Move Over, Darling (1963)

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There are times when you want to sit there and be mentally stimulated by David Lynch, there are times when you want the latest psychological darkness from Darren Aronofsky and there are times when you just want to soak up the quality oozing from every frame of a David Fincher movie. Well, there are times for all of these things in my world anyway. There’s also the occasional time when I just want to sit down with something fluffy, charming and starring the absolutely adorable Doris Day. And that’s when I watch something like Move Over, Darling.

Michael Gordon directed this romantic comedy, a remake of the Cary Grant/Irene Dunne-starrer My Favourite Wife (amusingly referenced by Doris Day at one point), and the screenplay by Hal Kanter and Jack Sher is closely based on the screenplay written by Bella and Sam Spewack for that 1940 movie. But I’ve yet to see My Favourite Wife so can only review this movie on it’s own merits.

The plot, in one of those wonderful contrivances that Hollywood can use to make both the best and the worst in movies, sees Nick Arden (James Garner) declaring his wife Ellen (Doris Day) legally dead five years after the plane crash in which she disappeared. He wants to marry his new love Bianca (Polly Bergen) and doesn’t think he’s been unreasonable. Ellen, however, sees things very differently when she turns up very much alive and well on the very same day of the marriage. Amusing complications inevitably ensue.

It’s quite ridiculous, of course, and also drawn out and made a lot more complicated than it would ever need to be but it’s also a hell of a lot of fun. The look on Garner’s face when he sees his “dead” wife after he enters an elevator is worth a chuckle on it’s own but, thankfully, there’s also plenty of other stuff here to enjoy.

While the direction is competent enough and the script has more than its share of enjoyable one-liners I’d have to say that Move Over, Darling succeeds as well as it does thanks to the cast. It’s a slick farce, a silly confection, and one that never outstays its welcome because of all those involved.
James Garner is a handsome lead who also plays the comedy well and his chemistry with the leading lady is wonderful (though I cannot, offhand, think of anyone that the lovely Miss Day could not make great chemistry with). Polly Bergen does okay in her role as the new bride who causes all of the complication but it’s a rather thankless position to be in and there are little hints here and there to allow audiences to label her, perhaps not overtly, as “the baddie”. Thelma Ritter is wonderful as Grace Arden, the mother-in-law who becomes more and more exasperated as she sees her son’s life start to spiral downwards due to his own hesitancy and inactivity. And there’s more than a little delight to be had from the likes of Fred Clark (superb and hilarious as a bemused hotel manager), Don Knotts, Edgar Buchanan, John Astin and Chuck Connors.

This is certainly not a movie that will surprise you and it’s inoffensive, by-the-numbers stuff in many ways but it’s also a brilliantly constructed and executed slice of light comedy that remains just as warming and entertaining today as it did all those years ago when it first proved to be such a success at the cinema.

Move Over, Darling moves onto R2 DVD on 21st March 2011 with an RRP of £15.99 and is an excellent choice for fans of the leading stars. The DVD may not feature any extra features but this is one of those classic films worth having for just the film itself. I hope there are others out there who enjoy this film as much as I do.

DIRECTOR: MICHAEL GORDON
STARS: DORIS DAY, JAMES GARNER, POLLY BERGEN, THELMA RITTER, FRED CLARK
RUNTIME: 99 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: USA

Film Rating: ★★★★☆
DVD Rating: ★★½☆☆

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