While 1963’s “Move Over Darling” can never top it’s inspiration source (1940‘s “My Favorite Wife” with the dynamic duo of Cary Grant and Irene Dunne), it stands on its own as a delightful piece of movie fluff. Good fluff isn’t easy. Fluff has to be light, airy and delightful. While many a film has aspired to just those qualities, they fall as flat as a heavy, stuffy and cloying soufflé baked in an oven full of cigar smoke.
Based on the Enoch Arden poem (of a fisherman who is presumed lost only to return home years later to find his wife and family have moved on and are happy), Ellen Wagstaff Arden (get it? Arden) is presumed lost at sea in a plane crash. Fast forward 5 years and husband Nicky is ready to move on by having Ellen declared legally dead and marrying Bianca Steele (she of the clanging charm bracelet) the very same day. But wait! Ellen has been found, is alive and well and must hurry to get her family back before the new marriage is consummated. She manages to scuttle the neurotic Bianca, but Nicky must contend with the hunk named “Adam” who shared that island with his “Eve,” Ellen, for those lost 5 years.
I know – silly stuff, but representative of all that I love about Hollywood films. Sitting in the theater with my mom, I fell in love with Doris Day the minute I saw her. How did she manage to look so darn cute without benefit of modern beauty supplies?
|Ellen looking cute as a button after her naval rescue|
|Mother Arden is shocked to learn her favorite daughter-in-law is not dead. She's down for the count here, but soon springs into action|
Mother-in-law wants daughter-in-law back and the 2 become partners in crime against the unsuspecting newlyweds.
And look how pretty Doris looks once she is dressed in fashionable clothes. Once hubby sees her, he can't believe his eyes.
|Can it be true? Is Ellen really alive?|
Meanwhile, back to the honeymoon that won’t happen……
|No honeymoon sex for you, Bianca.|
Naturally, the reunion does not go smoothly. Nicky, that dog, has taken Bianca to the same honeymoon hotel that he shared with Ellen. And Bianca (the adorable and lovely Polly Bergen) will not go quietly. She wants sex on her honeymoon, and Nicky has a hard time putting her off (mainly because wife #1 is in the room next door with her ear to the wall). In order to calm Bianca down and find a good way to tell her that the dead wife has returned and he much prefers her, Nicky fakes an injury.
|Nicky is a bit tangled in his lies|
He returns home with his frustrated bride, only to find that Ellen is keeping an eye on them by impersonating a Swedish nurse who gives a wicked massage. Bianca finally has her fill with these lunatics and decides she should seek solace with her shrink.
At last Ellen and Nicky can reunite, except that Nicky finds out that Ellen was not alone on that island. A series of deceptions ensue (with Ellen, fearing that Nicky won't be happy knowing she shared the island with a hunky Chuck Connors, trying to enlist the puny Don Knotts to play her island companion). See? The story is silly, outdated, and kind of dumb but with Doris Day, James Garner, Polly Bergen, Don Knotts, Chuck Connors, even John Astin and Edgar Buchanan - come on, it’s like a big old hug from a Hollywood comfortable shoe.
|A Comfort Food Cast|
In 1963, at age 10, this film produced 2 scenes that made me laugh so hard I never forgot them. The first was the scene with Doris Day giving Polly Bergen a Swedish massage that turns into a jealous pummeling. The second was Doris driving through a car wash in a convertible with the top down. It tickled my funny bone then, and, frankly, still does.
|Ellen's massage turns into a cat-fight with Bianca|
Aside from some fond memories, this film has some gorgeous shots of the pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where “Adam” works as a lifeguard.
|Ellen and Nicky share a moment at the Beverly Hills Hotel|
Once Nicky learns that "Adam" is looks like Chuck Connors rather than Don Knotts, his imagination runs wild. Just what were Adam and Eve doing on that island for 5 years?
As most everyone knows, this was the last film Marilyn Monroe was making before she died. Only a bit of film was shot, but one can only wonder what might have been.
Her co-star was to have been Dean Martin, who begged off of the film when, after Monroe’s death, Lee Remick was cast as Ellen. Eventually we ended up with Doris and Jim – more wholesome, I’m sure.
There’s a kind of disturbing part of the story concerning the children. When Ellen appears to them, they have no idea who she is. What did Nicky do – burn every photo of Ellen?
Of course, all’s well that ends well and Nicky and Ellen and the little girls all reunite for one big pool party. By the way, Jim looked mighty nice in that bathing suit. Okay, so it wasn't "My Favorite Wife," but it was fun and in modern, colorful eye-opening Cinemascope - just the way we liked it back in 1963!