Move Over, Darling

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Ellen Wagstaff Arden (Doris Day), a mother of two young girls named Jenny and Didi, was believed to be lost at sea following an airplane accident. Her husband, Nick Arden (James Garner), was one of the survivors.

After five years of searching for her, he decides to move on with his life by having her declared legally dead so he can marry Bianca (Polly Bergen), all on the same day. However, Ellen is alive; she is rescued and returns home that particular day. At first crestfallen, she is relieved to discover from her mother-in-law Grace (Thelma Ritter) that her (ex-) husband’s honeymoon has not started yet.

When Nick is confronted by Ellen, he eventually clears things up with Bianca, but he then learns that the entire time Ellen was stranded on the island she was there with another man, the handsome, athletic Stephen Burkett (Chuck Connors) – and that they called each other “Adam” and “Eve.”

Nick’s mother has him arrested for bigamy and all parties appear before the same judge that married Nick and Bianca earlier that day. Bianca and Ellen request divorces before the judge sends them all away. Bianca leaves Nick, while Ellen storms out, still married to Nick, declared alive again. Ellen returns to Nick’s house unsure if her children will recognize her. Her children welcome her home, and so does Nick.


Sorry for not doing any reviews the past couple of weeks. Work had me…um…working. I’m a little rusty at this after so much time off, so let me go to one of my old standbys to deliver a great performance, at least I hope she does, Doris Day. Move Over, Darling seems like an innocent, early romantic comedy. Let’s see if it is worth the time.

What is this about?

Five years after his wife, Ellen (Doris Day), disappears at sea in a plane crash, successful lawyer Nick Arden (James Garner) decides it’s time to move on: He has Ellen declared legally dead, remarries and sets off on his honeymoon. But there’s trouble in paradise when Ellen — who’s in fact very much alive — turns up to surprise the newlyweds.

What did I like?

Chemistry. A movie is instantly doomed if the leads have no chemistry. No one wants to see two people who are just going through the motions and clearly can’t stand each other. James Garner and Doris Day don’t have this problem as the two of them have a chemistry that arguably could rival that of some of the great Hollywood screen couples of this era. Watching the two of them play off each other both in comedic and dramatic ways is quite enjoyable.

Day by Day. A few months back, around the time of Doris Day’s birthday (she’s still alive, y’know), I read something that named her “America’s Sweetheart” for the era. Judging by all of the movies I’ve seen her in and what I know about her personally, it would be hard to argue that title away from her, especially since I can’t think of any other contenders at this time. At the time she made this film, she was in her 40s and I have to say this is the best (and perhaps most feminine) she has looked on film. We even get to see her in a bikini, a rare site for the normally demure and covered up Doris Day. Acting wise, she has never been better. Mixing her comedic stylings with Garner’s timing, as well as some hijinks that are a bit of a staple of her films and she shines.

Western showdown. I didn’t realize this until I had finished the film, but this film features two stars of western TV shows. I don’t believe they were on at the same time, but on the one hand we have James Garner who starred in Maverick and on the other hand there is Chuck Connors, who is known as the titular character from The Rifleman. Having these two together is a real treat, and yes, they do have some scenes together, for those that were curious.

What didn’t I like?

The Shrew. As much praise as I heap on Doris Day and her character, the opposite is true for Polly Bergen and her character. How Garner ended up with her, I’ll never understand. First of all, she’s a downgrade from Day, in my opinion. Second, she’s overly needy. While on their honeymoon, Garner steps out for a few minutes comes back and has to leave again, but she throws a tantrum and puts on a guilt trip every time he tries to leave. Lastly, she seems to have something going on with her psychiatrist “friend”. It is never said, but you can tell they have a thing. I guess the film needed someone the complete opposite of Day. Why else would there be such a despicable female in this film?

Knotts landing. Don Knotts makes an appearance as a shoe salesman that Day pays to perpetrate a ruse. After the scene is over, we don’t see him again. I have two things to say about this. First off, I believe this is before The Andy Griffith Show, so Knotts isn’t a big star, yet, but he had starred in a couple of films at this point, so why was he just a bit part? Second, the semi-flirting that was going on between he and Day was just awkward, as neither is known for doing so. Parts of it were funny, though, I will give credit where it is due.

Is that really hair? This is a small complaint, but it has to be brought up. Maybe I just don’t understand the physics of women’s hair when it gets wet, but Doris Day’s hair looked so unnatural when she was in the car wash and then again at the end when she jumped in the pool. I believe this is a wig because this is the only time I’ve seen her without her customary short hair, but it is possible that this is her real hair, just a tad bit longer than normal. At whatever rate, the wet look bothered me.

Mover Over, Darling is a cute romantic comedy starring one of our national treasures, Doris Day. Many of the tropes that we see in today’s rom-coms are prevalent here, but in a much more subdued (and better executed) way. Garner makes for a good leading man and keeps his cool in this unusual situation. I do wish we could have gotten another song or two from Day, though. Do I recommend this? Yes, it is a good film for when you have absolutely no idea what to watch. Check it out sometime!

3 1/2 out of 5 stars


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