Columbia’s TWO MANY HUSBANDS opened in 1940 two months before RKO’s MY FAVORITE WIFE. Both films had the same basic story line and I imagine neither studio was happy. There was talk of a lawsuit but I cant find any information about it, or who sued who.
It’s surprising RKO didn’t know that Columbia were adapting the play,’Home and Beauty’ by Somerset Maugham for the screen as ‘Too Many Husbands’.
The plots of the play and the two films are based on a poem by Tennyson called “Enoch Arden”.
In fact the two films were quite different in tone. My Favorite Wife (with Cary Grant and Irene Dunne) is the more well known .
Too Many Husbands is pure farce,with Jean Arthur on top form as Vicky Lowndes who has married Henry (Melvyn Douglas) after her first husband,Bill Cardew (Fred MacMurray) was lost at sea.
When Bill turns up,alive and well, Vicky has a dilemma – too many husbands! She enjoys the fact that both men are competing for her. At one point she sits them down and studies them intently before shaking her head – she cant choose!
The two men finally leave her for a while and she doesn’t know where they are. She askes detective Edgar Buchanan if he has any word of them. His reply: “There’s nothing come in on them from the morgue,but it’s still early.”
Harry Davenport ,as Vicky’s father, tries to be the voice of reason,but of course they ignore him. Melville Cooper is the butler in the Lowndes household – his look of disdain at the wild goings on is a hoot.
Finally, a judge tells Vicky she is legally married to Bill,but Henry doesn’t give up hope and the final scene is the three of them at a nightclub dancing together as a trio!
It’s wacky,daft,silly,definitely screwball, and Jean,Melvyn and Fred are terrific.