A forgotten Preston Sturges gem. It was when it came out in 1948, and remains so now, unfortunately.
The picture was made during an interesting period in the director’s lengthy career. After emerging from what he considered an unappreciated run at Paramount Pictures, he formed an independent production company with none other than Howard Hughes.
After the predictable split, Sturges sought backing from another powerful Hollywood figure, 20th Century Fox mogul Darryl Zanuck. He set Sturges up with a suite of offices at Fox, and a $2 million dollar budget to produce a script the director had written 15 years earlier. Thus, Unfaithfully Yours.
Zanuck also cast two of the studio’s biggest stars at the time — Rex Harrison and Linda Darnell — in the picture. Harrison plays a famous orchestra conductor who suspects his younger wife is having an affair with a young man (Kurt Kreuger).
While conducting a single concert, Harrison’s character fantasizes — depending on the intensity of the music — about killing his wife, then about forgiving her and then about challenging her supposed lover to a round of Russian roulette.
Leaving the concert hall, the conductor tries to implement his dark fantasies, but all goes awry despite his best efforts. Typically for a Sturges film, all this involves absurdity and slapstick garnishes. At film’s end the conductor’s gorgeous spouse explains away various suspicious events, which the conductor accepts. As more than one critic has noted, audiences may not.
Because of its subject matter, infidelity and possible murder, the comedy was consigned as a “black humor” title, and bombed at the box office. Don’t let that put you off. In these often dark and suspicious times, the subject matter seems perfectly in order.
Enjoy this unheralded Sturges outing.