Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Dear Wife (1949)

The entire Wilkins clan of DEAR RUTH (1947) returns for more fun in DEAR WIFE (1949). This time around, Judge Wilkins (Edward Arnold) is running against his son-in-law Bill (William Holden) for New York State Senate, thanks to the machinations of the judge's irrepressible teenage daughter, Miriam (Mona Freeman).

Joan Caulfield is back as Bill's wife Ruth, with Mary Philips (Mrs. Wilkins), Billy DeWolfe (Albert), and Marietta Canty (Dora, the cook) also reprising their roles from the earlier movie.

DEAR WIFE perhaps isn't on the same level as DEAR RUTH, which had a very sharp script by Arthur Sheekman, based on Norman Krasna's play. It's nonetheless entertaining and has some good lines, supplied this time around by Sheekman and N. Richard Nash.

The plot may sound far-fetched, but nothing's impossible where Miriam's concerned -- after all, it was her ghostwritten letters which landed Bill as Ruth's husband in the first movie! She's still as politically conscious and harebrained as ever, played with peculiar charm by Mona Freeman. Freeman would reprise the role one more time in DEAR BRAT (1951), with Arnold, Philips, and DeWolfe also returning, as well as Patty Lou Arden as Miriam's friend Clara.

Holden and Caulfield are charming as the young marrieds, with Arnold and Philips quite amusing as Ruth and Miriam's parents. It's most enjoyable spending time with the Wilkins family in their lovely home.

There's a marvelous scene with a radio crew invading the house during Sunday breakfast; Harry Von Zell is the radio announcer, and there's a terrific bit by Irving Bacon as the sound effects man. (Bacon, in fact, played a delivery man in the first film.)

The movie was directed by actor Richard Haydn, who has a cameo in the final scene. DEAR WIFE was one of three movies Haydn directed, the others being MISS TATLOCK'S MILLIONS (1948), starring John Lund and Wanda Hendrix, and MR. MUSIC (1950), with Bing Crosby and Nancy Olson. Haydn also had roles in the other two films he directed.

The movie runs 88 minutes.

DEAR WIFE is available on Netflix's Watch Instantly service, along with the final film in the trilogy, DEAR BRAT. Curiously, DEAR RUTH isn't listed at Netflix. None of the films in the trilogy have been released on DVD, but DEAR RUTH and DEAR WIFE have been released on VHS.

DEAR WIFE, like DEAR RUTH, is a well-crafted movie made to order for those seeking lighthearted family entertainment.


Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

I remember watching part of a 40s movie with William Holden in a home setting with a wife and thinking "oh this is cute! I'll have to watch the whole thing." But I never remembered the name and I kicked myself for not taping it at least even if I had missed the beginning. I'm wondering if Dear Ruth is the film I saw! Or perhaps Dear Wife. I'll have to check out Dear Wife on Instant.


6:39 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Raquelle!

Another possibility for the movie you're thinking of is MEET THE STEWARTS (1942), which Holden made with Frances Dee closer to the start of his film career.

Best wishes,

8:32 AM  
Blogger DKoren said...

Nice summation! I really do have to find "Dear Ruth" now, since it appears to be the better film, and I liked this one.

8:34 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hope you can find DEAR RUTH, I did think it had the wittier screenplay, although I took issue with a little of the character development. A fun series!

Best wishes,

11:08 PM  

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