Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Move Over, Darling (1963)

As part of my Sunday evening stood-up-for-a-date double feature I also watched Move Over, Darling, a nice 1963 remake of My Favorite Wife starring Doris Day and James Garner. This movie was funny in its own way, but I had some issues with the movie.
Like My Favorite Wife, Move Over, Darling tells the story of Ellen Wagstaff-Arden (Doris Day), who returns from being shipwrecked on a deserted island for 7 years to find that her husband Nick (James Garner) has married a new woman Bianca (Polly Bergen).
I would say that this is about a 75% shot-for-shot remake. Many shots and sets are constructed similarly, and key lines are preserved, like her response to hearing about her funeral: "Oh, I wish I'd been there". I think the responding line sums up my feelings for the movie. Nick replies with "Well if you'd been there, there wouldn't have been a funeral". Yeah we know, and you kind of just ruined the jokes.
Not that I didn't enjoy the film, it just didn't feel right. I think it is because lines were directly ripped from My Favorite Wife, most of which were improvised by Dunne and Grant themselves. They worked for Cary and Irene's Nick and Ellen, but James and Doris' Nick and Ellen were played differently and more according to their respective images.
That's the fundamental problem with remakes that remain extremely faithful to their predecessors. If actors with similar images or personas are not cast, then the original script ain't gonna work. This includes the supporting cast. Another review describes Polly Bergen's character perfectly: "too obvious". I think Gail Patrick did a much better job. Also, Thelma Ritter's talents were a little wasted as she didn't play a drunk.
My main problem with this remake is that it makes the story seem, as it is, completely improbable. One thing I love about My Favorite Wife is that you never once doubt that Irene Dunne spent 7 years on a deserted island. She gets out of the truck at her house in some man's clothes and needs a bath. Doris, on the other hand, comes off a navy ship looking like this:

Apparently they had bleach on this island!
I can't just bash this film though. It was very cute and moderately enjoyable. One thing that I liked and would have enjoyed seeing in the original is a dream sequence on the island, imagined by Nick. In it, Doris is wearing some serious I Dream of Jeannie/B-52's hair. Hilarious.
I also like the obvious reference to My Favorite Wife, when Doris, disguised as a swedish nurse (yes) notes the similarity to a movie she saw as a child.
The end, when the children and Nick are hiding in the pool and Doris jumps in is very cute and a very satisfying ending to the film. You can't help but giggle when she jumps in with all of her clothes on.
This movie has some interesting back story. A couple of reels were shot under the name Something's Gotta Give, starring Marylin Monroe. This is what would become her last film. She was fired after missing more than 50% of her scheduled days. The special featured on the DVD show a large amount of the unused footage, which also starred Dean Martin and Cyd Charisse as Bianca. Marylin was not right for this movie, and it's very evident in the footage, especially with her children. She seems to be more connected to the family dog than the fruits of her womb. Doris on the other hand had been separated from her son Terry for several of his early years, so she had those emotions stored in her, making those scenes equally as touching as Irene Dunne's, who was just a damn fabulous actress :) When I read more about the lifeof Marylin, perhaps I will return to an entry about Something's Gotta Give.
All in all, I was really picky about Move Over, Darling, since it's a remake of one of my favorite films. If you like Doris Day, I'm sure you will like this movie.


Kate Gabrielle said...

First - yay! I'm glad you have the pop up now! I can leave a comment :)

I actually saw Move Over Darling first, when I started liking classic films.. so I didn't have My Favorite Wife to compare it to yet. Same with An Affair to Remember vs. Love Affair. Now that I've seen the originals, I like them better.. but since I saw the remakes first, I still like them a lot.

I always thought the Marilyn casting would have been really odd.. don't you? It's so funny, though -- in Something's Gotta Give Marilyn would have had a nude swimming scene... then they replace her with... Doris Day? Talk about a 180! lol!

Maggie said...

Man, I couldn't imagine a nude swimming scene with Doris. The Island dream sequence is about the closest thing to sex that I have seen associated with her on the screen.
On the other hand, I'm reading her autobiography right now, and she talks about sex a lot. It always makes me giggle.

dino martin peters said...

Hey pallie, thanks for this post....never ever knew that some of "Something's Gotta Give" is on the DVD of "Move Over Darling." Don't want to get it to watch that flick, but have been wonderin' how to get my hands on footage from the Dinoflick with Miss Marilyn. Thanks so much for the assist. Never was, never will be anyone as cool as the King of Cool...oh, to return to the days when Dino walked the earth....

Republibot 3.0 said...

I always had a weird fascination with the Doris Day/James Garner version as a kid. I can not for the life of me explain why, but something about the way the kids are talking to their mom without realizing it's her, and they say "My mom drowned like this!" and goes bubbling under the pool water always affected me oddly. Didn't scare me, didn't make me sad, but there was just something odd about it.

And of course it's imposible not to like James Garnerm even if he is just kind of slapped in to this movie as a cheap Rock Hudson substitute.

Of course I heard people endlessly yammering about "Somethings' Got To Give," the unfinished Monroe move, as though it were some kind of lost classic, the cinematic equivalent of Atlantis or something. I was in college when I realized they were effectively talking about the Garner/Day movie, and I was stunned and incredulous - "At best, it would have been a cute little film, definitely not a classic."

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