Sunday, January 15, 2012

Tonight's Movie: Guest Wife (1945)

GUEST WIFE is an amusing comedy about marital mix-up mania.

Christopher and Mary Price (Dick Foran and Claudette Colbert) are a happily married couple about to leave on a second honeymoon. The only blot on Mary's happiness is Christopher's loyalty to his best friend Joe (Don Ameche), a scalawag who has taken advantage of Chris once too often.

Joe isn't done taking advantage, though, and when he shows up just as Chris and Mary are leaving for their trip, his latest plot is a pip: he needs Mary to immediately pose as his wife in front of his boss (Charles Dingle). Mary consents after Chris willingly agrees, thinking it's a great joke -- until photos of Joe and his "wife" Mary show up in Chris and Mary's hometown paper.

Chris, Mary, and Joe play musical hotel rooms in New York and then the action moves to the Long Island estate of Joe's boss, as Mary scares commitment-phobic Joe by convincing him she's passionately in love with him, while Chris figures out how to reclaim his wife.

The plot of GUEST WIFE could have easily become irritating or heavy-handed, as it did in TOO MANY HUSBANDS (1940). It's to the movie's credit that never happens. The screenplay by Bruce Manning and John D. Klorer keeps the story moving along briskly, and the actors keep it light, never losing sight of their true loyalties. Claudette Colbert's sidelong glances and secret giggles in the last 15 or 20 minutes are worth the price of admission.

Colbert and Ameche had previously costarred in the classic MIDNIGHT (1939) and would later appear together in SLEEP, MY LOVE (1948). It's interesting they only had a "happily ever after" together in one out of three of their costarring films.

Dick Foran, seen by me a couple of days ago in TREASURE OF RUBY HILLS (1955), here has a relatively rare chance to play a romantic male lead opposite a major star. Curiously billed as Richard Foran -- was he trying to change his image a bit with this major role? -- he's second billed to Ameche, but since he's married to Claudette as the film opens and this was the era of the Production Code, there's not much question from the outset as far as who will get the girl. He has a nice comic touch although he lacks Ameche's star power.

Grant Mitchell has a particularly good part as a curious hotel detective. Grady Sutton, Irving Bacon, Milton Kibbee, Dan Seymour, and Mary Forbes are among the familiar faces in the supporting cast.

The movie was directed by Sam Wood and photographed in black and white by Joseph A. Valentine. Daniele Amfitheatrof was nominated for the Oscar for Best Score.

IMDb lists the running time as 90 minutes, though the print I watched was slightly shorter.

GUEST WIFE has been released on VHS by Republic.

July 2013 Update: GUEST WIFE will be coming to DVD from Olive Films on September 24, 2013.


Blogger Robby Cress said...

After having seen MIDNIGHT and SLEEP, MY LOVE, I've been wanting to see this film with Colbert and Ameche. I'm just waiting for a DVD release. It sounds like this could be a fun, light and silly film.

8:09 AM  
Blogger grandoldmovies said...

Don Ameche is very funny in this film, expertly and lightly playing in essence an unlikable character. I second Robby Cress in hoping that it soon gets a DVD release.

8:53 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I agree with you both, it's surprising to me this hasn't come out on DVD. A very enjoyable film. As noted above, Ameche does a great job taking a character who could be completely annoying and instead making it fun.

Best wishes,

4:15 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

My guess is that this film was a big deal in Foran's life.After years is support and second feature leads, he made a little success for hmself on stage in Connecticut Yankee in 1943. Guest Wife was his first film back, and while I think of him as always being interesting and welcome, it didn't happen for him, and he quickly drifted back to support in programmers.

4:51 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for the additional insight into Foran's career and the mention of CONNECTICUT YANKEE. Although I'm a Richard Rodgers fan, I didn't know about Foran's Broadway sojourn. Have been reading up on that tonight!

Best wishes,

9:45 PM  

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