Cecil Parker and Rex Harrison in The Constant Husband (1955)

The Seven Wives of Charles Hathaway

Charles Hathaway (Rex Harrison) wakes up to music coming in through the open balcony doors of a hotel room and when he looks in a mirror he has no idea who he is or where he is let alone how he got there. As heads out to where the fishermen are tending their nets on the beach he initially thinks they are speaking Dutch until they explain he is in Wales. After collapsing he ends up in a hospital where he is seen by psychiatrist Professor Llewellyn (Cecil Parker) who helps him piece together his life leading him to Monica (Kay Kendall) an attractive wife in a large house. Unfortunately for Charles it doesn't stop there as he learns that he has another six wives and is in fact a cad who has been playing attractive women for their money. Disgusted by who he was before he suffered the memory loss Charles decides the best place for him is in prison for bigamy. The question is will his seven wives agree?

As a fan of British comedies from the past I always look forward to movies which involve Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder as they were behind some of the best British comedies during the 50s and 60s. Unfortunately whilst "The Constant Husband" has a decent cast and a good idea the end result comes up short as it struggles on where to go once the set up is in place.

Kay Kendall in The Constant Husband (1955)

The sad thing is that "The Constant Husband" starts of so well with the wonderfully creative and amusing opening with Rex Harrison selling the bewilderment of Charles not knowing who he is. The look on his face as he stares in to the mirror is priceless and then with everyone speaking Welsh around him is just as amusing. And this amusement and intrigue continues when Charles meets Monica his wife who is a photographer as we have these nice subtle touches such as Charles' refusal for her to show a photo of him in her exhibitions whilst one of the models flirts with him, it is nicely suggestive that there is more than meets the eye to Charles Hathaway.

The thing is that whilst there is no denying that "The Constant Husband" is amusing as Charles discovers that he has several wives it becomes repetitive and struggles with where to go. It is a shame as the set up is so nicely constructed with lots of subtle clues to Charles not being what he seems from his regular trips away to his learning that the mansion he lives in with Monica is hers having inherited it. It is also a shame that the movie stars Rex Harrison as whilst he is good during those opening scenes he becomes repetitive the longer the movie goes on and lacks the comedic range to give the movie the variation it needs.

What this all boils down to is that "The Constant Husband" is fun and has a good idea but it is one of those British comedies which doesn't have the legs to last the entire movie or the sharpness of comedy to make it come to life.