"The Doctor Takes a Wife" clearly fits the definition of screwball comedy. And this movie is a romp of hilarious scenarios and dialog. As a couple of other reviewers have noted, this is a film made for Cary Grant and Irene Dunne. But, Grant and Dunne couldn't be in all the comedies Hollywood was cranking out at the time. And this movie doesn't suffer a bit for their absence, because Loretta Young and Ray Milland deliver superb performances. Milland's frantically hopping in and out of windows between apartments with such aplomb made me think of Grant and his similar antics in various films.
One other reviewer thought Young didn't fit her part well – because her character, June Cameron was too nasty and unpleasant in the early scenes. Rather, I think she played the part perfectly. We don't have to like a character's persona to have it be right for the role. And in the very opening, that's what sets the stage for the confrontational relationship between the two leads, which is the source of the best humor in the film.
Young played her part just right, as she gradually softened from the hard-nosed, high-strung and strongly opinionated liberated feminist. But, not so fast that we were deprived of a lot of comedy in dialog from her. Milland's Dr. Timothy Sterling is also superb. His character isn't naturally confrontational, so he will make a point and then sit quietly and listen to June's rantings. When she's done, he'll make some observation about a typical case for clinical study, or such. He is an M.D. studying the cause of migraine headaches and in line for a professorship at the college.
The chemistry between Young and Milland is a joy to watch. They must have had tremendous fun together making this film. But, they are not all that there is to the movie, and a fine supporting cast lends a great deal to the story and the humor. The third lead, Reginald Gardiner, is especially good as John Pierce. Gail Patrick is a hoot as Marilynn Thomas, and Edmund Gwenn is delightful as Tim's dad, Dr. Lionel Sterling. The smaller roles were equally good, most adding some comedy.
June's calling Tim by a different scientific term in subsequent scenes is boisterously funny. Following are some of those and other hilarious lines from the film. This is one of the best comedy films ever made with battling dialog and the leads hurling insults right and left. For more of these pithy pearls of put-down, see the Quotes section here on the film's IMDb page.
June, "Will you please relax, my meddling medico."
June, "Don't you yell at me, you microbe hunter."
June, "Well, if that's the way you feel about it, my pathological playmate."
June, "Now you listen to me, my microscopic friend, you might be able to give orders to that barnacle you're engaged to
Tim, "Why, you couldn't lure me out of a burning building."
June, "Look, Johnny. I don't know anything about marriage." John, "Oh, what's that got to do with it? Dante didn't have to go to hell to write his 'Inferno.'"
June, "You know, Johnny and I were discussing only yesterday how quietly repulsive you are." Tim, "Johnny... loves everything about you -- your books, your profits, your apartment, your liquor, your cigarettes."
George, "Have you two had a quarrel?" June, "Yes. Yes, he hit me." George, "You didn't?" June, "Yes, he did." Tim, "Well, I only pushed her." George, "You only pushed her? Tim, I shouldn't have to remind you that this is not the Neolithic age." Tim "Well how would you like it if someone said that your father was a pompous, opinionated old wind bag?" June, "I didn't say that." George, "I would be honest enough to admit that the person was absolutely right." June, "Pop, he's lying. I never said that." George, "I don't care who said it, my dear, it's true. I talk too much. Your mother always said that."
Tim, "Well, gentlemen, as you well know, 75 is the passing grade, and so far you've confined all your passing to the football field."
Tim, "Here's examination question number one. How many bones are there in the human body, Mr. O'Brien?" O'Brien (played by Gordon Jones), "(pause)
Well, uh, there must be dozens." Tim (wincing), "Well, I can't exactly call that wrong. Good luck on Saturday."
June, "You know, a discussion on the mayelin sheath of the cerebrospinal nerve fiber is good any time." Tim, "Where did you pick that up?" June, "Oh, I've been looking through some of our wedding presents."