From the depths of despair to double trouble…
James Garner has two wives when one comes back from the dead.
Move Over, Darling ≣ 1963 ≣ Trailer, TrailerTrackerEnglish
It could be a Dynasty (1981-89) or Dallas (1978-91) cliffhanger. A man’s wife and mother to his two young daughters, is missing and assumed dead after a plane crash. Five years later, he has her legally declared dead and the same
day hour marries his new love. Then the same day, his first wife returns.
This plot was in fact only part of the plot of Move over Darling (1963). This is the second of two films with James Garner and Doris Day. The acting pair reunited after they made The Thrill of it All (1963). They are joined by Thelma Ritter, Polly Bergen and Chuck Connors.
The film was a remake of the Cary Grant and Irene Dunne film My Favourite Wife (1940). Move over Darling had a lovely, appropriately timed mention of this earlier film and its plot and acting cast, during this film, by lovely leading lady Doris Day. And yes Day does sing over the opening titles and on the film soundtrack.
The film has Doris belting out her shoo-wop song Move Over Darling over the opening credits. This song was later covered in the 1980s by British comedienne Tracy Ullman. This is not for the track which has a music video that features a one time Labour leader, as I first thought. It is another comic music video but it’s about a train driver and his ballroom dancer girlfriend. But I digress…
Anyway, after those 1960s animated credits, it’s straight into the action. Nick Arden (Garner), a lawyer wants to legally declare his wife dead. He is in court asking the judge to agree to this formality. The judge and Nick discuss the details of his wife’s disappearance and presumed death (rather than using a tell-all flashback for this prologue).
Nick’s wife, Ellen (Day) was declared lost at sea after a plane crash five years ago. He has been searching for her but never found her. After this formality has been granted by the judge, in the same court, Nick marries his girlfriend Bianca (Polly Bergen).
Meanwhile, Ellen Wagstaff Arden is alive and she is the talk of the Navy. These military men rescued her from a remote Pacific Island (off-screen), and bring her back home literally the same day (on-screen).
Once Ellen is home, her two daughters – Jenny and Didi – don’t recognise her, but they were just babies when she disappeared. However, her mother in law, Grace Arden (Ritter) remembers her and after getting over her daughter in law’s return from the grave, she breaks the news to Ellen that her son – and Ellen’s husband – Nick and his new wife, Bianca have just left on his honeymoon.
Following Grace’s advice, Ellen then tracks the wedding pair down to the same hotel, where she had previously spent her honeymoon with Nick. Ellen checks in, and later Nick checks in with his new wife. He then sees Ellen, just as the lift doors close on his way to the honeymoon suite… and tune in here to see how complicated things get for Nick and on Connors’ role in the Ardens complicated story… all three of them!
It was lovely to watch Day and Garner’s obvious and undeniable on-screen chemistry once more. The pair’s credibility as a married pair led to lots of romantic and comic scenes where their natural rapport shone through. Day was convincing as the “favourite wife” for Arden and this was seen in their more passionate and shared scenes, so I did feel a bit sorry for poor old Bianca.
However watching Garner, you understood his pain and anguish in this nightmare situation. Here he simply looked terrified at the thought of telling Bianca about Ellen’s return. But overjoyed at seeing his long lost love again. The poor man never seemed to know just how to tell Bianca this truth about his other wife.
His dithering led to some slapstick scenes which were beautifully executed by the cast. As Ellen tries to find out if Nick has told Bianca about her return, she jumps to lots of wrong conclusions. The reasons for her thoughts and beliefs are seen in previous scenes and these situations are beautifully set up by Bergen and Garner in their scenes (with me?). At one point in the story, Nicks’s confession to Bianca about Ellen’s return is gloriously interrupted, and he is saved by the (door) bell (literally).
There is also a crazily fun scene where Ellen tries to find out how Bianca would feel about her return (as Ellen). Here Ellen is disguised as a Swedish nurse, Greta – but sounding more like the Muppet, the Swedish chef than a Swedish native – who asks Bianca how she would feel if Ellen were alive. Greta describes the My Favourite Wife movie plot and actors in really bad English. However, this scene works in Day’s favour as it makes this plotline more convincing.
As in The Thrill of It All it was a joy to watch Day and Garner’s body language and facial expressions throughout this film in all their scenes. I always love watching Day’s facial expressions which can easily and fantastically convey every emotion from shock to anger. And I believe nobody can stomp about a room, look exasperated or really annoyed like Doris Day. Garner also excels at the awkward, jealous, loved up and concerned husband expressions when appropriate to the plot.
I enjoyed seeing Thelma Ritter once more, as Nick’s mother and Ellen and Bianca’s mother in law. She was fabulous support to both the cast and in her character to both her son and daughter-in-law. Ellen. It was nice to see Ritter in a larger role after her role with Day in Pillow Talk. I loved her stylish 1960s look, and read that Ritter asked to keep her costumes after this film. I can see why.
Bergen as Nick’s other wife added to the mayhem but her on-screen chemistry with Garner was there as characters, but they were not as credible as a loved up couple. This is possibly as I was Camp Ellen from the start, and so was Nick.
Chuck Connors plays an important part in the final third of the film. His role certainly makes waves in the proceedings. He also features during a fun daydream scenario with Day, which reinforces his role and this was beautifully created. To tell you more about his role would certainly make this a spoiler movie review, but I will say the writers made the most of this actor’s acting and other “attributes”.
Connors’ role was a surprising one for me as an actor as for me he was always remembered as a bad guy. This is as both I and my Darlin Husband remembered him in Soylent Green (1972) and the TV Movie, Night of Terror (1972). There are also a couple of nice fun cameos from Don Knotts and John Astin who as a character are seen for a few scenes, but both make an impact in their small screen stealing roles.
The film itself had a wonderful kooky musical soundtrack, which matched this farcical plot. The story was amusingly told and it had me in suspense throughout. This as the film plot had more than a few twists and turns after Ellen’s return. So I couldn’t be sure of a happy ending for this movie or even for any of the characters. As for the lead up to the ending and the final scene, to quote this film, but from somewhere else in the film, “it’s a doozy…”
Weeper Rating: 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 /10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 /10
Hulk Rating: /10
The 5th Doris Day Blogathon 2021 No 10.
This review was added to Love Letters to Old Hollywood’s 5th Doris Day Blogathon. Other reviews with this cast include Chuck Connors in Murder She Wrote, Night of Terror and Terror at 37,000 Feet. Don Knotts in The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. Doris Day stars in Pillow Talk, The Thrill of it All, Teachers Pet, Young at Heart, With Six You Get Egg Roll and her tribute is HERE. James Garner stars in The Thrill of it All and The Notebook. His blogathon is HERE. John Austin in National Lampoons European Vacation, Polly Bergen in Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Hotel. Thelma Ritter in Pillow Talk.