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Unfaithfully Yours (The Criterion Collection)
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In this pitch-black comedy from legendary writer-director Preston Sturges, Rex Harrison stars as Sir Alfred De Carter, a world-famous symphony conductor consumed with the suspicion that his wife is having an affair. During a concert, the jealous De Carter entertains elaborate visions of vengeance, set to three separate orchestral works. But when he attempts to put his murderous fantasies into action, nothing works out quite as planned. A brilliantly performed mixture of razor-sharp dialogue and uproarious slapstick, Unfaithfully Yours is a true classic from a grand master of screen comedy.
Preston Sturges has his great run in 1940-44, with a series of comedy masterpieces unparalleled in Hollywood film. 1948's Unfaithfully Yours proves that he still had the touch, if only he could have found a supportive studio for his genius. (It would've helped if Unfaithfully Yours had been a hit, which it was not.) Sir Alfred De Carter (Rex Harrison) is a witty, vain orchestra conductor, a celebrated man married to a beautiful woman (Linda Darnell). He becomes convinced of her infidelity, and while he is on the podium during a concert, he fantasizes three homicidal revenge fantasies--all set to the classics.
The conductor looks suspiciously like a self-portrait by Sturges, and the delicious dialogue comes pouring out of Rex Harrison like pearls from a goblet. The film's main disappointment is that it doesn't feature the teeming stock company of character actors that crowd Sturges's earlier pictures (although Rudy Vallee, Lionel Stander, and Edgar Kennedy come through nicely). The film, while morbid, is often laugh-out-loud funny, but it also has something sneakily brilliant to say about the gulf between art and life: how the exquisite timing and perfect mechanics of Sir Alfred's imagination come a-cropper when he actually tries to enact his fantasies. Unfaithfully Yours was remade in a not-bad version with Dudley Moore in 1984, but this one's the keeper. Too bad it couldn't save Sturges--this is the last worthy film in a too-brief career. --Robert HortonSee all Editorial Reviews
- Audio commentary by Sturges scholars James Harvey, Diane Jacobs, and Brian Henderson
- Video introduction by writer-director Terry Jones
- Video interview with Sturges' widow Sandy Sturges
- New essay by novelist Jonathan Lethem
- Gallery featuring rare production correspondence and stills
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Sir Alfred DeCarter (Harrison), a famous musical conductor, returns home after being away. He is greeted by his loving wife (deliciously portrayed by Linda Darnell) and his friends, including his brother-in-law (Rudy Vallee). In a scene in which he nearly stole the show, Rudy Vallee reports to Harrison that he had taken seriously Harrison's request that he 'Keep an eye on my wife!' and had hired a detective to follow her around. And he presents the report, which he says has some indication of indiscretion. Harrison rejects the report, orders Vallee out of there, and then angrily goes to visit the detective, who gives him the report.
The rest of the movie follows Harrison as he conducts the evening's concert, all the while veering between rage at his wife's supposed infidelity, confidence in her love for him, and noble forgiveness in a series of fantasies. It's a very enjoyable movie. I understand it was thought to have done poorly because of a scandal involving Rex Harrison, who left his wife for another woman. I suspect the explanation was the fact that for about a third of the movie Harrison is fantasizing about murdering his wife.
But truth comes out, true love wins, the kerfuffle is explained, and the laughs die down. The comedy is delicious.
I was aabout 15 at the time, I am now 83, owever, I still remember the closint line by Rex Harrison: "A thousand poets dreamed a thousand years.............
and then you were born!" To me is seemed a very fitting conclusion to an excellent story.
This new Criterion edition has some really cool extras and the image quality is very, very good. The audio Audio commentary by Sturges scholars James Harvey, Diane Jacobs, and Brian Henderson are fascinating but I honestly preferred the video appreciation by Terry Jones (of Monty Python fame) as well as the video interview with Sandy Sturges. There's also an essay by Jonathan Lethem, a photo gallery and correspondence on the production of the film. This is one of Sturges' greatest black comedies and well worth picking up.
Now all Ihave to do is wait for my other favorite Sturges films-"Hail the Conquering Hero" and "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek" on DVD (Oh, and "Christmas in July" would also be much appreciated as well). His classics are finally trickling out and I'm quite happy that they've made a much belated appearence on DVD.
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