Married Bachelor (1941)
Directed by Edward Buzzell with writing credits for Manuel Seff (story) this Dore Schary (Boys Town (1938)) screenplay is a light somewhat unsatisfying comedy about married life. Given the cast and the subject matter one is left thinking it could have been so much better.
Randy Haven (Robert Young) and his wife Norma (Ruth Hussey The Philadelphia Story (1940)) are con artists who must leave town when the creditors of their phony investment company arrive. She dreams of a more stable honest life which he promises to provide. However though he partners with Cookie Farrar (Sam Levene) and his collection agency the business is really bookmaking e.g. they’re “nickel & dime” bookies. Feeling guilty of his deception to his wife Randy takes a $1000 bet on a 17-1 long-shot from tough guy Johnny Branigan (Sheldon Leonard). When the horse wins Randy tells Cookie he’s not running out this time. They start to examine their list of small time gambler debtors and discover that Professor Ladislaus Milic (Felix Bressart) owes them almost $400 which they hope will satisfy Branigan as a down-payment on his 17 G’s. Though the professor doesn’t have the money he has authored several unpublished manuscripts which he gives to Randy. The thickest book contains a lot of technical information and research about marriage.
Randy manipulates a publisher Eric Santley (Lee Bowman) into buying the book and receives $500. Santley and his marketing group have big plans for the marriage manual: they want to use the attractive Randy to promote it with speeches and do a “Dear Abby”-type radio program. First though they want to make sure that Randy is single which he assures them he is. Unfortunately Norma learns of the deal and the debt to Branigan including the collection agency’s real purpose before Randy can explain things. Furious at him she adopts an unmarried attitude and the name Norma Winters. She also gets a job at a department store selling gloves. Meanwhile after he receives the down-payment Branigan takes Cookie as a down-payment and then assists Randy with convincing the professor to play along so that Randy can earn the rest of what he owes Branigan. This scene involves a gangster to educated person translation bit that’s pretty good if not uncommon in these “B” movies. Naturally Randy gives a speech to a bunch of women at the same department store where his wife works and Norma shows up to ask him delicate questions. Their marriage has become estranged which is further complicated when Santley meets Norma at the speech and begins to court her then seeks her unknowing husband’s advice!
Randy becomes so successful in the role of advice counselor to married women that his secret marriage continues to wane. At a dinner party he discovers that his publisher’s “girl” and his wife are one in the same but handles the situation badly. Though Branigan is happy Norma is not such that she seeks the guidance of the real expert Professor Milic. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what happens in the end.