There comes a time in the lives of all classic cinema enthusiasts when you stumble across a film that you develop bad vibes about and instantly dismiss. In some cases your initial perspective of a certain production proves to be correct while in other circumstances you discover that any scathing outlook you once had automatically get washed away when you find yourself totally immersed in the film that originally in your eyes was complete rubbish.
The same can be said about certain actors. There are many prominent film stars who have graced the silver screen during the years. These stars held a legendary reign over Hollywood, and usually appeal to most people who are either beguiled by their screen image or their real life persona’s, but in some instances I have developed strong trepidation about some of cinemas most beloved movie stars and immediately dismissed delving into their filmography until I eventually decided to explore these people and found myself pleasantly surprised.
My story dates back to four years ago when my parents who have always been ardent supporters of Doris Day started collecting all of her movies that they remembered watching when they were young. At this stage I didn’t display the slightest interest in Doris Day’s illustrious body of work and was more engaged in the other old classics. However I had always admired Day for her dedication to the welfare of animals and for forming her own non profit organization to help dogs and other animals in need.
One of Doris Day’s films that my parents have always had fond reflections for and consider to be among their favourites is Move Over Darling, the 1963 remake of the 1940 comedy, My Favorite Wife, which starred Cary Grant alongside Irene Dunne.
I can remember when my Dad ordered the DVD of Move Over Darling online. Both my parents couldn’t wait for it to arrive, so the day it did finally get delivered, they were elated about seeing it again and to introduce us to it. However once night set in, I was exposing sheer ignorance and bluntly refused to watch it. Instead I retired to my bedroom and treated myself to one of my many viewings of a Judy Garland movie.
Fast forward a few weeks to one night I was desperately in search for something new to watch. I was endlessly canvassing through my extensive classic movie selection in the hopes of stumbling across some spellbinding extravaganza, only to discover that I had already seen them all. I was starting to get frustrated, but just as my anger was about to escalate a marvellous thought entered my mind as I remembered that the DVD of Move Over Darling was stored neatfully outside in my parents movie collection.
It is a marvellous thought now, but at the time I was hesitant about watching it. Even though my outlook on the film was very grim, I reluctantly went out into the entertainment room and plucked the DVD of Move Over Darling off the shelf.
Once I returned to my room, I inserted the disc into my DVD player, and the moment that the film commenced my gloomy thoughts transformed into total immersion as I was swept away into the awkward love triangle fuelled by unforeseen circumstances that were perplexing Doris Day and James Garner on screen.
I couldn’t believe it. The film that I initially despised because it was a remake turned out to be an entertaining comedy spectacular that was full of unexpected plot twists and superb dialogue that illuminates the characters and helps amplifies the tension in their relationship.
Four years later, and after several viewings, I now ask myself why I displayed such an unenthusiastic approach towards this movie? The answer is simple: Move Over Darling is a remake of My Favorite Wife, the 1940 classic starring Cary Grant, who I have always been and ardent supporter of and Irene Dunne, one of Hollywood’s most prolific stars during the 1930’s, so when I learned that it was a remake, I was apathetic and repudiated any possibility in seeing it in the future. I detest remakes, and in most cases I consider them to be disastrous and a destruction to the myriad of notable well crafted films that they are based on. In addition to being an insult to the productions that they are derived from and to the director and stars who spent hours on the set working to supply audiences with endless entertainment, they enhance the effects by employing a cheap quality of film making which makes them lose the creativity and core of the original.
Since then I have come to understand that the making of the film was not an easy process. Originally Move Over Darling was intended as a comeback vehicle for Marilyn Monroe with the title being, Something’s Got To Give, but during the early stages of production Monroe was fired for her unreliability on set. However Monroe was granted a second chance when Dean Martin who was assigned the role of Nick Arden deplored the idea of working with Lee Remick who was to take Monroe’s place, but shortly after she was rehired, Marilyn Monroe died before she could resume filming.
After Marilyn Monroe’s death, the abandoned version with the actress was scrapped and was transferred to Twentieth Century Fox who decided to go ahead with the project and have Doris Day and James Garner in the lead roles. In the Monroe version, George Cukor was to serve as director, but once Fox acquired the rights to the production, Michael Gordon was assigned directorial duties while Leo McCarey along with Bella and Sam Spewack who provided the screen writing.
