Because Melvin Bush mistakenly believed his appointment as justice of the peace began immediately, a few years later six wedded couples—this includes one that’s entirely offscreen—learn that their marriages, illegal, are instantly annulled. Consequences abound. For instance, Willie Reynolds (Eddie Bracken, at his best), a draftee, goes AWOL before shipping overseas so he can remarry his wife, who is pregnant. This is one of the anthology film’s sharpest episodes because it points up obsessive fifties moralism. Ironically, Willie’s anxiety that his future son should be “legitimate” predicts how lame a parent Willie, should he live and return home, will be. He will teach his son, above all, social conformity.
Although Victor Moore and Jane Darwell are lovely as Mr. and Mrs. Bush, the best performance comes from Louis Calhern as a businessman whose actual marital status enables him to turn the legal tables on his thinks-she-is-his-wife (Zsa Zsa Gabor, inept), who is divorcing him and taking advantage of California’s “community property” laws. Calhern, avoiding the trap of smugness, keeps his acting light and bemused.
Unfortunately, most of the film doesn’t live up to its crafty premise. Dwight Taylor adapted the original story by Gina Kaus and Jay Dratler, with Nunnally Johnson, no less, converting Taylor’s treatment into a script.
The most disappointing material involves “the glad Gladwyns,” who married to secure a joint morning radio show—a takeoff on Breakfast with Dorothy [Kilgallen] and Dick [Kollmar]. Lovey-dovey on the air, the Gladwyns turn into the Bickering Bickersons when they aren’t on the air. Lacking all specific gravity, Fred Allen is a cipher as Steve Gladwyn; and, surprisingly, Ginger Rogers is lackluster as Ramona, Steve’s wife. Perhaps Rogers felt that their combative union was no match for Allen’s long-running mock-feud with Jack Benny.
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