Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My Wife's Best Friend

The Fox Movie Channel is running My Wife's Best Friend tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM. It's a movie with an interesting presence that unfortunately doesn't quite live up to its set-up in the execution.

Anne Baxter and Macdonald Carey star as happily married couple Virginia and George Mason. They're about to head off on a vacation, and do so in style, going by plane back in the days when plane travel was still considered a glamorous luxury. Unfortunately for them, things are about to hit a snag. Not too long after the plane takes off, the pilots, as well as Goerge and Ginny, notice that one of the engines is belching smoke, which can't possibly be a good thing. Now, it is possible to run a plane on fewer engines than it's designed for, but it's understandable for passengers to get exceedingly worried. Ginny fears she's about to die, so she confesses to George that she hasn't been the wife that she vowed she would be when they got married. George, for his part, confesses to Ginny that when Ginny visited realtives a few years earlier, he spent quite a bit of time with her best friend Jane (Catherine McLeod). And they all lived happily ever after, until the plane crashed, killing them in a violent fireball.

Well, no, that of course isn't what happened -- otherwise, we'd have a pointless two-reeler. This isn't even Phone Call From a Stranger, where some passengers die, leaving others to deal with the aftermath. Instead, the plane simply turns around, flies on its fewer engines, and lands at the airport from which it took off, leaving all of the passengers to go home and live happily ever after. Well, of course, they don't quite live happily ever after, since that wouldn't make for an interesting movie either. Ginny decides that she's going to extract her pound of revenge, since she fears that George might still have some feelings for Jane. And she's going to do it by being an utter bitch to George, too.

My Wife's Best Friend is a comedy, somewhat along the lines of Alfred Hitchcock's Mr. and Mrs. Smith which inovlves a couple finding out they're not really married, and how the news affects them, with Carole Lombard using it to get back at Robert Montgomery. Here, though, the comedy is laid on with a trowel. Ginny asks her father (Cecil Kellaway), a mainline Protestant minister, for advice, and he tells her to take it like a saint. So she gets images of Joan of Arc, reminiscent of the way Shirley MacLaine keeps thinking about movies in What a Way to Go! Here, though, Anne Baxter's character takes things to an extreme, first as the saint, and then as a "regular" housewife and later as Cleopatra. All of this is set against a backdrop of George having a possible business deal with a playboy played by Leif Erickson, whom Ginny thinks she can use; also is Jane's birthday party and her constantly showing up at George and Ginny's house.

The problem with My Wife's Best Friend is that the comedy is just so irritating: Anne Baxter makes her character unsympathetic enough that it's no longer funny. There are also some plot holes. Why wouldn't the airline just send everybody on the next flight out? Why would this business deal show up if George was never supposed to be in town in the first place?. And the ending doesn't make much snese either.

My Wife's Best Friend has received a DVD release from the Fox Cinema Archive.

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