Bluebeard's Eighth Wife

Bluebeard's Eighth Wife is a 1938 American romantic comedy film made by Paramount Pictures, directed and produced by Ernst Lubitsch, and starring Claudette Colbert and Gary Cooper. The film is based on the French play, La huitième femme de Barbe-Bleue, by Alfred Savoir and the English translation of the play by Charlton Andrews. The screenplay was the first of many collaborations between Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder.[1][2] A much-married business tycoon meets his match in his latest wife.

Bluebeard's Eighth Wife
Theatrical release poster
Directed byErnst Lubitsch
Produced byErnst Lubitsch
Written byCharlton Andrews
Screenplay by
Based onLa huitième femme de Barbe-Bleue
by Alfred Savoir
Starring
Music by
CinematographyLeo Tover
Edited byWilliam Shea
Production
company
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • March 23, 1938 (1938-03-23)
Running time
80 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish

The 1938 film was the year's 15th box-office success.[3]

It is a remake of the 1923 silent version directed by Sam Wood and starring Gloria Swanson.[4]

Plot

On the French Riviera, wealthy businessman Michael Brandon wants to buy pajamas, but just the tops. When the store refuses to sell them without the pants, they are at an impasse. An attractive woman named Nicole offers to buy the bottoms.

At the hotel where he is staying, Michael has trouble sleeping, so the managers offer him a suite on a higher floor, further away from the sounds of the sea. The suite is occupied by the Marquis de Loiselle, who is two months in arrears. The penniless marquis, as it turns out, had sent Michael a business proposition, which Michael turns down. The marquis then offers to sell him a bathtub supposed owned by King Louis XIV, which he also rejects. Then Michael recognizes the mismatched pajama bottoms the marquis is wearing and, after discovering that Nicole is the man's daughter, buys the bathtub. He then pursues Nicole and proposes to her the same day. She turns him down, but eventually changes her mind and accepts.

However, she is horrified to learn that Michael has been married seven times before. She calls off the wedding, much to her father's dismay. Michael explains that he gives each of his wives a prenuptial agreement guaranteeing $50,000 a year for life if they divorce. He gives in when Nicole demands double that amount.

During their honeymoon and afterward in their home in Paris, Nicole keeps her discontented husband at arm's length. He assumes that she is hoping to obtain a divorce, but that only strengthens his natural tenacity and his determination not to give her one. It is implied that what she actually wants is to keep him interested by means of frustration so that he won't get tired of her like the other seven. After reading Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, he tries to follow Petruchio's example, but Nicole proves too strong for him, slapping him back when he slaps her and biting him (then tenderly treating him with iodine) when he spanks her.

She writes anonymous letters to him claiming that she has a lover, but Monsieur Pepinard, the private detective he hires, assures him that there is nothing to it. Nicole then blackmails Pepinard into finding her a fake lover, a boxer named Kid Mulligan, so Michael can catch her alone with him. Complications ensue when her friend Count Albert De Regnier picks the wrong time to return a purse she left behind and is mistaken for her husband by Kid Mulligan (and knocked out). Michael assumes that Albert is her lover and finally gives her a divorce.

Six months later, Michael has a nervous breakdown. Nicole tries to see him in the sanitarium, but is not allowed in. Luckily, Michael has been put into a straitjacket after spotting her father, who has arranged for her to get in. Nicole tells Michael that she loved him at first sight, but had to break him of his habit of marrying so often. Now that she is financially independent, she explains, he can see that she does not want to (re)marry him for his money. He frees himself from his straitjacket, advances on her menacingly, then embraces her.

Cast

Music

"Here Comes Cookie" by Mack Gordon, sung by Gary Cooper

Reception

Frank Nugent, critic for The New York Times, felt that, "Although it's not a bad comedy by our current depressed standards", Gary Cooper was badly miscast as a much-married millionaire.[5]

Variety wrote that "It's a light and sometimes bright entertainment, but gets a bit tiresome, despite its comparatively moderate running time. [...] The Brackett-Wilder scripting is ofttimes bright but illogical and fragile."[6]

References

  1. Hopp, Glenn (2003). Billy Wilder: The Cinema of Wit 1906-2002. Taschen. p. 19. ISBN 9783822815953.
  2. Eyman, Scott (2000). Ernst Lubitsch: Laughter in Paradise. JHU Press. p. 385. ISBN 0-8018-6558-1.
  3. "Claudette Colbert Movies". Ultimate Movie Rankings. Retrieved 2016-10-22.
  4. ATAS/UCLA Television Archives. Study Collection (1981). ATAS-UCLA Television Archives Catalog: Holdings in the Study Collection of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences University of California, Los Angeles, Television Archives. Taylor & Francis US. p. 9. ISBN 0-913178-69-1.
  5. Frank Nugent (March 24, 1938). "The Screen In Review; ; Gary Cooper Comes a Cropper in 'Bluebeard's Eighth Wife', at the Paramount--'The Crime of Dr. Hallet' Is Shown at the Rialto At the Rialto". The New York Times.
  6. "Bluebeard's Eighth Wife". Variety. December 31, 1937.
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