As I mentioned briefly about in a previous blog post, this movie was a second attempt at a production, as the first attempt was troubled, and it ultimately failed and was forced by a variety of circumstances to shut down. Twentieth Century Fox wanted to make a remake of 1940 comedy My Favorite Wife called Something’s Got to Give. Marilyn Monroe, Dean Martin, and Cyd Charisse were to take the roles that were originally played by Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, and Gail Patrick. However, filming was troubled due to Monroe’s frequent absences. Monroe was fired from the film, but she was rehired because Martin refused to do the film without her. However, she died before filming could resume.
Since Fox had already put a lot of money into the film, which was over budget, the decision was made to start over form scratch. There was a new director, Michael Gordon, who replaced Jean Negulesco, who originally replaced George Cukor. The new leads were Doris Day, James Garner, and Polly Bergen, taking over from Monroe, Martin, and Charisse. The new title was Move Over, Darling.
Nick Arden is a lawyer whose wife Ellen Wagstaff Arden was lost at sea following an airplane crash in the Pacific. It’s been five years since her disappearance, and Nick is in court. He petitions a judge to have her declared legally dead; the judge is quite absent-minded, but grants the petition. Immediately afterwards, Nick asks the judge to marry him and his fiancee, Bianca Steele, much to the judge’s surprise.
At the same time, Ellen returns to America. A Navy submarine ship found her on a deserted island and rescued her. Ellen wants nothing more than to call her family and let them know that she is alive and well, but when she is unable to make a call, she instead accepts a ride home.
Ellen gets home and she sees her two daughters who were only babies when she disappeared. They don’t remember her, and Ellen does not tell them who she is. Ellen later goes inside the house and shocks her mother-in-law Grace. After Grace gets over the shock, she reluctantly tells Ellen that Nick has gotten re-married; Ellen is devastated by this news, but since he is on his way to Monterey, California, to the same hotel where he and Ellen had their honeymoon, she and Grace realizes that it’s not too late.
Ellen flies to Monterey. Shortly after she arrives, Nick and Bianca check into the hotel; the clerk offers him Suite A, but Nick and he insists upon any suite other than the suite where he and Ellen spent their honeymoon, and they are given Suite B. As he and Bianca get into the elevator, he sees Ellen in the lobby, and he is quite shocked. Nick makes an excuse to leave Bianca in their hotel room, he finds Ellen, and they embrace each other. Ellen expresses disappointment with Nick, but he defends himself saying that they couldn’t search for her forever, and he tells her that they held a beautiful memorial service for her. This touches Ellen’s heart, but she still insists that Nick tell Bianca about her. Nick checks Ellen into the same suite where they had their honeymoon, which happens to be next door to the suite Nick got with Bianca.
Nick tries to tell Bianca the truth about Ellen, all while Bianca is trying to consummate their marriage, but there are a variety of complications, including Bianca thinking Nick is rejecting her and acting hysterically. Ellen loses her patience, and returns home. Nick fakes a back injury so that he and Bianca will be forced to return home. Back at home, Grace suggests that she tuck in her daughters into bed. Ellen still does not tell them that she is their mother, but she sings them a song that she sang for them when they were very young. They remember it, but they don’t remember where they heard it from.
The next day while the girls are at school, Nick and Bianca return home to see Ellen who is posing as a Swedish nurse. After Ellen “miraculously” cures Nick’s “broken” back, she offers to give Bianca a massage, but the massage breaks out into a physical altercation, that Nick breaks up only to be distracted by the door bell ringing.
An insurance adjuster comes by, and he mentions in passing that Ellen was stranded on the island with a man named Stephen Burkett, and that they called each other Adam and Eve. Nick is immediately jealous, and when he tells Ellen that he knows about Stephen, she tries to convince him that nothing happened, but he still refuses to believe her. Ellen decides to go to a department store where she finds a meek and plain-looking man, and she asks him to pose at Stephen. At the same time, Nick finds Stephen, a very attractive man, swimming a local hotel’s swimming pool and flirting with women.
Ellen introduces Nick to the fake Stephen; Nick asks them questions about their time on the island, and the fake Stephen states that they spent practically no time together. After that, Nick and Ellen go out to lunch. Nick suggests going to a hotel for lunch, knowing that the real Stephen is there. Ellen confesses that she lied to Nick about the fake Stephen. Nick starts to feel guilty about his plan to expose Ellen’s lies, and he insists they leave immediately. Stephen then approaches them. Angry at Nick’s deception, Ellen leaves and a wacky car chase ensues.
Back at home, Nick and Ellen are bickering when the police come. They arrest Nick for bigamy. Grace had called the police since he refused to settle the dispute on his own. In court, Ellen is declared legally alive, Bianca and Nick’s marriage is annulled, and Ellen decides to sever all ties with Nick. Stephen shows up in court proclaiming his love for Ellen, but Ellen attacks him, stating that he did nothing but harass her during the five years they spent on the island, and that she tried to spend the past five years staying away from him.
Back at home, Ellen is feeling dejected about the entire ordeal, but she is greeted by her daughters in the swimming pool, who call her “Mom.” Nick is also swimming, and he invites her to join them. Despite being fully clothed, Ellen enthusiastically jumps into the pool, embracing Nick and fully reuniting with her family.
I’ve been obsessed with this movie since last fall, though I saw it maybe in 2013. It’s the just the dilemma. You lose your spouse at sea. You find love with somebody else. You declare your spouse legally dead so that you can get re-married. Then your spouse is is rescued and returns home. What do you do? This theme is so timely that this movie could be perfect for a remake today in 2015.
Another appealing thing to me is the theme of “coming back to life” (so to speak) and having a second chance with with your family who previously thought you were dead. It has to be extremely hard to be away from your family for five years, to miss seeing your children grow up, and so on. Also, it must be hard on your family to lose their loved one, and to not even be able to give them a proper burial, and to be a child who lost their parent as a baby, and who has to grow up never knowing their mother.
Despite these themes and the entertaining factor of the movie, there are some plot holes. When Ellen returns to her home, and she sees her two daughters in the swimming pool, they, at the time of her disappearance, were babies, and they were too young to remember her. Ellen greets her daughters, but they don’t recognize her. I can’t believe that. I mean, the only way this would be possible is if Nick had removed all photos of Ellen in their home, and never showed them to their two daughters. It seems selfish for a father to never show his daughters any photos of their presumably deceased mother. Even if they don’t remember her, they could still feel the pain of the fact that (as far as they knew) their mother was dead, and that they would never know her. Then again, the beginning shows Nick to be somewhat insensitive, in that he had Ellen declared legally dead, and married Bianca immediately afterwards; the judge was right to be shocked that a man would have his first wife declared legally dead and without waiting at all, marry his second wife. Also, when Ellen poses as Helga, the Swedish nurse, Bianca does not recognize her either. So, we are expected to believe that Nick removed all photos of Ellen, and never showed his new wife photos of his first wife whom he lost?
Despite these plot holes, I enjoy the film simply because of its humor and the themes it addresses.