to say, "trying to get you to get one for months now".

Merriam said...

Lol Millie, it has nothing to do with Joanne's corpse, though now that you mention it...

Honestly, I didn't tell you because I thought it would seem awkward and self-promoting. Why I didn't just say "Oh, I got a blog, by the way" I don't know. Would you believe that I am actually quite shy? No. You would not. Anything but that.

Java Bean Rush said...

Did you know that Garner accidentally broke Doris Day's ribs in that massage scene when he drags her off Bianca?

By the way, Cyd Charisse was set to play Bianca [you can see her in the unfinished Something's Gotta Give on youtube]. Would that contrast change your mind about Marilyn being Ellen instead of Doris?

Nice blog.