Silence in court, calls the judge (Edgar Buchanan), even though he's the one making the noise, and the couple who have brought the case up approach the bench. They are Nick Arden (James Garner) and his fiancée Bianca (Polly Bergen), and they wish him to marry them, only there's a snag in that Nick's still married. He explains to the judge that his wife, Ellen (Doris Day) has been lost at sea these past five years, and he and his family believe her to be dead so can the judge declare her as such and then free Nick and Bianca up to be wed? The judge thinks this is highly irregular, but doesn't have a problem with complying with their wishes, all of them unaware that Ellen has just arrived at the city docks...
If that sounds convoluted, so does the story behind Move Over, Darling which began its screen life as a vehicle for Cary Grant and Irene Dunne back in the nineteen-forties under the title My Favourite Wife. Although inferior to the movie it was cashing in on, the Grant/Dunne classic The Awful Truth, it was bright enough to be well recalled, and contained a great premise so it was natural it would be revived some time down the line, as it was here. Except this wasn't meant to be a Doris Day movie, it was meant to star Marilyn Monroe and be called Something's Got to Give, but that production hit disaster when she was found dead shortly after filming began. Her leading man Dean Martin couldn't imagine making this without her.
Therefore he was out, and a whole new cast was assembled, after a rewrite to suit Doris's screen persona, teaming her once again with her The Thrill of It All co-star James Garner, surely a more fitting replacement for Grant than Martin would have been. Anyway, there was great interest in this project after all the publicity it had received, and whether it was Day's legions of fans or curiosity seekers wondering what Marilyn would have made of it, this was a very big hit. It's tempting to regard remakes as essentially a step down from the originals in quality, but actually, although there were some jokes faithfully recreated and an overdose of sentimentality whenever Nick and Ellen's daughters were wheeled on, this was as funny a movie for this screen pair as the forties effort had been for theirs.
Some bits generated similar big laughs, like the reveal of Ellen's companion on the island she had been stranded on to be not the nerdy guy she claimed but he-man Chuck Connors (like Garner, he had made his name in television before the movies beckoned) who is acrobatically diving into a pool to Nick's amazement. Others were tailored to Day's wholesome image, such as the ridiculousness of her posing as a Swedish masseuse (that accent!) to inveigle her way into her old home and confront Nick about his failure to admit to Bianca what the situation really is, a state of affairs which lasts practically until the final ten minutes of the story. Thelma Ritter was always welcome, and here showed up as Nick's mother with maid troubles and the instigator of the truth coming out.
But there was a very good cast backing up Day and Garner, including familiar faces as John Astin as a cheerful to a fault insurance man, Don Knotts as the meek stand-in Ellen tries to pass off as Connors' character (getting a real zinger with the word "Thursday") and Fred Clark as the hotel manager horrifed that Nick has apparently checked in twice with two different women, which indeed he has. With material such as this carefully honed to the stars' appeal, it was no surprise to see them all working so well together, Garner especially well-cast from his look of incredulity as seeing Day just as the lobby elevator doors are closing to the more physical business as when Ellen manages to go through a car wash with the top of her convertible down, thereby soaking them both. Yes, it was deeply silly, laboured in places and didn't have the courage of its naughty premise's convictions, but if you wished to relax with an easy-to-watch comedy that wasn't going to tax you, and every so often surprise the viewer with a solidly amusing line or three, this was ideal. Great theme song, too. Music by Lionel Newman.