Our Wife 1941

Review: Our Wife – 1941

Melvyn Douglas and Ruth Hussey star in this romantic comedy that starts off as a tale of a drunken horn player on a sea cruise. The trip is meant to be his way to escape the end of marriage and impending divorce to what Hollywood in that era called a "gold-digger" (played by Ellen Drew). Aboard ship, he falls into the company of vacationing academics Charles Coburn, Jerry Marvin and Ruth Hussey, who reluctantly take charge of him as the horn player is dedicated to staying intoxicated 24/7 as he awaits his divorce being finalized (their first meeting is when he goes overboard and has to be rescued from the ocean).

Their good-intentioned interference accidentally leads to various comedic misunderstandings but it also lights a little fire of romance between the brainy no-nonsense scientist played by Ruth Hussey and the ne'er-do-well Melvyn Douglas character. The attraction between the two leads to the horn player sobering up and penning a symphony that brings in fame and fortune, and, with dollar figures in her eyes, the almost-but-not-quite ex-wife makes an appearance and declares she'd like to make a go of the marriage again. Douglas' character isn't having any of this, and proceeds to kick her out, and desperate to keep herself near this new fount of money, the ex-wife fakes a back injury so that she can't be moved from the house, and, as you might guess, contretemps ensue with Douglas with an almost-ex-wife on one hand and an almost new-wife on the other.

Ruth Hussey's performance is a bit stiff in a sort of New Englander-way, but it does lend itself to the character type of a lady scientist who has been leading a bottled-up life, and the script is good enough in places to give her some good lines that Hussey is able to fire off with an almost Myrna Loy level of combination frustration, anger, outrage and injured affection, a rather nicely done juggling show of emotion.

Coburn is handy to help carry scenes just as he did in many other films (such as that other cruise-ship classic The Lady Eve) but the script for Our Wife uses all its best stuff for the dialogue between Hussey and Douglas (which is pretty good) but doesn't really have enough cleverness left to go around for Coburn, Jerry Marvin and Ellen Drew to do more than be sort of perfunctory, though Ellen Drew does get a few scenes to show off a portrayal of a attractive but two-faced woman on the make.

In general, the script for Our Wife is playing in relationship waters sort of like a cut-down version of The Philadelphia Story (an earlier film that Hussey played an important part of) but it can't really maintain the quality. Though Douglas is fine (playing a kind of character he was expert at) and Hussey is best when she's got intelligent dialogue to use, Our Wife isn't handled any better than a good B+ movie though it is wrapped up like an A film.

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Original Page March 2023