Bluebeard's Eighth Wife

Bluebeard's Eighth Wife is a 1938 Paramount Pictures American romantic comedy film directed and produced by Ernst Lubitsch and starring Claudette Colbert and Gary Cooper. The film is based on the 1921 French play La huitième femme de Barbe-Bleue by Alfred Savoir and the English translation of the play by Charlton Andrews. The screenplay was the first of many collaborations between Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder.[1][2] The film is a remake of the 1923 silent version directed by Sam Wood and starring Gloria Swanson.[3]

Bluebeard's Eighth Wife
Bluebeard's Eighth Wife.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byErnst Lubitsch
Produced byErnst Lubitsch
Written byCharlton Andrews
Screenplay by
Based onLa huitième femme de Barbe-Bleue
by Alfred Savoir
Music by
CinematographyLeo Tover
Edited byWilliam Shea
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • March 23, 1938 (1938-03-23)
Running time
80 minutes
CountryUnited States

The film was 1938's 15th-highest box-office success.[4]


On the French Riviera, wealthy businessman Michael Brandon wants to buy pajamas, but just the tops. When the store refuses to sell the pajamas without the pants, an attractive woman named Nicole offers to buy the bottoms.

At his hotel, Michael has trouble sleeping, so the managers offer him a suite on a higher floor, further away from the sounds of the sea. The suite is occupied by the Marquis de Loiselle, who is two months in arrears. When Michael discovers that Nicole is the daughter of the marquis, he buys a bathtub from the marquis that was supposedly once owned by King Louis XIV. He then pursues Nicole and proposes to her the same day. She turns him down, but eventually changes her mind and accepts.

Nicole is horrified to learn that Michael has been married seven times. She calls off the wedding, much to her father's dismay. Michael explains that he gives each of his wives a prenuptial agreement guaranteeing $50,000 a year for life if they should divorce. He assents to Nicole's demand for twice that amount.

During the couple's honeymoon and later at their home in Paris, Nicole keeps her discontented husband at arm's length. He assumes that she is hoping to obtain a divorce, but this only strengthens his natural tenacity and his determination not to grant her one. It is implied that what she actually wants is to keep him interested by frustrating him so that he will not grow tired of her as he did with the previous seven. After reading Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, Michael tries to follow Petruchio's example, but Nicole proves too strong for him, slapping him back when he slaps her and biting him (then tenderly treating him with iodine) when he spanks her.

Nicole writes anonymous letters to Michael claiming that she has a lover, but Monsieur Pepinard, the private detective whom Michael hires, assures him that the claim is false. Nicole then blackmails Pepinard into finding her a fake lover, a boxer named Kid Mulligan, so that Michael can catch her alone with him. Complications ensue when her friend Count Albert De Regnier picks the wrong time to return a purse that she had left behind and is mistaken for her husband by Kid Mulligan (and knocked out). Michael assumes that Albert is her lover and finally gives her a divorce.

Six months later, Michael has a nervous breakdown. Nicole tries to see him in the sanitarium, but is not allowed in. Michael has been fitted with a straitjacket after spotting her father, who has arranged for her to enter. Nicole tells Michael that she loved him at first sight, but had to break him of his habit of marrying so often. Now that she is financially independent, she explains, he can see that she does not want to remarry him for his money. He frees himself from his straitjacket, advances on her menacingly, then embraces her.



"Here Comes Cookie" by Mack Gordon, sung by Gary Cooper.


New York Times critic Frank Nugent wrote that Gary Cooper was badly miscast as the millionaire.[5]

Variety wrote: "It's a light and sometimes bright entertainment, but gets a bit tiresome, despite its comparatively moderate running time. [...] The Brackett-Wilder scripting is ofttimes bright but illogical and fragile."[6]


  1. ^ Hopp, Glenn (2003). Billy Wilder: The Cinema of Wit 1906-2002. Taschen. p. 19. ISBN 9783822815953.
  2. ^ Eyman, Scott (2000). Ernst Lubitsch: Laughter in Paradise. JHU Press. p. 385. ISBN 0-8018-6558-1.
  3. ^ ATAS/UCLA Television Archives. Study Collection (1981). ATAS-UCLA Television Archives Catalog: Holdings in the Study Collection of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences University of California, Los Angeles, Television Archives. Taylor & Francis US. p. 9. ISBN 0-913178-69-1.
  4. ^ "Claudette Colbert Movies". Ultimate Movie Rankings. Retrieved 2016-10-22.
  5. ^ Frank Nugent (March 24, 1938). "The Screen In Review; Gary Cooper Comes a Cropper in 'Bluebeard's Eighth Wife', at the Paramount--'The Crime of Dr. Hallet' Is Shown at the Rialto At the Rialto". The New York Times.
  6. ^ "Bluebeard's Eighth Wife". Variety. December 31, 1937.

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