I am not a fan of films where the plot centers around one huge avoidable mix up. All of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ films are like and out of the ten films they made together I can only handle watching Swing Time and Follow the Fleet. Do not even get me started on how much I cannot take Top Hat! You Can’t Fool Your Wife is one avoidable mix up but instead of being boring and not funny at all and only one person is confused the story is funny and it is a couple who wind up confusing and mixing up each other.
Clara (Lucille Ball) and Andrew (James Ellison) went to the same college. They were not involved in too many activities. It was likely that out of all the active people they would be the two inactive ones who met and married. Clara and Andrew get married and wind up living with her mother.
They have been married for five years and they are unaccomplished. Clara is upset with where they are in life. She is even more upset because she thinks Andrew forgot their anniversary. He did not forget he bought her a music box that plays their old college song.
Andrew works for an accounting firm in the city and has been there for a few years. The higher ups at the firm make him pick up a man named Battincourt who is the son of one of the partners. Battincourt takes Andrew to a hotel he likes to stay at. As soon as they walk in the door a bunch of people are waiting for Batty as he is called by his friends. Clara is worried about Andrew after he does not come home at his usual time. He comes home late and drunk. The next day he has a wicked hangover. The next night Andrew is late again after he promised Clara that he would be home at his usual time. He explains to Clara that he has been having a hard time keeping up with Batty. Clara thinks he is lying and has been going around with another woman. Mr. Gillespie, one of the partners at the firm, comes to Andrew’s house with two women and they know him. Clara slams the door on Andrew. The following day Andrew has a talk with Battincourt. He needs his help to get home early. Unfortunately his cow of a mother-in-law finds him in the hotel with Batty and reports home to her daughter. After that incident Andrew stays with Batty for the night and has a fantastic time.
Andrew goes to see Clara the following day. Her mother is the only one who is home and tells him that Clara is out with someone else and that she is thinking about getting a divorce. Andrew tells her to give Clara the flowers he brought. As soon as he is gone and she has closed the door the miserable cow throws the flowers in the garbage. When Clara comes home she finds the flowers in the garbage. She tells her mother off for what she has done. Clara wants to see Andrew. Her mother pretends to turn on the works before Clara runs out the door, complaining that her own daughter is not listening to her.
Battincourt answers the door when Clara comes. He tells her to meet him at a restaurant so they can talk. At the restaurant Batty comes up with an idea to make Andrew fall in love with her all over again. He tells her that she needs to look like a model named Mercedes Vasquez, he pointed out to her.
Andrew tries calling the house. The mother answers the phone. She tells him that Clara is not home and that she has not been home in two weeks. Andrew, naturally, thinks the mother is lying to him. Clara has really been in the city for the past two weeks working with Batty.
Batty makes Andrew go to a party. Andrews argues and complains about going to the party. Batty tries to coax Andrew in to going by telling him that Mercedes’ family has a big account. At that moment Clara calls saying she cannot go through with the plan and wants to go home. Batty leaves the apartment and rushes to see Clara. Clara agrees to go through with the plan. A woman named Sally winds up messing Batty and Clara’s plan up by telling Andrew all about it.
Mercedes Vasquez, the real Mercedes Vasquez, has been invited to Batty’s party. Andrew believes the real Mercedes to be Clara and speaks to her as if he knows her. Clara walks into the party looking exactly the same as Mercedes. The real Mercedes has left and Andrew thinking Clara the real one confesses something not knowing the woman is Clara.
The whole plan backfires when Andrew kisses Clara as Mercedes. She is mad because she thinks he would have kissed the real woman had she not been there (*sorry for the confusing wording and explanation*). Andrew goes back to their place the same night. He tells Clara he knew the whole time she was not the real Mercedes. At first she thinks he is lying but then eventually believes him. The mother-in-law comes back home. Andrew having enough of her and wanting to be alone with Clara kicks her the hell out.
I loved Lucille Ball and James Ellison together. They were a believable couple who were not accomplished in their lives. They were great in their roles. You can see it on Ball’s face that she is unhappy at not being accomplished and you can tell that Ellison is content with his life. I like seeing Lucille Ball in her early films before the studios knew what to do with her. I have more of an appreciation for Ball seeing her outside of her famous comedy show I can see she has range. Ellison was adorable. I wish he had had the chance to play more leading man roles. Holy crap, the mother was so damn annoying!! She was literally an old miserable cow. I could not take her the moment she came on screen. Controlling mothers in older films are my nightmare they ruin everything. I loved the ending when Andrew does not let her into the apartment!
I really liked You Can’t Fool Your Wife. I think my liking is mostly due to the fact that I relate to Andrew and Clara. In school I was not really active. I was in film club for two years as an undergrad and I wrote two articles for the school newspaper. Other than that I did not do much in college like Clara and Andrew. I sat through the film hoping my life will not turn out like theirs where they feel unaccomplished because that is exactly how I feel like now and I hate it so much. Maybe I have a drive that they do not… well think about it in 1940 women did not have many opportunities to accomplish things in their lives. Anyway… You Can’t Fool Your Wife was an enjoyable film. I actually liked the story with the avoidable mix up which I am putting down to the characters. You Can’t Fool Your Wife is not available on Youtube or DVD. TCM aired the film some time ago so keep your eyes open for it on the channel.