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TOO MANY HUSBANDS (director/writer: Wesley Ruggles; screenwriter: Claude Binyon/from the play Home and Beauty by W. Somerset Maugham; cinematographer: Joseph Walker; editor: Otto Meyer; music: Frederick Hollander; cast: Jean Arthur (Vicky Lowndes), Fred MacMurray (Bill Cardew), Melvyn Douglas (Henry ‘Hank’ Lowndes), Harry Davenport (George), Dorothy Peterson (Gertrude), Melville Cooper (Peter), Edgar Buchanan (Detective McDermott), Tom Dugan (Lt. Sullivan); Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Wesley Ruggles; Columbia Pictures; 1940)

“Modest fluffy screwball comedy.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The modest fluffy screwball comedy is based on the W. Somerset Maugham play Home and Beauty, with a tepid screenplay by Claude Binyon. It was later remade as Three for the Show. Director Wesley Ruggles (“Bolero”/”I’m No Angel”/”No Man of her own”)is unable to keep it from going flat, as he desperately tries to milk comedy from its one-joke premise. Its rather stiff execution and strained comedy soon wears out its welcome, as the same triangle love gag is played for the entire movie.

Vicky Lowndes (Jean Arthur) suddenly learns that her NYC publisher adventurer husband Bill Cardew (Fred MacMurray), who has been missing for a year and declared dead for drowning in a shipwreck, actually survived and was stranded on an isolated island. Bill returns alive and well, and Vicky’s in a quandary about what to do because six months ago she married Bill’s supportive business partner publisher Henry Lowndes (Melvyn Douglas) who was there for her in her time of need. Vicky is in a tizzy, as both appealing men stay overnight in the guest room of her apartment as she tries to figure out which hubby to pick. Her live-in father George (Harry Davenport) advises her to sleep on it and by morning choose one. Meanwhile the best friends become competitive, as each wants Vicky as a wife. Their macho rivalry results in some slightly amusing moments between Bill, the younger and more athletic world traveller, and Henry, the more nerdy workaholic type. How Vicky chooses her mate is not imaginative, and the film ends with an inconclusive and unsatisfactory conclusion following a court ruling that states who she is legally married to. Supposedly the studio shot it with two different endings and tried them out on a target audience of college co-eds. They would have been better served by figuring out for themselves how to end this farce in way that wasn’t so silly as have the three madly dancing together at a nightclub.

Supporting actors include Dorothy Peterson as the publisher’s lovelorn secretary, Melville Cooper as the confused butler, and Edgar Buchanan as the cop who tries to settle the possible bigamist situation by calling in his superiors.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”