Unfaithfully Yours (1948)

Film Review

UNFAITHFULLY YOURS

Release Date: 5 November, 1948

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Directors: Preston Sturges

Starring: Rex Harrison, Linda Darnell, Kurt Kreuger, Rudy Vallee

Synopsis

A famous symphony conductor (Harrison) suspects his wife (Darnell) of infidelity with Krasner, his young and handsome secretary. While conducting, the highly emotional Harrison fantasizes the methods with which he will revenge himself on his wife and her lover. The nature of the fantasy changes with the tone of the music. To the fast tempo, boisterous music of Rossini he conceives a complex murder plot. To the stately music of Wagner, he is forgiving and generous. To the romantic music of Tchaikovsky he offers to play a game of Russian roulette with the lover. After the concert, Harrison rushes home to carry out the murder plot, but his preparations for murder do not go as smoothly as they did in his fantasy. When Darnell comes home, she readily forgives him for his irrational behavior. Harrison realizes that his innocent wife loves him, and they embrace.

Discussion

Rex Harrison never had a more customized vehicle. He appears in practically every scene and has extensive solo sequences. The behavior of his character and of his performance can only be categorized as sophisticated maniacal. His attempt to set up the complex murder scene of his fantasy turns into extended one-man screwball comedy as he destroys furniture, bric-a-brac, and himself. Linda Darnell is beautiful, but she does not have much of the comedy. Rudi Valle plays a millionaire similar to his character J. D. Hackensacker III in Sturges' Palm Beach Story (1942), except this fellow is decidedly unsympathetic. Lionel Stander is wasted in a small role.

With Unfaithfully Yours, writer-director Sturges has created a characteristically unusual film. His scenario utilizes appropriate pieces of classical music to set the mood of successive scenes of Harrison's comical fantasies. While the conductor is fantasizing to the music, each scene plays out exactly as he imagines. However, when Harrison attempts to enact his murder fantasy in real life, his chaotic attempts produce an absurd variation of the original scene. Harrison's looks, voice, and acting were always slightly unusual, and Sturges takes his peculiarities and makes the most of them. The film was unsuccessful when released. The dark plot featuring an outlandish and unsympathetic main character who did not appeal to audiences. Sturges' career was already waning, and he directed three more films, only completing two of them. He died in 1959.