My Wife's Best Friend
Fox Cinema Archives // Unrated // $19.98 // June 20, 2012
Review by John Sinnott | posted August 8, 2012
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The Movie:
The Fox Cinema Archives label is a line of MOD (Manufactured on Demand) DVDs.  These burned discs allow movie fans to obtain the best quality unrestored versions of more niche titles directly from the studio, titles that would otherwise be unavailable on home video.  Part of their first wave of titles is a Anne Baxter vehicle My Wife's Best Friend, a marital comedy that's pretty dated.  Lacking in laughs and featuring a rather unappealing main character it probably played much better back in 1952 when it was originally released.
George Mason (Macdonald Carey) is the owner of a successful company in a mid-sized town.  He works long and hard but makes time for his wife Virginia (Anne Baxter).  As the movie opens he's taking Virginia to Hawaii for a long vacation, something more spectacular that the shopping trips to New York or Chicago that he usually gives her.  They're driven to the airport by Virginia's closest friend, the unmarried Jane (Catherine McLeod).  The whole time the couple is checking in, Jane is complaining about how dull and boring George is, and how she wishes he was more of a "wolf."
Soon after takeoff one to the plane's engines catches fire and they have to make an emergency landing.  Seeing flames bursting from the wing, George and Virginia are sure they're both going to die.  Virginia apologizes for being such a nag and so selfish.  She feels bad that she has been such an overbearing wife while George has always been perfect and sweet to her.  George, in turn, confesses that he hasn't always behaved as a husband should.  Three years ago, while Virginia was on an extended shopping trip in New York, he got lonely, and had a couple of martinis, doubles, and...
Virginia wants to know who he was with, and he reluctantly admits that it was her best friend Jane.  He tells her there's more to the story, and asks for her forgiveness since he's been tortured by the memory ever since it happened.   She forgives just as the plane... makes a safe landing.
Back home safe and sound, Virginia is very quite and, naturally, upset.  She goes to their lawyer and asks him to represent her in the divorce but he declines and talks her out of splitting.  Instead, Virginia decides to make her husband's life a living hell by ruining his business and publically humiliating him in front of the entire city.
This is a situation comedy, but there really aren't a lot of jokes.  It's the position poor George finds himself in that's supposed to supply the amusement, but looking at it from 60 years after it was made it's just not that funny.  When Virginia decides to get back at her husband by ruining an important business dinner she implies that George works her constantly (while the truth is she has servants to wait on her) and that he even beats her.  She cowers when he asks why she isn't dressed and when she presents the burnt dinner she's prepared pleads in terror for his forgiveness.  I just don't find the idea of abused women funny, and women who pretend to be even less so.
I might have enjoyed the film more if Virginia was a likable character, but from the moment she appears on screen nagging her husband I found her totally unpleasant.  George came across as a hen-pecked wimp more than a leader of industry since he put up with all of her actions.   
The movie synopsis on the box is quite deceiving.  It claims that Virginia imagines different ways that she, as different historical female figures would deal with the situation.  While that's true, it's a very minor part of the film.  There are three such interludes, each lasting 30-45 seconds, and in them she just imagines how she'd treat her husband if she was a ruler, in one case literally walking all over him.  I suppose these were supposed to be funny, but they just made Virginia seem mean and cruel. 
Of course the ending is predictable, and since this was made in 1952 the part of the story that George wasn't able to tell Virginia was pretty significant (though to his credit he tries to tell her a couple of times but she won't listen.)  Even when all was said and done, Virginia came across as a mean spirited, spoiled child who never gets her comeuppance and it's hard to like a movie when that's the lead character.
The DVD:

The mono soundtrack is generally clean and clear with only faint traces of background noise.  The dialog is easy to discern and the music comes through nicely, even if the dynamic range is rather limited due to the technology of the time.
 The full frame image is better than I was expecting.  The unrestored movie obviously comes from a very nice print and is clear with excellent contrast.  The level of detail is very good too.  The only real problem is some light cross colorization that appears throughout the film from time to time, and a few specks of dirt.
Like most MOD releases, this does not contain any bonus features.
Final Thoughts:
While I generally like films from the post-war era I found this one unappealing.  It wasn't so much that it was dull or lifeless (which it was) but that the main character was pretty unappealing and cruel.  There are much better films to watch, pass this one by.  Skip it.

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