Too Many Husbands (1940)

Too Many Husbands PosterWhen Bill Cardew (Fred MacMurray) is lost at sea, he is presumed to be dead.  Bill’s wife Vicky (Jean Arthur) takes comfort in the arms of Bill’s friend and business partner Henry Lowndes (Melvyn Douglas) and they get married six months after Bill’s disappearance.  The only problem is that Bill isn’t dead — he’s been living on a deserted island and finally makes it home again about a year later.

Needless to say, Vicky and Henry are stunned to hear the news that Bill is still alive and Bill is equally shocked to hear Vicky and Bill are now married.  Now the big question is, which man does Vicky want to be married to?  Bill and Henry begin to vie for her affections, which Vicky adores.  Not only does she love all the attention she’s getting, she encourages them to keep it up.

One night, Bill and Henry discover that Vicky had told each of them she has decided she wants to be with him.  To teach her a lesson, they decide to go have fun together and leave her at home alone.  Only Vicky gets so worried about where they are, she calls the police and accidentally admits to having more than one husband.  The police show up to arrest Henry and Bill and the matter of whose Vicky’s husband is brought to the courts.

The judge rules Bill is still her husband, but Henry isn’t willing to give up the fight for Vicky’s affections.  After their day in court, Bill and Vicky go out to dinner, where they run into Henry.  Henry tries to dance with Vicky and he and Bill are competitive at first, but the three of them wind up dancing together.

Too Many Husbands starts out promisingly, but it doesn’t take long for the premise to become stale and the characters only become less likeable as the movie progresses.  In the end, Bill was the only character I still liked.  Vicky enjoyed pitting Bill and Henry against each other far too much for me to have any sympathy for her or to find her antics funny. And the fact that Henry still wanted to pursue Vicky after the court ruling just left me saying, “No, really, you need to give it up now.”  With its great cast, I had somewhat high hopes for Too Many Husbands, but it left me unsatisfied.  But at least Jean Arthur got to wear some pretty marvelous costumes in it so those were nice to look at.