Cast & Crew
The employees of couturier J. J. Benson and Company learn on Christmas Eve that their boss has fired a worker of five years for being married. Because of this store policy, publicity man Fred Chambers and secretary Joan Keating have kept their marriage a secret for two years. The couple has also forgone Christmas gifts to save money for a baby, though their baby fund is constantly being drained by the mooching of their uncle George. Fred insists that they should have a child anyway, but Joan refuses to consider one until they are financially secure. Ralph Vivian Benson, the playboy son of J. J. Benson, is forced by his mother to go to work at the shop as "manager of exploitation," and Joan is made his secretary. Weeks later, Fred is upset because J. J. refuses to listen to his new marketing ideas, while Ralph makes Joan work late each night. After Joan pitches Fred's ideas to Ralph, Fred's mother discovers another of her son's business blunders, prompting Ralph to offer Fred's ideas as his own. Ralph, who has fallen for Joan during his four months on the job, tells her about the reformation of his playboy uncle after marriage and how she might do the same for him. Later that night, Joan is forced by J. J. to model lingerie for a customer. She is such a success that J. J. orders her to take the buyer out to dinner. Joan finally arrives at home at two o'clock in the morning with a drunken Ralph in tow, forcing Fred to hide out on the window ledge. Back at the office, Fred learns that Joan has been given a $10 raise for giving Ralph his perfume idea, which causes a family riff. Later, Fred wins the raffle at a movie theater, and his neighbor, Milo Everett, calls and tells him that he has three minutes to collect his winnings. Fred and Joan rush to the theater in their nightclothes, but they arrive too late and end up being arrested for indecent exposure. Ralph later proposes to Joan, but she refuses, telling him she is in love with someone else. J. J. asks Joan why she rejected Ralph, then sees Fred's photograph on Joan's end table. The next day, Fred is fired. Depressed, Fred then goes to a local bar and loses all the baby money in a crap game. Upon learning this, Joan leaves him and files for divorce. Fred then takes a dangerous publicity job in China in an effort to replace the lost money, and he and a drunken Milo wreck havoc on his old employer with a pair of skunks. After their arrest, Fred tells J. J. about his secret marriage and berates her for her tyrannical ways. J. J. warns Joan of Fred's foolish plans and offers to help her win her husband back. When Joan finds their "stork" bank in his luggage, she realizes that Fred still loves her. She then begs him to stay, but he refuses. When Fred tries to leave in Milo's car, J. J. rams him with her limousine. The couple finally makes up, and when Uncle George sends a telegram asking for $200, because his wife is having a baby, Fred sends the response: "So is mine."
Bernard B. Brown
R. A. Gausman
Harold H. Macarthur
Henry C. Rogers
H. J. Salter
The working titles of this film were And Baby Makes Three, Let's Have a Baby and Married Every Night. This picture was one of the first "package" films produced in the 1940s. According to information found in the Charles K. Feldman papers at the AFI Library, the film was made under a four-way partnership between actress Joan Blondell, her husband, actor Dick Powell, producer-director-writer Leigh Jason and the Famous Artists Corp., a subsidiary of the Feldman-Blum Corp. Under this agreement, the film was to be produced by Universal, with none of the "package" partners receiving any salary until the picture was released. The partnership was later to receive fifty percent of the film's net, but this amount was not to include a twenty-seven-and-one-half percent distribution fee paid to Universal from the film's gross. The first $60,000 of this net was to be paid directly to Blondell and Powell, with the next $30,000 being split evenly between Jason and Feldman-Blum. The remaining monies owed the partnership were to be split in the following manner: fifty percent to Blondell and Powell, with Jason and Feldman-Blum receiving twenty-five percent each. According to Variety, Charles K. Feldman "functioned through the preliminaries and shooting as advisory producer," though he received no screen credit.
The Feldman papers show that writers Horace Jackson and Grant Garrett signed an agreement with Leigh Jason in April 1940, stating that they would be paid $15,000 upon the sale of their script. This agreement was canceled under a second agreement between the writers and Feldman-Blum, which stipulated that the writers be paid $5,000 upon the sale of the script. The two writers were finally paid $1,000 for their work, based on a third agreement with Feldman-Blum, dated November 5, 1940, which also gave outright ownership of the property to Feldman-Blum. Feldman-Blum then used the script to secure their position in the four-way partnership. These papers also state that writer William Hanemann "waived" all rights to an original screen story for $200 on January 27, 1941 and that writer Joseph Anthony was paid $900 in July 1940 for his uncredited work on the screenplay; it has not been determined, however, if any of these writers' work was used in the released film. These papers further indicate that Charles Feldman hired Regina Crewe to do publicity for the film upon its release. According to Hollywood Reporter, Leigh Jason also hired Henry C. Rogers to do publicity and exploitation for the film.
Hollywood Reporter production charts include Hobart Cavanaugh in the cast, but his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. While Variety reported that the film was produced on a budget of $160,000, a Universal memo of June 3, 1941, found in the Feldman papers, indicates that the final budget was actually $178,000. The Feldman papers note that, as of May 1, 1948, the film had grossed $309,923.24 in the United States, with a worldwide gross of $545,087.37. Lee Bowman was borrowed from M-G-M for the production. Model Wife was the tenth and final film in which Joan Blondell and Dick Powell appeared together; the couple was divorced in July 1945. Blondell's sister Gloria also appeared in the picture in the minor role of "Gloria." Powell and Blondell reprised their roles in a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast on May 19, 1941.