“Oh Alfred, what is the matter? You’re acting like a crocodile with a toothache.”
When a renowned conductor (Rex Harrison) is led to believe that his beautiful young wife (Linda Darnell) is cheating on him with his secretary (Kurt Kreuger), he concocts several elaborate scenarios for revenge.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Black Comedy
- Linda Darnell Films
- Preston Sturges Films
- Rex Harrison Films
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary accurately notes that this “Preston Sturges comedy about the fury beneath the serene façade of supposedly happy, trusting marriages” is “uncharacteristically cynical”, pointing out that it “lost money and got mixed reviews when it came out”, but that “many modern critics regard it as a masterpiece”; however, he concedes that “while there are some sparkling moments … it’s the worst of Sturges’ forties comedies”. He argues that “the subject itself [is] distasteful”, and that “the throat-slashing of Darnell in the first fantasy is too gruesome for a comedy” — indeed, “it’s impossible to forgive Harrison after he conceives such an act”. He also points out that “except for Harrison’s difficulties with a recording machine” (an extended sequence which comprises “the most chaotic slapstick routine in any Sturges film”), the slapstick is “annoying” rather than funny. Finally, he argues that “Darnell’s character is [not only] given little humorous to say” but is “miscast anyway”, and he laments that “the supporting parts aren’t worthy of the fine actors who play them”.
I’m almost entirely in agreement with Peary’s review of this pitch-black comedy, which I recall finding off-puttingly distasteful as a teenage ff (and which still doesn’t sit quite right with me today). While I’m much better able at this point to appreciate Sturges’ darkly cynical sense of humor (I now find his clever screenplay creatively conceived, at the very least), I’m frustrated by my inability to relate to the central protagonist. Sure, we’ve probably all imagined some form of unpleasant revenge during our darkest moments of fury — but Harrison’s reactions are simply over-the-top, given that he never actually confirms Darnell’s betrayal. Indeed, while I disagree with Peary that Darnell is miscast (I think she does a fine job in a tricky role), we can’t help wondering why she’s so willing to forgive him time and again for his atrocious (real-life) treatment of her. Ultimately, this is a film most ffs will be curious to check out — given that all of Sturges’ films possess moments of brilliance — but not one I’d consider must-see viewing.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Linda Darnell as Daphne
- Edgar Kennedy as Detective Sweeney
- An often-clever (if simultaneously off-putting) screenplay by Sturges
No, though Sturges fans will clearly want to check it out, and it’s worth a one-time look.
One thought on “Unfaithfully Yours (1948)”
Not a must.
On the Criterion DVD of this film, there is an introduction extra in which director Terry Jones waxes poetic about Sturges. For the most part, justifiably so – when it comes to most of Sturges’ other work. Jones admits that, when he first saw ‘UY’ when he was a teen, he didn’t think it was much of a film. (He was right.)
Jones goes on to say that, upon a recent revisit of the film, he found it be absolutely brilliant. (?!) He continues by adding that, in his view, the film is a satire on jealousy and on how men view themselves. (True, but it’s still not a good film.)
Jones quotes Sturges’ remark (when the film flopped commercially) – “They ate my seven-course meal and went home hungry.” It’s a curious remark; the implication being, I suppose, that Sturges considered ‘UY’ to be too good for (and too far beyond the grasp of?) average audiences. (If that’s how he felt, I’m tempted to think he was kidding himself. It’s just a bad film.)
Very, very strangely…the last five minutes are quite a nice turn-around. It’s shocking to have such a refreshing change finally delivered – so that we at least don’t have to leave the film feeling completely awful. But those five minutes come on the heels of a nearly unbearable 100 minutes (~tho, yes, I admit to enjoying the sequence featuring Kennedy as the music-loving detective).
Harrison’s character is insufferable throughout – and the film features Harrison front and center throughout. So, alas, what we more or less have here is an insufferable film.