Title: Unfaithfully Yours
Release Date: 1948
Length: 105 minutes
Director: Preston Sturges
Starring: Rex Harrison, Linda Darnell, Rudy Vallee
Depending on how familiar you are with the traditional film conventions, there may be spoilers ahead. All descriptions I’ve seen of the movie assume you won’t misunderstand, but my daughters missed the cue first time around and were very surprised later in the film as a consequence. They’re pretty savvy, since I’ve tried to have them watch high-quality cinema when possible. Proceed at your own risk reading this. That being said, I doubt your enjoyment would really be diminished by this bit of knowledge, and most descriptions of the film agree with me.
Rex Harrison is an acclaimed conductor arriving home after a trip to his native heath in Great Britain. His wife, manager/agent, wife’s sister, and brother-in-law all await him at the airport. After a tender reunion with his wife, they go home so Harrison can prepare for an almost immediate performance that evening. His brother-in-law stops by while Harrison dresses for rehearsal and tells him that he took the parting injunction “keep an eye on my wife” seriously: he hired a private detective to follow her.
Harrison’s thinly veiled disdain for his nominal relative bursts to the surface. He is disgusted, tears up the report, throws it away, kicks the wastebasket down the hall, and shakes brother-in-law (Vallee) by his lapels. Through error and misunderstanding, the report keeps turning up and getting returned so Harrison resolves to destroy any and all copies; including the one held by the private eye.
But when he visits, the detective lets slip the key fact while urging Harrison to assume innocence. His (younger) wife visited his (younger) secretary’s room in the hotel in the middle of the night for 40 minutes while Harrison was traveling.
Devastated, he goes home, fights with his wife without revealing why he is out of sorts and then departs to perform. While conducting each piece he fantasizes different scenarios each of which is influenced by the music. First, he imagines murdering his wife, then taking the high road and forgiving her, and finally suicide. Inspired by his internal visions, he gives the performance of a lifetime. When the concert ends, he rushes home to enact one of the scenarios. But which? And will it turn out like he imagined?
The ending is a bit pat, but Harrison is brilliant and hilarious. The other character actors play off him well and it feels like a dark, minor key (see what I did there?) turn on the madcap The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek. Don’t skip it.