My Favorite Wife (1940)


Image Source: Doctor Macro

Synopsis: After having himself legally declared a widower so that he can marry the uptight Bianca (Gail Patrick), the last person Nick Arden (Cary Grant) expects to turn up on his honeymoon is his first wife Ellen (Irene Dunne), who was lost at sea seven years ago and presumed dead. Turns out, she was just stranded on a deserted island with hunky Steven Burkett (Randolph Scott). Realizing that he still loves Ellen and wanting to keep her out of the brawny arms of Steven, Nick attempts to have his second marriage annulled. He just has to break the news to Bianca first — only Nick can’t quite get up the nerve to do it.

Say, folks! If you’re interested in the topic of queer images in film, have I got an event for YOU! From June 18-22, Garbo Laughs (that’s me) and Pussy Goes Grrr will be hosting the Queer Film Blogathon. Check it out now to find out how you can contribute and even win prizes. The party simply won’t be the same without you!

I’ve already said my piece (albeit very ambiguously and diplomatically) about the relationship between Cary Grant and Randolph Scott. Some of you probably wish that that was all I had to say on the matter, but unfortunately for you, it’s not. In fact, the Cary/Randy dynamic is one of my favorite topics in the whole wide world to harp on endlessly. Although it may seem like an obvious choice, I can no longer resist my unrelenting urge to analyze the 1940 Leo McCarey-produced, Garson Kanin-directed screwball comedy My Favorite Wife. It was one of the first classic films I saw and has been a favorite ever since. And although the queerness in it is so obvious even the most oblivious homophobe could pick up on it, my gosh, it’s so delicious I just can’t resist. There’s one scene in particular that really pushes the envelope insofar as “coded” depictions of homosexuality go in classic film, and seems to do so simply for the fun of riling people up.

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The Curious Case of Cary and Randy

On and off for twelve years, Cary Grant and Randolph Scott shared a home on the Santa Monica beach dubbed by the publicity departments as “Bachelor Hall.” They met in 1932 on the set of Hot Saturday and formed a fast friendship… and maybe something else. Rumors raged at the time that, while rooming together in Bachelor Hall, the two were sharing more than just the rent. Certainly there are questions about the nature of the Grant/Scott relationship that remain to this day. Although I haven’t read it yet, I understand Cary’s only child, Jennifer Grant, alleges in her new book Good Stuff: A Reminiscence of My Father, Cary Grant that Grant reveled in the rumors about his sexuality because he felt it made him more desirable to women. This would seem to be contradicted by the fact that he sued Chevy Chase for $10 million in 1980 for alluding to gay rumors about Grant on a talk show.

In my opinion? I don’t think we’ll ever know the truth about Cary Grant and Randolph Scott, and that’s probably the way they wanted it. Although the following pictures are often used as “evidence” that they were lovers, as much as we want them to, a single snapshot of a single moment in the lives of two people cannot possibly reveal every detail and facet of their relationship. The pictures are clean, ambiguous, and while they definitely show a great intimacy, labeling that intimacy as automatically sexual in nature ignores the nuances of both sexuality and homosocial relationships. Does that mean I don’t think people should speculate? Of course people are allowed to speculate. As public figures, the lives of Grant and Scott are left open to interpretation by anyone and everyone who wishes to do so. It can’t possibly hurt them, given that they’re both long dead. It can be especially important for members of sexual minorities to be able to identify mirrors of their own experiences in famous people; oftentimes this stems from an individual or communal need for acceptance and recognition which has nothing at all to do with the real lives of the celebrities in question, but is still completely valid and vital. But the idea that Grant or Scott can be unequivocally “claimed” by either the straight or gay “camp” is unnecessarily divisive and seems to deny any fluidity in identity or behavior. We’re drawing lines instead of building bridges, and with people who are dead and can’t give us the truth, it all seems rather silly.

Entertainers are meant to give us joy. If it gives you joy to interpret the Grant/Scott relationship as romantic, do it. If it gives you joy to envision them as just really close friends, do it. Neither of those are bad things. But please, don’t make any claims that you can divine the “truth” when you weren’t there to witness it. You don’t have the right to deny anyone else’s reality just as they don’t have the right to define yours.

 


click images to enlarge

Image Sources: iCollector (1); Epifanie (2); Waterfilm (3); Daily Musto (4); Il Post (5); TCM CFU (6)
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