Saturday, December 26, 2020

Jean Arthur has “Too Many Husbands”

Too Many Husbands (1940) is a screwball comedy directed by Wesley Ruggles and starring Jean Arthur, Fred MacMurray, and Melvyn Douglas. The screenplay was written by Claude Binyon (True Confession 1938), based on a play by W. Somerset Maugham.

Melvyn Douglas, Jean Arthur, and Fred MacMurray

Vicky Lowndes’s (Arthur) first husband, Bill Cardew (MacMurray) went missing in a boating accident and is presumed dead. During her bereavement, Bill’s best friend and business partner Henry Lowndes (Douglas) comforts Vicky. Within six months of Bill’s death, Vicky and Henry marry. Six months later, Bill shows up, after being rescued from an uninhabited island where he had survived after his accident at sea. Vicky has a tough choice to make; which husband does she want to spend the rest of her life with?

Cimarron (1931) was the only western to win the Best Picture Oscar until Dances with Wolves (1990)

Wesley Ruggles (1889 – 1972) was an American film director. He directed over 50 films including Cimarron (1931), No Man of Her Own (1932)—the only film to star Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, I’m No Angel (1933). The Gilded Lily (1935), I Met Him in Paris (1937), and You Belong to Me (1941). Ruggles got his start as an actor in 1915 where he appeared in several silent films. Two years later, his interests turned to directing. He was a top producer and director at Paramount throughout the 1930s and early 1940s. His career declined after directing and producing London Town (1946), considered one of the biggest flops in the history of British cinema. It was the last motion picture he directed. He was the younger brother of actor Charlie Ruggles.

Jean Arthur (1900 – 1991) was an American stage and film actress whose career spanned three decades. Arthur got her start in silent films but became a major star with the advent of sound. Her unique speaking voice made her a natural for comedy. She came to prominence having major roles in a series of films directed by Frank Capra: Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), You Can’t Take it With You (1938), and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). Other popular films Arthur starred in included Only Angels Have Wings (1939), The Talk of the Town (1942), The More the Merrier (1943). Arthur’s last film role was in the western classic Shane (1953). After retiring from acting, she taught drama at Vassar College where one of her students was Meryl Streep.

Fred MacMurray (1908 – 1991) was an American film actor who appeared in more than 100 movies and had a successful career on television as well. MacMurray signed a contract with Paramount Pictures in 1934 and was a major leading man by 1935. He co-starred with the studio's top leading actresses including Carole Lombard, Claudette Colbert, Paulette Goddard, and Madeleine Carroll. By 1943, MacMurray was the highest-paid actor in Hollywood and the fourth-highest-paid person in the United States. Probably his most famous role is as insurance agent Walter Neff in Double Indemnity (1944) co-starring Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson. During the late 1950s and 1960s, MacMurray gained new fame as the star of films produced by Walt Disney including The Shaggy Dog (1959), The Absent-Minded Professor (1961), Son of Flubber (1963), and Charley and the Angel (1973).

Melvyn Douglas (1901 – 1981) was an American actor. Douglas was a popular leading man during the 1930s working with some of Hollywood’s most famous leading ladies including Greta Garbo, Claudette Colbert, Joan Crawford, Claudette Colbert, Marlene Dietrich, Myrna Loy, and Merle Oberon. He won two Best Supporting Actor Academy Awards late in his career for Hud (1963) and Being There (1979). Douglas’s last film role was in Ghost Story (1981) co-starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Fred Astair.

Too Many Husbands trivia:

  • Two endings were filmed, one having her end up with her first husband and the other having her stay with the second.
  • The film was screened with both endings and sent out questionnaires to see which ending audiences preferred.
  • Released just months before My Favorite Wife, both films were popular with audiences and critics.
  • The film was remade as “Three for the Show (1955) starring Betty Grable, Jack Lemmon, and Gower Champion.

To watch the movie on YouTube, click on the link below.

To join our discussion of this film on Zoom, December 29, 2020, at 6:30 p.m. click here. Once you RSVP to the Meetup, you’ll receive an email with Zoom login information.

Questions for discussion:

  1. What was your overall impression of the movie?
  2. Did anything surprise you?
  3. If you’ve seen My Favorite Wife, how are the movies similar and how are they different?
  4. Did you have a favorite husband? Who do you think Vicky would be happiest with and why?
  5. Was the film’s ending satisfying or a letdown?

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