Sunday, 28 March 2021

Movie Review: Too Many Husbands (1940)

A one-joke comedy, Too Many Husbands (also known as My Two Husbands) stretches its premise too thin, despite a willing cast.

After her first adventurous husband Bill (Fred MacMurray) is believed drowned at sea, Vicky (Jean Arthur) marries Bill's more staid business partner and best friend Henry (Melvyn Douglas). But Bill is only stranded on a deserted island for a year, and upon his return is shocked to find his wife and best friend have tied the knot. Neither man yields, and both want to claim Vicky as their own.

Although Vicky's father George (Harry Davenport) is horrified at the situation, she enjoys the two men vying for her love and attention, and delays choosing one of them to be her husband, teasing both Bill and Henry to prolong the competition to win her heart.

Bill is a vivacious thrill seeker, Henry represents all-business stability, but during their husband stints both fell into the trap of neglecting Vicky. And so director Wesley Ruggles, working from a Claude Binyon adaptation of a W. Somerset Maugham play, creates a straightforward contrast between two men chasing the heart of the woman who claims to love them both. Too Many Husbands enjoys some witty dialogue and attractive costumes, but overall the humour is at the juvenile level, both men defaulting to a lap dog stance, wagging their tails and barking at each other in their eagerness to do whatever it takes to claim top dog status.

The film occasionally threatens to spark into life. While Jean Arthur is much better than this material, she injects sly undertones to hint at just how much Vicky is going to enjoy this old-fashioned duel. The script goes as far as it can to suggest the benefits of polyamory, and indeed silly humour and childish antics aside, Ruggles steers Vicky towards maintaining the tension of multiple concurrent loves for as long as possible. Meanwhile, on the sidelines, Harry Davenport is a joy as the stoically flustered father.

But MacMurray and Douglas are stuck in thankless, single-tone roles, men reduced to schoolyard boy behaviour to attract the attention of the pretty girl. The film does descend to a ridiculous jump-over-the-furniture contest followed by the drawing of lots, laying bare the shallowness of ideas despite the meager 84 minutes of running time.

Vicky has Too Many Husbands, but the film is well short of clever content.



All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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