Back to my favorite part of the 1940s, the bit where costume designers didn’t get the memo about how “fur is boring this decade.” Father Takes a Wife is from 1941 and quite nicely falls into that period. This was Gloria Swanson’s last film before a nine-year hiatus that would eventually lead to her “comeback” role in Sunset Blvd. This was Swanson at 42, and while not quite the young hottie from her silent film days, she still cuts an impressive figure.
Father Takes a Wife – The Film
While I can’t call this a divorce film, the plot veers close to it. Fred “Senior” Osborne (Adolphe Menjou), a shipping magnate, decides abruptly to get married to actress Leslie Collier (Swanson) and turn the company over to his son, Junior. I don’t really get a lot of films about shipping magnates these days. The marriage is a little rocky as Senior turns out to be the jealous sort, and things don’t get easier when he invites a stowaway Latin singer they met on their honeymoon home with them. Hey, that’s what anyone would have done…
Father Takes a Wife – The Furs
Leslie has quite the wardrobe as a successful actress and soon-to-be trophy wife. Swanson’s Wikipedia entry suggests her early history in the silent film was as the first “clothes horse,” a tradition this film attempts to continue.
In a shot as brief as the fur deserves, Leslie heads off to her farewell performance in this 40’s mink. Thankfully it’s around for only about 5 seconds.
That farewell performance is set in a cold place, as her stage outfit includes… this. Now, I don’t know what ‘this’ is, but I know I like ‘this.’
Gloria Swanson putting on a muff that matches the coat and hat. That is all.
What’s odd about this fur is that I can’t recall seeing anything like it anywhere else. It’s like a mutant fox with extremely long black guard hairs.
We see it on stage in a very brief, extensive shot before she takes it off, leaving only the hat.
Again, this gets a close-up, not suggesting what kind of fur it is. I’m sure someone knows and may help us all out in the comments section. Or everyone will skip reading all this noise and go right to the gallery page, which my analytics suggests is, in fact, the case.
Intercut with the final performance, we see Leslie’s new family on her husband’s side in the audience, including Junior’s wife, Enid (Florence Rice), wearing a white fox fur wrap that is given the attention it deserves after the show.
Enid and Leslie smile at one another. The mystery fur is in the background.
This sequence could be a little longer, but the shots of the white fox are well done.
Returning from the honeymoon cruise, a stowaway in tow, Leslie wears a sizeable dark fur coat.
This one is also a little quick and not as well shot as it should have been.
There’s a decent but quick full view as they all return home. The coloring in the sleeve suggests it may be a fox, but I can’t be 100% sure.
After the aforementioned stowaway gets kicked out of the aforementioned home, he shacks up with Junior and his wife, Enid. Enid takes him in wearing this very full fox jacket.
Not a standard length for the time, but well done, and well shot.
If the stowaway looks vaguely familiar, that’s because it’s Ricky Ricardo, er… Desi Arnaz in an early film role.
This one is a little short in the runtime department but has a lovely variety of furs. I definitely could have used some rewrites to keep them in the frame a little longer, but considering it was 1941, getting this many was impressive enough. There are a couple more foxes on the character of “Aunt Julie,” played by Helen Broderick, who wasn’t quite up to making the cut in the “looking at for any extended period” department. Still, they wouldn’t have done much to pad the runtime, and one of them was that standard 30’s silver fox stole I already dislike. I suppose pairing the two makes sense now.
Fur Runtime: approx 6 minutes
Film Runtime: 79 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 8%