We’re Not Married!

The delightful “We’re Not Married!” — released in 1952 — follows the consequences involving 5 long-time married couples who suddenly learn their marriages are not legal. This complication occurs because the Justice of the Peace (Victor Moore) started performing wedding ceremonies before the legal start date of his commission. An investigation by the state forces the governor to write each of the five couples informing them of the situation. The star-studded cast includes Ginger Rogers and Fred Allen as the main couple, and other couples that include Marilyn Monroe and David Wayne, Eve Arden and Paul Douglas, Eddie Bracken and Mitzi Gaynor, and Louis Calhern and Zsa Zsa Gabor.

Fred Allen (left) and Ginger Rogers in "We're Not Married."

Fred Allen (left) and Ginger Rogers in “We’re Not Married.”

Rogers and Allen, who say the funniest lines written by screenplay writer Nunnally Johnson, play Ramona and Steve Gladwyn, who host a popular radio program that preaches marital bliss while hawking sponsor after sponsor. They get along great on the air, but never speak to each other at home. Their program pays them handsomely, but when the letter from the Governor comes, they gleefully look forward to life without each other. This happens just before they go on the air and we hear screenwriter Johnson’s sparkling dialog coupled with the superb comic timing of Rogers and Allen. The script forces them to be chirpy and pleasant to each other, but their looks and facial expressions drip acid into a hateful stew in a pot they keep stirring.

The story moves on to the situation between Marilyn Monroe and David Wayne, who play Annabel and Jeff Norris. We join them just as Annabel wins the Mrs. Mississippi bathing beauty contest. Annabel’s ambitious manager Duffy (James Gleason) wants to parade the beauty across the south to compete in better pageants, but that means Jeff must stay at home to take care of the couple’s infant son. Soon, of course, the Governor’s letter arrives and changes everything. Of all the couples revealed in this film, Annabel and Jeff Norris seem the most working class, which makes their dilemma seem the most poignant.

The theme of finding true love again reveals itself in the story of Katie and Hector Woodruff (Eve Arden and Paul Douglas), who only communicate the safest details to each other, such as the news that the “Book of the Month Club” book came in the mail today. The letter from the Governor propels Hector into flights of fancy, shown by a montage that includes him wondering what life would be like as a single man.

Louis Calhern performs ably in a funny episode as a rich man caught in a compromising position. His stuffy persona leaves him an easy mark for a con, but the Governor’s letter suddenly gives him a welcome option. The movie wraps up all the couple’s stories by the end, including an episode involving Patsy and Willie Fisher, (Gaynor and Bracken) who expect a child and cannot wait to get married again. Although clearly not on the set at the same time, the cast delivers a very funny film, while director Edmund Goulding provides a fine pace to the various episodes.

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