NEVER A DULL MOMENT, made toward the end of Dunne's film career, is in the "city gal in love with a cowboy" tradition of films like THE COWBOY AND THE LADY (1938) and A LADY TAKES A CHANCE (1943).
Dunne plays New York City songwriter Kay, who marries widowed ranch owner Chris (Fred MacMurray) and goes to live with him on his ranch. Kay also takes on the role of stepmother to Chris's daughters Nan (Natalie Wood) and Tina (Gigi Perreau).
The "fish out of water" angle plays at times like an I LOVE LUCY sitcom, but the cast is engaging enough to surmount the silly and predictable situations. It's also pretty clear that Dunne is quite a bit older than MacMurray, but again the appealing actors make it work -- though it must be admitted this isn't one of MacMurray's more charming roles, as he's a bit of a blockhead at times.
It's a movie I enjoy despite its flaws. A plus is some creative staging of things like Chris and Kay's courtship, in a sequence where we only see their feet! Dunne has a chance to sing a few tunes, always a good thing. I also like that although the children are initially wary of Kay, they don't give her too much of a hard time.
Another positive aspect is that widowed neighbor Jean (Ann Doran), who had hoped to marry Chris herself, quickly becomes Kay's best friend. It would have been easy to write her as a jealous villainess who makes Kay's adjustment more difficult, and the women's friendship is refreshing; it's one of the things that helps the film overcome its cliches.
Andy Devine (who in fact would play Doran's husband in 1953's ISLAND IN THE SKY) has a very nice role as Chris's friend and ranch hand.
It's fun to discover MacMurray's MY THREE SONS costar, William Demarest, as the cranky rancher next door. Kay does her best to be nice to him but he's a cold kettle of fish. There's a good scene where Kay does her darndest to be gracious and include him at a party, though unfortunately it doesn't end well.
NEVER A DULL MOMENT was directed by George Marshall and filmed in black and white by Joseph Walker. It runs 89 minutes. The cast also includes Philip Ober and Irving Bacon.
The plot is loosely based on the life of composer Kay Swift, who married a rodeo cowboy. Swift composed the film's songs.
I previously reviewed a TV print of this movie in 2008.
NEVER A DULL MOMENT is a crisp print. There are no extras.
Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.