Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife (1938)

Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife (1938)

“The minute I saw you in that store, I said to myself, ‘There’s the girl I’m going to marry.'”

A multi-millionaire (Gary Cooper) with seven failed marriages successfully woos a poor French noblewoman (Claudette Colbert) — but when she discovers his history of offering $50,000 “contracts” to his wives in case of divorce, she bitterly decides to call him on his own game, and make his life as miserable as possible until he divorces her.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Claudette Colbert Films
  • Cross Class Romance
  • David Niven Films
  • Ernst Lubitsch Films
  • Gary Cooper Films
  • Marital Problems
  • Millionaires
  • Romantic Comedy

With a screenplay by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder, and Ernst Lubitsch behind the camera, one would expect this romantic comedy to be a delightful souffle — but despite containing all the right ingredients, it falls surprisingly flat. The core problem is that we never believe in Cooper and Colbert’s romance (which is all an elaborate set-up anyway): she’s rightfully wary of him from the get-go, and her sudden willingness to marry him — after a couple of predictable flip-flops — simply doesn’t ring true. Brackett and Wilder’s scripted repartee is occasionally witty, but their overall conceit wears thin immediately — and while typecast Colbert is appropriately feisty as a woman who refuses to believe in marriage as a commodity, Cooper is as much of a stiff lug as always. No need to bother with this one.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Occasionally clever dialogue: “I’ll fight you with every vegetable at my disposal!”

Must See?
No; only diehard Lubitsch fans need seek this one out.


One thought on “Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife (1938)

  1. Not a must. Nope.

    Hadn’t seen this – but the review puts it rather well. Overall, this one is forced, somewhat overwritten and unfunny. (Although, yes, there is the occasional witty exchange: “How much does your husband weigh?” …”I don’t know him that well.”)

    Cooper is at a disadvantage since he has little to work with, although comedy is not generally his strong suit. Colbert is Colbert: fine but no surprises here. (The one who comes off best, in the script’s brightest – if brief – scene, is Warren Hymer as a fighter hired to threaten Cooper.)

    Served up with expected refinement by Lubitsch – but it deserves to be ignored altogether.

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