A huge hit that rescued 20th Century Fox
When I originally reviewed Move Over, Darling in 2000, I rated it four stars. Having recently watched the film again, I feel it necessary and appropriate to review it again and raise it to five stars! Why? Simple. This fast-paced comedy romp is a delightful mixture of comedy, pathos, slapstick, and heart, delightfully enacted by a talented cast under the skilled direction of Michael Gordon. The end result should have the most dour viewer grinning from ear to ear.
20th Century Fox released this gem at the end of 1963, as their big holiday production. The studio had suffered a number of financial setbacks and Move Over, Darling virtually rescued the studio by becoming one of the blockbuster hits of 1964. In addition, Miss Day’s recording of the title tune, co-written by her son Terry Melcher, proved to be a popular hit on the charts, especially in England where it stayed on the lists for many weeks. (Despite being banned by BBC Radio for being too suggestive! – webmaster)
Move Over, Darling had a long and interesting story behind it. It had originally been made in 1940 with the title My Favorite Wife starring the classic pairing of Cary Grant and Irene Dunne. The story, however, had been utilized under various guises for many years – the spouse assumed dead – the remaining member remarrying – the presumed-dead mate returning.
Fox thought enough of it to polish it off in 1962, give it to Director George Cukor and a cast including Marilyn Monroe, Dean Martin, Cyd Charisse, and Wally Cox. Tragic circumstances intervened and it never got made. Seeking a hit, they enlisted the aid of Miss Day, the world’s most popular box-office star in 1963, signing her to this, the first of three films she would make at that studio (the others being Do Not Disturb, 1965 and Caprice, 1967), under producer Aaron Rosenberg who co-produced with Day’s husband Martin Melcher. While some might carp that the end product was too glossy or improbable, recent glimpses at the footage assembled from the aborted 1962 production would seem to indicate that, after stripping away the veil of nostalgia associated with Monroe’s demise, the effort was doomed to failure. Despite Cukor’s deserved reputation as a skilled director, he seemed unable to bring the sense of fun, romance, and spiciness to his enterprise that Gordon was able to bring to Move Over, Darling.
The plot, in a nutshell, has Doris Day lost at sea and returning home to find husband James Garner newly wed to Polly Bergen. Thelma Ritter, as Garner’s mother, sends Day off to stop the honeymoon. Condensing the plot hardly does justice to the dozens of individuals and scenes that establish the characters and their relationships with all the sparkle of a bottle of quality champagne.
Doris Day is a delight in every scene, despite the sometimes annoying coiffures conjured up by George Masters and some continuity people who appear to have briefly dozed. One would have liked Sydney Guilaroff to have designed the hairstyles since he showed a wonderful knack with Day’s hair in several films. Nevertheless, Day’s chemistry with Garner is sparkling and – whether breaking your heart in scenes with their two young daughters, or showing her ageless artistry as a flawless comic actress in scenes with Don Knotts or Chuck Connors, or going through a car wash in a convertible – she proves that her ranking as Hollywood’s Queen of Comedy was well deserved.
James Garner’s best comedic performances were in his two films with Doris Day. They have a natural ability to interact without the slightest affectation. Polly Bergen is convincing as Garner’s second nd wife, Bianca, and Thelma Ritter is a scream as Garner’s mother. Edgar Buchanan steals the scenes he is in and Chuck Connors make a manly and wryly amusing Adam to Day’s Eve. Don Knotts, John Astin and the rest of the cast play their roles to perfection.
The film may seem somewhat tame in today’s world of raunchy, sometimes tasteless comedies, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more lovable, laughable reminder of a time when Hollywood made films to please large audiences. Move Over, Darling fits that bill to perfection.
Paul E Brogan
A different view of Move Over, Darling from Ralph McKnight:
Quite frankly, I didn’t like it!
I recently saw the original version of My Favorite Wife, starring Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, Randolph Scott and Gale Patrick. Through the years, I have collected practically all of the scenes that Marilyn Monroe filmed for the sequel, Something’s Gotta Give, with Dean Martin and Cyd Charisse and I own the last version, Move Over, Darling starring Doris Day, James Garner, Polly Bergen, Thelma Ritter and Chuck Conners.
Quite frankly, I didn’t like any of them. “Wife” is rather dated and was considered “cute” when it came out to favorable reviews. “Something” was never finished because of an inept Marilyn Monroe who proved once again that she was no professional and ended up getting fired. The script was dusted off a year later, after Marilyn’s death, and Doris Day, the No 1 Box Office Star in the World, stepped in and filmed “Move Over,” without a hitch, and the picture became a big hit but was met with mixed reviews. The director, Michael Gordon, must have put a lot of pressure on his actors to ‘make this one funny’.
Doris Day had a couple of very funny scenes, despite the mostly unfunny proceedings. Her scene in the department store with Don Knotts was wonderful. Comparing Marilyn’s try in the same scene with Wally Cox, which was awful, Doris was brilliant. Shown on TV, this scene is always cut for some reason. Boy, is it needed! She was also good in the car wash scene, proving once again that she will do anything for a laugh. Edgar Buchanan was very funny as the absent-minded judge and Thelma Ritter was in her usual form: great. James Garner was just loud and Polly Bergen, a bit too obvious for my taste.
The stylist who did Doris Day’s hair and wigs must have just gotten out of the insane asylum. They changed her hair, mid-scene, and changed it back. Maybe they shot the scene twice with different hair and spliced them together. Anyway! So you won’t go crazy if you see it, the scene is when she asks Garner, “Did you tell her that you loved her?” during his honeymoon with Bergen. Chuck Conners seemed to be having a ball, but there wasn’t much to his part.
Perhaps Marilyn Monroe’s version would have been alright if she had completed the film. As Tony Randall said of her, “If you were standing there watching her do a scene, you’d think “Awful – but the next day when you saw the rushes, she was magic on the screen!” Tony Randall had high praise for Doris Day too, calling her brilliant. But, in Move Over, Darling she was just adequate.
Ralph McKnight, New York
Doris Day, long on the Top Ten player list in Box-office barometer, and James Garner, rapidly climbing to popularity through The Great Escape and The Thrill of it All, the latter another co-starring role with Miss Day, which became one of the smash hits of 1963, now appear in another madcap comedy which is certain to repeat in audience appeal and the resultant sensational box-office generally.
This new version is a constant delight, directed at a fast and furious pace by Michael Gordon and acted to the farcical hilt by the stars and the outstanding supporting players. The story of a missing, legally dead wife who returns after five years to find her husband just married to another may have its improbabilities, but the laughter is almost continuous, the few spicy bedroom sequences never offend and there’s even a mad car-wash scene which is unadulterated slapstick. The ruggedly handsome Garner has never been funnier and Miss Day, as the long-lost wife and Polly Bergen, as the sexy, hot-tempered new bride, are perfectly contrasted types.
One of the funniest, brightest marital adventures of the year, Day and Garner are superb in predicaments that are hilarious. – Motion Picture Magazine
“A Doris Day classic – a remake of 1940’s My Favorite Wife – in which the seriously correct blonde stars as a woman who returns from a desert island to find that her husband, James Garner, has remarried. Providing perfect support for Day and Garner are Polly Bergen as the other woman and Chuck Connors as the hunk who was marooned with Day. Stealing the show, however, is the wonderful Thelma Ritter as Day’s outspoken mother-in-law. Day’s popularity suffered from the onset of the sexual revolution in the mid-sixties when her wholesome image seemed out of step with the time.
But, this film shows how her great talent has endured. Slick, utterly professional and without a wasted scene, this is sheer delight from start to finish.” – BBC Radio Times
A pop version from Britannica Dreams: