We’re Not Married: a 1950s Comedy about Marriage

Anyone in the mood to poke some fun at marriage will enjoy this delightful comedy from the 1950s. Somewhat ahead of its time, this classic film has been called by reviewer Bret Fetzer as: “one of the more gleefully cynical snipes ever aimed at that fundamental institution.”

We're Not Married

Six couples are married in Gretna Green between Christmas Eve and New Year by newly-appointed Justice of the Peace Melvin Bush (Victor Moore). But two years later it is revealed that as Bush’s appointment only begun in the New Year, all six marriages are invalid. Each couple then receives a letter about the mistake, with the freedom to marry each other again…or not. And so goes the comedic premise, legal accuracies aside.

Ginger Rogers & Fred Allen as Witty Couple

Not just a stale portrait of typical married life, this film has fun presenting the variety of five marital situations. Each couple is so different from the next that the viewer hardly gets bored.

Ginger Rogers and Fred Allen set the witty tone with their story. Radio talkshow hosts Ramona (Ginger Rogers) and Steve Gladwyn (Fred Allen) marry for business reasons over love. Tying the knot means a chance at a $5,000-a-week Mr. and Mrs. radio job. So they marry hastily on Christmas Eve, by Melvin Bush, to the carollers’ tune of ‘Silent Night’. This opening suggests that underneath all the witty cynicism, this film actually celebrates the sanctity of love, symbolised by marriage.

Years later, Mr. and Mrs. Gladwyn struggle out of very separate beds, oblivious to each other. The magic of marriage has disappeared. Their rude wit heightens the comedy when they go on air as the ‘happy couple’. Armed with fake smiles and crazy ad slogans, the Gladwyns also have to work with all sound effects created live in the studio. Their machine-gun repartee may have been cute at the beginning (“White Fang” and “Panther Girl”) but the affection has certainly turned sour.

Marilyn Monroe & Other Cast

Viewers who tire of the acerbic humour have some eye candy in the next story. Marilyn Monroe appears briefly as curvaceous Mrs. Norris, a beauty pageant queen. Her husband (David Wayne) would rather she hang out the diapers. It is ambiguous if the letter is a blessing, but both seem over the moon on regaining a kind of freedom of choice in their un-marriage. Monroe’s appearance here is short and sweet, though this movie is often sold as part of the Monroe DVD box set.

The next two anecdotes are the funniest. Paul Douglas and Eve Arden are the mundane Mr. & Mrs. Woodruff. The letter sends the husband into nostalgic fantasies of his ex-girlfriends. But a twist at the end saves this story from becoming clichéd, helped along by Paul Douglas’ charisma.


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