Unfaithfully Yours Preston Sturges

Preston Sturges himself didn't think much of this movie and neither did the public, but I'm happy to say that both of them were wrong. Its orchestra conductor protagonist (Rex Harrison) is more than willing to trust his loving wife (Linda Darnell) until his doltish brother-in-law has her tailed and discovers some incriminating evidence; but instead of following through on some boring investigation, Sturges allows our hero to simmer with jealousy and entertain three ludicrous revenge scenarios while conducting a symphony with everything he's got. Sturges wound up damning his film by claiming that nothing really happens, but that's exactly why it works, revelling as it does in juicy bits of business and the writer/director's incomparably verbose witticisms instead of plodding towards some literal-minded conclusion. For your troubles, you get a generous selection of lively character parts (such as the idolatrous detective praising Harrison with "nobody handles Handel like you handle Handel!") and a script that feels completely thought out instead of cobbled together by several hands. It's perhaps not the sustained effort that marks his work for Paramount (though studio interference might be to blame), and there are anti-climaxes with a slapstick destruction orgy that isn't timed well enough for big laughs. But in following its felicities instead of cutting to the chase, it's still light years more interesting than 90-percent of its competition, then and now. Extras on the Criterion disc include a commentary by Sturges scholars James Harvey, Brian Henderson and Diane Nichols, which veers between genuine insight and blunt obviousness. As well there is a rather needless introduction by Terry Jones, a fascinating interview with widow Sandy Sturges, who describes both the motives behind the film and the studio intrigue surrounding it, and a gallery featuring stills and production correspondence. (Criterion/Morningstar)