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July 25, 2005

Unfaithfully Yours


Alfred Hitchcock once remarked that he made his films to be watched a second time. Only when the distraction of suspense has been cleared away can the viewer appreciate the great artistry with which Hitchcock filled the screen. The same is true of Unfaithfully Yours, Preston Sturges's rather dark 1948 comedy for 20th Century Fox. Only when you know how everything works out can you appreciate the immense high silliness of the the three central scenes, in which a celebrated conductor indulges, while conducting an orchestra, in three different fantasies of disposing of his wife, and only when you see the finale the second time can you savor its glorious ironies. Another thing that improves with repetition is Rex Harrison's stupendous performance as the conductor, Sir Alfred de Carter.

To suggest the level of this movie's sophistication, I shall gloss Sir Alfred's name. If you are of a certain age, you'll remember hearing of Carter's Little Liver Pills. They were laxatives manufactured in the United States. In England, there were Beecham's Liver Pills, also laxatives. A scion of the Beecham family exhausted the family fortune in the production of Handel operas and Delius concerts. That would be the great Sir Thomas Beecham. When Sir Alfred de Carter says, in passing, that his family's product has "kept England on time since Waterloo," without naming the product itself, we are hearing a lame attempt to ward off any litigation from eccentric (and depleted) maestros. I've never heard that Sir Thomas was even aware of Unfaithfully Yours, but I imagine that he'd have been rather pleased to find himself portrayed by the slim, dashing, and hyperarticulate Rex Harrison.

Sir Alfred is married to the beautiful Daphne (the beautiful Linda Darnell), from whom he has been reluctantly parted by musical engagements abroad.

Continue reading about Unfaithfully Yours at Portico.

Posted by pourover at July 25, 2005 12:00 AM

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