(director/writer/producer: Preston Sturges; cinematographer: Victor Milner; editor: Robert Fritch; music: Alfred Newman; cast: Rex Harrison (Sir Alfred De Carter), Linda Darnell (Daphne De Carter), Kurt Kreuger (Anthony), Rudy Vallee (August Henshler), Barbara Lawrence (Barbara Henshler), Lionel Stander (Hugo Standoff), Edgar Kennedy (Detective Sweeney); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; 20th Century Fox; 1948)
“It’s a brilliantly accomplished work offering a mixture of bitter comedy and outright despair.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Preston Sturges’ (“The Lady Eve”/”Sullivan’s Travels”) wacky dark comedy on the musical conductor Sir Thomas Beecham, played under the cover of Sir Alfred De Carter. The aristocratic conductor De Carter (Rex Harrison) suspects his delicious younger wife Daphne (Linda Darnell) is having an affair with his personal secretary Anthony (Kurt Kreuger) and that fuels his imagination to seek revenge when conducting works by Rossini, Wagner, and Tchaikovsky. His vivid fantasies are a delight, and provide memorable moments of unforgettable movie magic. They are some of the most witty and best scenes that the recognized director ever did. All this because his suspicions were aroused by his fawning brother-in-law August Henshler (Vallee), who had a private detective (Kennedy) follow his wife while he toured Europe.
This farce offers a devilish parody of Beecham (De Carter), who agonizes over his wife’s suspected infidelities and includes in his revenge plans — a perfect murder, giving her money out of resignation to run off with her young lover, and involving the three in a game of Russian roulette. It’s a brilliantly accomplished work offering a mixture of bitter comedy and outright despair. Not accepted by the public on its release, though acclaimed then and since by critics and film buffs.
When the concert ends and Alfred applies his visions into reality, he finds that his plans are not possible to accomplish. The film lapses into slapstick and the scenes fail to materialize with the same crispness and purpose. Harrison goes for too many sight gags that don’t get over, but the film is easy to forgive for all its faults and inconsistencies and heavy moments of seemingly going nowhere because rarely has there been a comedy so marvelously inventive. It was one of the last Hollywood film for Sturges, who after he left Paramount had a disastrous association with Howard Hughes at 20th Century Fox and after being removed from Vendetta went into a long self-exile in Europe. He continued to work on films over there for the next decade. “Unfaithfully Yours” was remade with Dudley Moore in 1984.
REVIEWED ON 3/9/2004 GRADE: B