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This film is a remake of My Favorite Wife (1940), the hilarious film which starred Cary Grant and Irene Dunne. Move Over Darling was originally going to be called Something’s Got to Give, and meant to star Marilyn Monroe and Dean Martin. When Monroe was fired before the film was finished and Dean Martin subsequently pulled out of the project, it was rewritten for Doris Day, who starred opposite James Garner.

Ellen Arden (Day) has been missing presumed dead for five years, after a plane she was travelling on crashed into the ocean. Her husband Nick (James Garner) survived the crash, and now wants to have Ellen declared legally dead so that he can marry his new girlfriend Bianca (Polly Bergen). However – wouldn’t you just know it? – on the very day that Nick and Bianca marry, Ellen is brought home after being rescued by the Navy from the desert island she has made her home. Hoping to rekindle her marriage with Nick, she is more than a little surprised to see that there is now a new Mrs Arden…!

It’s been a while since I watched My Favorite Wife, but I remember that I really enjoyed it. Cary Grant was better than almost anyone in these kinds of slapstick roles, and Irene Dunne was always great when she played opposite him. So actors in any remake had big boots to fill – but Doris Day can pretty much do no wrong, and she is fantastic here. She sparkles with the magic she brings to all of her roles, and really shows off her talent for comedy. Similarly James Garner was really great as Nick, and the two played off each other with great chemistry. Kudos to Polly Bergen for playing the somewhat hard done to Bianca, and major props to Thelma Ritter, who played Nick’s mother, Grace Arden.

Overall, a really lovely and enjoyable film – less screwball than MFW, but just as good in it’s own way. I recommend it!

 

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Sabrina Fairchild (Julia Ormond) is the gawky daughter of the chauffeur to the wealthy Larrabee family, in Long Island.  For years, she has been secretly in love with youngest Larrabee son David (Greg Kinnear), but he doesn’t seem to notice her, instead choosing to drift from one woman to another.  Sabrina goes to Paris for two years to work for Vogue magazine, and when she gets back, David cannot even recognise the beautiful and sophisticated young woman.  But he is engaged to Elizabeth (Lauren Holly), with whose father’s company, David’s career driven brother Linus (Harrison Ford) hopes to effect a merger.  Linus is determined to keep Sabrina away from David – if David does not marry Elizabeth, the merger will not go ahead – so he starts spending time with Sabrina himself.  But then Linus finds his own feelings towards Sabrina starting to change.

This is an updated remake of the 1954 Billy Wilder film of the same name, which in turn was adapted from Samuel Taylor’s play.  Remakes are often met with derision, and remaking a film which was directed by the great Billy Wilder, and which starred three of the most loved film stars of the time – Audrey Hepburn, William Holden and Humphrey Bogart – is no mean feat.  I loved the 1954 film, and really only wanted to see the 1995 version to see how it compared.  I’ll be honest – I expected to be disappointed.  I love Holden, I love Hepburn, and Sabrina (1954) was such a sparkly, romantic film.  So I was quite surprised by how much I actually did enjoy this remake.  True, Julia Ormond is no Audrey Hepburn, but Hepburn was in a class of her own.  Julia does a pretty good job of playing the titular character though.  Greg Kinnear played the part of David well, although again, he can’t compete with William Holden’s portrayal.  But Harrison Ford was wonderful as Linus.  I actually preferred him to Bogart (maybe because Bogart did not get on with his co-stars or his director in the original film, and Sabrina is not one of his better performances, with many people thinking that he was mis-cast).  Ford brings more depth to the role, and makes Linus sympathetic, even as he is plotting to save his proposed merger, at the expense of Sabrina’s feelings.

I did think it sagged slightly in the middle – after Sabrina returned from Paris and was met with amazement by David and everybody else at the Larrabee mansion, there seemed to be a period of not a lot happening – but overall it was entertaining enough, and the ending was satisfying, even though I knew what was coming.

Special mentions to Nancy Marchand as Maude Larrabee, the matriarch of the family, and Lauren Holly, as Elizabeth – David’s fiancee (who is probably too good for him), who both were excellent in their supporting roles.

Overall, this is a film worth seeing if you like romantic, old-fashioned comedy, or just want something easy going and undemanding to watch for a couple of hours.  I’d recommend it on it’s own merits, but if I absolutely had to pick between this version and the 1954 film, the 1954 film would still come out on top.

Year of release: 1995

Director: Sydney Pollack

Producers: Sydney Pollack, Lindsay Doran, Scott Rudin, Ronald L. Schwary

Writers: Samuel A. Taylor (play and earlier screenplay), Billy Wilder (earlier screenplay), Ernest Lehman (earlier screenplay), Barbara Benedek, David Rayfiel

Main cast: Julia Ormond, Harrison Ford, Greg Kinnear, Nancy Marchand, Lauren Holly, Angie Dickinson, Richard Crenna, Dana Ivey, John Wood

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Click here for my review of the 1954 adaptation.

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It was probably a very brave decision to remake Miracle on 34th Street.  The original 1947 movie is much loved and pretty near to a perfect Christmas film.  This 1994 version is actually the third remake, but the only remake made for cinematic release.  The story is more or less the same.  A young girl named Susan doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, but then she meets the new Santa at Cole’s Department Store (the original film used Macy’s, but Macy’s didn’t want to lend their name to this film, so the fictional store of Cole’s was used instead), who insists that he is is the real Santa Claus.  Susan starts to wonder whether Santa might in fact really exist…

There are a few changes in this version.  In 1947 those who wanted to prosecute Kris Kringle only needed to prove that the man really believed he was Santa Claus, in order to prove him insane, and have him committed.  In 1994, the fact that a man might believe he is Santa Claus would not be enough to have him committed – he is no danger to anyone else or to himself.  To that end, the reason for Kris going on trial is changed slightly.  There are also a couple of added villains who provide a tangent that was not in the first film.

I would say that while this was not an unenjoyable film, it simply is nowhere near a patch on the original.  Richard Attenborough is certainly great as Kris Kringle/Santa; I preferred Edmund Gwenn in the role, but Attenborough cannot be faulted.  However, whereas the little girl Susan was so adorably portrayed by a young Natalie Wood in the original version, I found Mara Wilson somewhat irritating in the same role (and I do feel bad criticising a child actor in a Christmas film!).  The real difference however is in the chemistry – or lack of – between Elizabeth Perkins as Dorey, Susan’s mother, and Dylan McDermott as Bryan Bedford, Dorey’s some-time boyfriend who defends Kris in court.  There simply wasn’t any spark between them; Bryan came off as bland, and Dorey verged on being unlikeable (unlike in the original film when the chemistry between Maureen O’Hara and John Payne really crackled).

The story dragged a little bit more as well, and the added elements didn’t really work.

On a shallow note however, there was one thing going for this film – James Remar as a spy for a rival department store, was GORGEOUS!  I very much enjoyed watching him on the screen!

Overall I would say that my enjoyment of this film was slightly lessened by my enthusiasm for the original.  If you watch the 1994 version first, you may really enjoy it; it just doesn’t stand up well to comparison.

Year of release: 1994

Director: Les Mayfield

Writers: Valentine Davies (story), George Seaton, John Hughes

Main cast: Richard Attenborough, Elizabeth Perkins, Dylan McDermott, Mara Wilson

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Click here for my review of the 1947 movie.

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