Before telly, people went to the pictures all the time. There were double bills, with newsreels and shorts. Cliff-hanging serials preceded the main features during kids' matinees. Everyone smoked on screen and in the cinema. Back seats were for snogging, front seats for cheering the white hats when they rode to the rescue.

In Hollywood, the studios churned out product like tins of beans. Scores of writers were herded into script factories, where they drank themselves to death, or massacred each other's work on what became known as "the rewrite". Nunnally Johnson was the exception to this rule. He didn't take kindly to producers "pecking around" his scripts. Either they took them as written, or they took off.

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He was a veteran of 45 films, including The Grapes Of Wrath, when he penned We're Not Married!, a typical, light-hearted portmanteau rom-com. Except it's not typical because of who wrote it and Johnson, with co-scribe Dwight Taylor, has a biting wit that takes a cutthroat razor to sentimentality, relishing life's little ironies.

Due to the incompetence of a small town justice of the peace (Victor Moore), five couples discover three years later that their marriage is null and void. How they respond is the crux of the comedy and it's not what you expect. In fact, the film could be described as a savage satire on the institution itself.

Ginger Rogers and Fred Allen are radio stars who front the popular daily Breakfast With The Glad Gladwyns show. In private, they barely tolerate each other. "We can't talk it over at home," Fred tells a colleague. "We don't speak there."

Marilyn Monroe has just won the Mrs Mississippi beauty contest when her husband (David Wayne) receives the news that they are no longer Mr and Mrs. He is delighted because it means he can stop playing nanny to their child while she travels the state on promotional tours.

Millionaire Louis Calhern is being taken to the cleaners by his gold digging wife (perfectly cast Zsa Zsa Gabor) and her rapacious lawyer. When the letter arrives, informing him that the union between them never officially existed, his revenge is sweet (and funny).

Mitzi Gaynor, Eddie Bracken, Paul Douglas and Eve Arden make up the remaining couples and only Mitzi and Eddie want to tie the knot again for real, or, in their case, for their unborn baby.

As an example of Marilyn's early work, now released in a DVD collection with Love Nest, Let's Make It Legal and As Young As You Feel, all made the year before, We're Not Married! shows her off as a starlet most definitely on the rise.

Reviewed on: 07 Oct 2004
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A bureaucratic cockup results in five married couples becoming unmarried.

Director: Edmund Goulding

Writer: Nunnally Johnson, Dwight Taylor

Starring: Ginger Rogers, Fred Allen, Victor Moore, Marilyn Monroe, David Wayne, Eve Arden, Paul Douglas, Eddie Bracken, Mitzi Gaynor, Louis Calhern, Zsa Zsa Gabor

Year: 1950

Runtime: 86 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US


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