Year: 1940

Director: Wesley Ruggles

Cast: Jean Arthur, Fred MacMurray, Melvyn Douglas, Harry Davenport, Dorothy Peterson, Melville Cooper

Vicki (Arthur) discovers that her dead husband Bill (MacMurray) is not dead after all, but was stranded on an island for a year. This presents a problem since she’s married Bill’s best friend, Henry (Douglas). Vicki, after being neglected in favor of adventure or work, in both of her marriages, doesn’t feel the need to choose a husband too quickly, instead making the men grovel for her affection.

Too Many Husbands was released the same year as the similarly plotted My Favorite Wife, and both did well at the box office. However, the latter film really is the better film. Too Many Husbands has a very cute and entertaining plot, and I really liked that both men were portrayed as good guys and decent choices. However, the pacing is all over the place and, even though the film only runs for 81 minutes, about half way through the idea becomes repetitive and old. And this makes the movie feel like it’s going on forever. Add to that the fact that the film can’t seem to make up its mind. At first I liked that both men were good choices and it’s wasn’t obvious who she was going to choose, but soon it became apparent that it wasn’t obvious because the film had no idea. Even in the end, there’s no definitive answer.

I love Jean Arthur. She’s one of the greatest comedic actresses of all time. But this really isn’t one of my favorite performances from her. That does have a lot to do with the script, though. It seems that Vicki is supposed to come off as quirky and cute, but instead she comes off as irritating, self centered, and desperate. Her inability to choose a man goes from being amusing to being somewhat pathetic and very annoying pretty quickly.

The movie really belongs to the men. Both MacMurray and Douglas create really funny characters who are both decent men with their own, huge flaws. They would both be good choice. MacMurray is perhaps the funnier and more charismatic of the two, but Douglas really captures that fear of losing the woman he loves better than MacMurray. In the end, I kind of ended up hoping they’d both just give up Vicky to go off and be best friends again.

I’m a pretty big fan of Wesley Ruggles. He’s one of the most underrated directors if the 1930s and 1940s. He did a lot of his best work in dramas like Cimarron, Bolero, No Man of Her Own, and Somewhere I’ll Find You, but he’s shown more often that he’s great with comedy. Films like True Confession, Slightly Dangerous, The Gilded Lady, and You Belong to Me. But Too Many Husbands really lacks the creative and lovable comedic flair of his other films.

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