Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

My Favorite Wife (1940)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

My Favorite Wife (1940)

In Garson Kanin's screwball comedy hit, again pairing Irene Dunne and Cary Grant after their successful The Awful Truth (1937), and remade (unsuccessfully) with Marilyn Monroe as Something's Got To Give (1962):

  • in an opening court scene, Judge Bryson (Granville Bates) declared that 'widowed' attorney Nick Arden's (Cary Grant) wife of seven years, Ellen Wagstaff Arden (Irene Dunne), was declared legally dead after a seven year absence (and presumed drowned in the Pacific Ocean); immediately, Nick was allowed to remarry bride Bianca Bates (Gail Patrick)
  • Ellen made a surprise and unexpected reappearance at her home after seven years, where she spoke to her two young children who didn't know her, Tim (Scott Beckett) and Chinch (Mary Lou Harrington), and Nick's mother Ma (Ann Shoemaker); she learned it was the day of her husband Nick's remarriage to Bianca and their honeymoon night, and tracked them down
  • at Yosemite Park lodge during their honeymoon, when newly-married Nick Arden entered the lodge elevator, and as the door closed taking him and his newlywed bride Bianca up to Suite 'C', Nick caught a surprise glimpse of his first wife Ellen in the lodge's lobby, supposedly legally dead - however, she had unexpectedly returned after being shipwrecked for seven years on an island before being rescued by a Portuguese freighter, and was trying to locate him (at the same locale where they had honeymooned seven years earlier)
  • frustrations were experienced by a perturbed Bianca, who thought her erratic and strange-acting husband (full of variety of excuses as he tried to get together with Ellen and avoid his husbandly duties) was purposely avoiding her on their honeymoon night, especially when, almost immediately, he declared that he needed a shave in the hotel's barber shop: ("You know what I need?...A shave...I'll go down to the barber shop. Be right back...Aw, I feel like a hairy ape...well, I don't feel right unless I shave...")
Nick to Avoid Bianca: "You know what I need?...A shave..."
Nick's Ordering of a Second Room - Suite 'A' for Ellen
Nick's Faked Phone Call to Bianca
  • Nick appeared in a second scene with the confused hotel desk clerk when he snuck away from Bianca and ordered a second room, Suite 'A', for another wife - Ellen: ("I'd like to have another room"), and the clerk's reaction: ("What a man!")
  • Nick made a fake phone call to Bianca: (Nick: "Something's come up" Bianca: "Why don't you come up?") and claimed that he had left the hotel, was in Carmel and enroute by plane to San Francisco (it was "a matter of life or death"), but then he ran into her as he fled from the phone booth - she eyed him suspiciously
  • upon their return home from the honeymoon, Nick was having trouble telling the truth to Bianca ("My wife's come back"), and he decided to not tell his children that Bianca was their step-mother; Ellen also tormented and humiliated Nick and Bianca by pretending to be a Southern-accented, obnoxious visiting friend of the family
  • there was the revelatory discovery during a late-night visit by an insurance adjuster/officer Mr. Johnson (Hugh O'Connell), who had paid out Ellen's American Life Accident insurance policy, that it was rumored (unverified) that there may have been a second person on the island with Ellen, named Stephen Burkett (Randolph Scott), who was reported drowned (and rescued) at the same time; Nick was further inflamed by the fact that Ellen and Stephen had allegedly called themselves "Adam" and "Eve" on the island
  • crazed by jealousy and feeling like Ellen had deceived him, Nick tracked down Burkett, finding him to be a handsome, virile, health-nut and athletic diver and pool swimmer at the posh Pacific Club - when Nick first spotted Burkett on the diving board, a woman came up to him and asked: ("Young man? Is that Johnny Weissmuller?"), and Nick jealously replied: ("No, I wish it were")
  • Ellen unsuccessfully tried to fool Nick by recruiting a mousy, bald-headed shoe salesman (Chester Clute) to claim that he was the "Adam" character while they were on the island
  • in a second courtroom scene after Nick was arrested for bigamy, befuddled Judge Bryson was confused by the complications of the case; he had already declared Ellen legally dead, annulled the first marriage, and approved the second marriage; after he annulled Nick's second marriage, Bianca added that Nick was "legally dead" to her after punching him in the face (and causing a bloody nose); the judge noted: ("I'd like to tell my wife about this case. She thinks all my cases are dull")
The Complicated Courtroom Case: Nick Charged With Bigamy
Nick Arrested for Bigamy
Before the Judge
Judge Bryson (Granville Bates)
  • although Ellen kept denying any fidelity, Nick kept believing that she had been unfaithful; in their mountain cabin, Ellen told her still non-committal husband Nick, who was sleeping in a separate bed in the attic, to think things over by taking a sixty-day cruise and coming back around Christmas-time: (Ellen: "Well, that's not so long. Let's see, November, December, 23, could be just about Christmas time. You come back and talk to me about it then. We'll have a lovely Christmas. After all, what's 59 days more?")
  • in the final scene in the cabin, Nick thought of a number of strategies to reconcile himself with Ellen; he returned dressed up as Santa Claus to join her in her bedroom rather than sleep separately in the attic; he pulled down his fake beard to wish her a "Merry Christmas!" [The words "Good night" were written in white letters on a black screen as the film ended]

In Court: Nick Arden's (Cary Grant) Remarriage to Bianca (Gail Patrick)

Ellen's Surprise Reappearance at Her Home - When Husband Nick Was Away on His Honeymoon

At Yosemite Lodge - Nick Arden with 2nd Wife Bianca

Nick's Glimpse of First Wife Ellen From Elevator

Ellen (Irene Dunne) - In the Lobby of the Lodge

Ellen Pretending to Be Southern Friend of the Arden Family

Life Insurance Adjuster

Ellen's "Adam" - Virile Stephen Burkett (Randolph Scott)

Shoe Salesman Masquerading as "Adam"

Last Scene: Nick Dressed as Santa


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