Doris Day and James Garner portray the married couple, Nick Arden and Ellen Wagstaff Arden who are flying enroute for a business trip when they are involved in an air-disaster which causes Ellen to be swept away to an isolated island.
After spending five years on the island, Ellen is rescued by the United States Navy, and returns home to Nick and her two young daughters. On her arrival she discovers that Nick has had her declared legally dead and has just been remarried. Ellen who is eager to win back the affections of her husband stops at nothing to destroy Nick’s elopement with Bianca so she can continue on with their happy and contended married life they once shared together.
Move Over Darling is a latter day Screwball Comedy that marks the second and final film collaboration of Doris Day and her close friend James Garner. That same year Day had starred alongside Garner in The Thrill Of It All, a successful romantic comedy that ranked as the sixteenth biggest hit of the year.
Considering the fact that Move Over Darling is labelled as a Screwball Comedy, my initial reactions were pessimistic. This was a 1960’s film from one of my favorite genres, and seeing that this was a later day take on the satirical farce that were popular in the 1930’s and 1940’s, I thought that the result would be atrocious, but instead I openly admitted at the end of the film that my judgemental attitude about the movie being frivolous proved to be wrong.
Move Over Darling is an intelligent brand of comedy that employs many elements of Screwball and Slapstick farce including the zany and maniacal characters that dominated the perennial comedy classics. Doris Day is probably at her most humorous in this picture. Ellen Arden is a character that is not meant to be preposterous. In truth she is a rational person who has been stranded for five years on a deserted island in the South Pacific away from her husband, Nick who she truly adores and her two young daughters, but when she is rescued by the United States Navy the only thing occupying her mind is returning back to Los Angeles to reunite with Nick and the girls. However once she arrives home she is told that Nick has remarried and is on his way to spend his Honeymoon at the same hotel in Monterey where he and Ellen spent their honeymoon eight years earlier. This welcoming news don’t go down to kindly for Ellen. She is irascible and adamant about getting her husband back, so in a blast of fury she embarks on a journey to the Monterey hotel where she unexpectedly emerges in front of Nick who thought she was dead and hilariously ruins the honeymoon. From that moment on Ellen is involved in a bounty of harebrained schemes in an attempt to win back her husband.
One of the most redeeming features of the film is the assembled cast of stellar players. Along with Doris Day and James Garner, Move Over Darling makes a point of emphasizing the inimitable talents of the support team which include, Thelma Ritter who chews up the scenery in every scene she’s in and Polly Bergen in the role of Bianca, Nick’s new wife.
Sadly Move Over Darling is one of Doris Day’s last acclaimed films. After Move Over Darling Day only appeared in seven more vehicles before retiring from motion pictures in 1968 after filming With Six You Get Egg Roll. She returned to the small screen in 1968 for The Doris Day Show, which aired on television between 1968-1973. For the remainder of her life, Doris Day devotes her time to animal welfare activism and the Doris Day Animal Foundation, that she founded in 1987.
The film utilizes some of the interiors and stage-built “exteriors” from the original Cukor production for the Arden home, which were based on Cukor’s actual Beverly Hills home at 9166 Cordell Drive. However, the on-location exteriors for the Arden home for the Gordon production were filmed about three miles west at 377 South Mapleton Drive in Holmby Hills. The original neoclassical house seen in the film has since been replaced by an enormous Italianate structure.
The producers scheduled the scene with Doris Day riding through a car wash for the last day of shooting because they were concerned that the chemicals in the detergents might affect her complexion. When the scene went off without a hitch, they admitted their ploy to Day, then used the story in promotional materials for the film.
James Garner accidentally broke Day’s rib during the massage scene when he pulls her off of Bergen. He wasn’t aware of what had happened until the next day, when he felt the bandage while putting his arms around Day.
Doris Day: Born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff on April 3rd, 1924 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
James Garner: Born James Scott Bumgarner on April 7th, 1928 in Norman, Oklahoma. Died: July 19th, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. Aged 86. Cause of death: Heart attack.