|Written by||Preston Sturges|
|Running time||105 minutes|
|Studio||20th Century-Fox Film Corporation|
Unfaithfully Yours is often regarded by critics as Sturges' last great comedy, and his penultimate film as writer/director. It would be followed by one more film directed for Fox, The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend, and then writing and directing the French comedy, The French, They Are a Funny Race.
Unfaithfully Yours is also considered unique as the only Sturges film to take place almost exclusively in "a milieu of high culture" (according to critic James Harvey), focusing as it does on the world of classical music. The film was based on a 1933 short story by Sturges then titled "Symphony Story," and initially proposed under the title Unfinished Symphony. The film starred Rex Harrison, but was held back by Fox from summer 1948 until Christmas (due to concerns for negative publicity following the suicide of actress Carol Landis, long-rumored as the then-married Harrison's lover).
The plot focuses on Sir Alfred de Carter, a brilliant but volatile concert conductor (modeled partially on the real life conductor Sir Thomas Beecham). Sir Alfred is happily married to the lovely, younger Daphne, or so he presumes. Upon returning from a European tour, he finds that his obnoxious brother-in-law August Henshler, when asked to "keep an eye" on his wife, decided to hire a private detective to follow her. Henshler takes the report as evidence of infidelity, with Sir Alfred's handsome secretary, but Sir Alfred tosses out the report, only to have it returned to him by the hotel house detective (at which point the conductor sets the document ablaze). Finally outraged, Sir Alfred visits the detective, Sweeney, only to encounter full details unexpectedly, and seeds of jealousy truly begin to bloom.
During Sir Alfred's concert, his imagination takes flight: his direction of Rossini's "Semiramide" conjures an eleborate murder plot, framing secretary Anthony for Daphne's death. Wagner's Tannhauser suggests a scenario of forgiveness, supplying the lovers with a substantial check, and Tchaikovsky's "Francesca da Ermini" suggests a game of Russian roulette with Anthony as a suitable revenge, regardless of results. In the throes of his jealousy and rage, Sir Alfred has thus delivered the finest concert of his career, even moving the dreary August to unaccustomed emotion. After the performance, Sir Alfred tries to put his fantasies into effect, but with considerably less finesse than in his own mind, and the truth behind the detective's report is finally revealed.
Prior to the film's release, 20th Century Fox studio head Darryl F. Zanuck insisted that the film, which ran slightly over two hours, be trimmed, and particularly felt a serious love scene between Harrison and Darnell failed to engage audiences. When Sturges failed to edit the film according to Zanuck's standards, the latter cut the film himself, removing some 21 minutes. These alterations, and the delayed release date, affected the critical and financial response.
Writing for The New York Times, Bosley Crowther wrote a largely favorable review, but one which suggested that Sturges' days in the limelight were waining: "Four years have been permitted to go gurgling down the drain since the last release of a Sturges picture (Hail the Conquering Hero)—and that's too long. Also, a shade of something fatal to a champion may be perceived in his new picture at the Roxy. That's a slip in his timing and his speed. Like a boxer who takes too long a lay-off, Mr. Sturges has slowed up a bit. And this is something which his public will be the first to note and deplore." Other favorable reviews failed to combat poor box-office receipts, and the film was declared a bomb. Combined with the distribution troubles surrounding The Sin of Harold Diddlebock (which would remain unreleased until 1950), Sturges' glory days in Hollywood were nearing the end.
In subsequent years, however, Unfaithfully Yours has been re-assessed as a Sturges classic, and released on DVD by The Criterion Collection. The film was later remade in 1984, with the same title, as a vehicle for Dudley Moore. The character names were changed, but the plot mechanics remain substantially the same.
- Credited players
- Rex Harrison as Sir Alfred de Carter
- Linda Darnell as Daphne de Carter
- Rudy Vallee as August Henshler
- Barbara Lawrence as Barbara Henshler
- Kurt Kreuger as Anthony Windborn
- Lionel Stander as Hugo Standoff
- Edgar Kennedy as Sweeney
- Alan Bridge as the House Detective
- Julius Tannen as O'Brien
- Torben Meyer as Dr. Schultz
- Uncredited actors
- Robert Greig as Jules
- Evelyn Beresford as Madame Pompadour
- Frank Moran as Fire Chief
- J. Farrell MacDonald as Doorman
- Georgia Caine as Dowager
- Isabel Jewell as Telephone Operator
- Marion Marshall as Telephone Operator
- Charles Tannen as Information Man
Sturges Stock Company count
Unfaithfully Yours featured fewer members of Preston Sturges' stock company than usual, and mostly in smaller roles. Rudy Vallee returned for his third film with the director. Of the Sturges supporting players, Frank Moran made his tenth (and final) appearance; Alan Bridge and Torben Meyer returned for their ninth Sturges film; Julius Tannen, his eighth; and Robert Greig, J. Farrell MacDonald, and Georgia Caine, their sixth. Edgar Kennedy had featured in The Sin of Harold Diddlebock.