December 10, 2005

My review of I Was a Male War Bride on the

Filed under: My reviews — movie_critic @ 1:01 am

Howard Hawks’s “I Was a Male War Bride”(1949) is one of the most funny movies with Cary Grant I’ve ever seen. As a matter of fact, it is one of the most hilarious movies ever. The story is set in a postwar Germany, with ruins on the background, but the life seemingly coming more or less to normal. Henri Rochard (Cary Grant) is a French Captain from the French Economic mission, who is often supported in his missions by the US Army Lieutenant Catherine Gates (Ann Sheridan), a sharp-tongued female interpreter. From the very first scene in the movie, when Henri finds Catherine in her office to (quite publicly) return her very personal belongings he’d gotten by mistake on their previous trip, one can see a certain level of attraction, masked by a fierce, but very funny bickering on the subject of their previous work together.

As fate would have it, for his new mission Henri is slated to go with Catherine again. The news does not seem to bode well with Henri, who seemed to have had a certain share of mishaps during their previous missions together, which he fully attributed to Catherine. However, he does not have much of a choice and off they go on a search for a skilled lens grafter in Bad Neuheim to save the poor man from the clutches of the black market and put his services to the benefit of society. Catherine’s no-nonsense attitude does indeed put poor Henri into some very precarious situations from time to time, but it’s not intentional, and Henri gradually comes to realize that. What’s more, they grow more and more attached to each other during that trip until they realize that they love each other and want to get married.

That’s where the most oddball part of the movie begins. Since Catherine is still an officer of the US Army, the marriage has to be approved through the Army channels, causing a lot of consternation and anxiety to the two love birds and really testing their intent to marry. With the marriage finally happening (three times!) life should be full of roses for the newlyweds, but the Army had to have a final laugh and Catherine is ordered to go back to the States right away. Henri is an alien and it would be a matter of a long time before he gets all the papers allowing him to join her in the US.

They are running around the bureaucratic offices, trying to secure Henri’s departure with her, but it’s all in vain, until one of the officials gives them an idea to use the congressional Act granting wider opportunities for the war brides to enter the United States. The only problem is Henri’s not a woman! They do manage to get him the war bride status, which leads to more hilarious situations – like poor Henri filling in the questionnaire, where one of the standard questions is whether Mrs. So-and So is pregnant and how many months along!

All this finally out of the way exhausted Henri and Catherine reach after all the last obstacle on their trip to the States – the Navy guards are not letting Henri on board the ship and the ship is just about to leave. In a sudden stroke of inspiration, Catherine disguises Henri in the uniform of the Army nurse and they sneak on board of the ship past the sailors. They do get caught eventually, after a hysterical episode when Henri is called upon to fulfill the nurse’s duty during childbirth, but the ship is already at sea and nothing can be done about it. They do get to see the Statue of Liberty together after all.

The DVD picture quality is not all that great, just tolerable – apparently they could not do much restoration on it. The special features include the usual Still Gallery, the trailers, Cary Grant Theater feature – about his other famous films – and a couple of short mute documentary reels on the making of the movies and its first release.

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