Today is an exciting day for me! Not only is it exactly one week before I fly out to California for the 10th Annual TCM Classic Film Festival, it’s also the 97th birthday of Doris Day, one of the most extraordinary singers and actresses who ever graced the radio and silver screen. I’ve admired her enduring optimism for as long as I can remember. Every year I feel so blessed that Doris continues to thrive and work tirelessly for my favorite charitable cause, The Doris Day Animal Foundation, which provides aid to all kinds of critters from dogs and cats to birds and ponies. If you’re a fan of Doris and want to give her some support today, please consider signing her birthday card online and donating to her wonderful foundation like I have today. I know she and the animals that you’ll help will appreciate it! In the meantime, I’ll also be paying tribute to this iconic lady’s birthday by participating in The Doris Day Blogathon, hosted by Michaela of Love Letters to Old Hollywood, for the second year in a row! This blogathon is one of my favorite annual classic movie events, but this time around it was a little tricky to figure out which Doris Day film I would shine a spotlight on. The only two pictures of hers that I’ve ever fully reviewed are That Touch of Mink (1962) and Lover Come Back (1961) for last year’s blogathon, which left so many options that I wasn’t sure where to turn. It wasn’t until I checked TCM’s schedule that I found my answer: Move Over, Darling (1963), an old favorite of mine that I used to adore and watch on repeat, but it had been so long since I’d seen it that I knew I had to rediscover it for Doris’ birthday.
In this remake of the Cary Grant classic My Favorite Wife (1940), Doris plays Ellen Wagstaff Arden, wife of Nicholas Arden (James Garner) and mother to their two young daughters. Five years prior, the couple was involved in a plane crash, which led to a widespread search for Ellen before her family assumed her to be deceased. Nicholas was hesitant to give up hope until he met Bianca (Polly Bergen), an oft-married woman who believes all ailments can be cured with psychotherapy administered by Dr. Herman Schlick (Elliott Reid of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) fame). The film opens as Nick decides to go to court in order to declare Ellen legally dead so he can marry Bianca on the same day. The day is full of twists and turns, however, when we find out that Ellen is actually alive, managing to survive on an island in the Pacific for the last five years. She desperately wants to reunite with he children and husband, but when Grace (Thelma Ritter), Nick’s mother, breaks the news of her husband’s new marriage, Ellen decides to surprise the newlyweds on their honeymoon in hopes that she’ll get him back. Will the plan work out in her favor, or will her return be an unhappy one for Nick?
Despite still being a remake of My Favorite Wife (1940) as I previously mentioned, Twentieth Century Fox had orginally intended for Move Over, Darling (1963) to be a very different movie. The production, initially titled Something’s Got to Give (1962), starred Marilyn Monroe, Dean Martin, and Cyd Charisse. After a short time on set, Monroe was fired for her numerous absences from filming and Lee Remick was summoned to replace her, but Martin refused to continue the film without his close friend and exercised his contractual right for approval of his co-star. As a result of his loyalty, Monroe was rehired, but after her passing on August 5, 1962 the film was shelved and eventually molded and recast into this feature. The completed scenes of Something’s Got to Give (1962) were restored and released as part of the documentary Marilyn Monroe: The Final Days (2001), and if you look closely, you can spot many of the same sets that were later reused for Move Over, Darling (1963). Once Doris Day was cast, her husband Martin Melcher stepped in as producer for the tenth of their fifteen films together and the picture quadrupled its budget in profits, raking in over $12 million at the box office.
This was actually the very first Doris Day film that I ever saw, mostly due to its availability on Netflix way back during my introduction to classic movies. My adoration for this movie hasn’t changed a bit, but now that I’ve seen Move Over, Darling (1963) again after discovering much more of her work, it’s become one of many favorite features that star the actress. This picture still holds a great deal of sentimental value for me, however, and this truly cements in my mind that James Garner was Doris Day’s greatest leading man aside from Rock Hudson. In this, as well as The Thrill of it All (1963), their level of chemistry and banter is off the charts, but nearly every performance in this remake is sublime. You could hardly ask for a supporting cast better than Thelma Ritter, Don Knotts, John Astin, and Polly Bergen, who portrays a character that’s very unlike her pairings with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis that I know and love. If I had to point out any negative aspects of Move Over, Darling (1963) that I noticed during this viewing, I would say that the constant location changes were quite jarring. The characters travel between Monterey, the Beverly Hills Hotel, a car wash, a shoe store, and even the Garden of Eden in a dream sequence. It just seemed like too much of an unnecessary effort to grab the audience’s attention, and I would have preferred simpler and easily understandable transitions from place to place. At the end of the day, however, Move Over, Darling (1963) is a zany marvel that doesn’t receive nearly enough attention compared to Doris Day’s other works, and if you’re looking for a refreshing redo to check out on Doris’ birthday, look no further than this picture.