I Was a Male War Bride (1949)
June 28, 2020 10:06 PM - Subscribe

A screwball comedy in which Cary Grant, playing a French captain, spars with and marries an American lieutenant (Ann Sheridan) in post-WWII Europe.

New York Times
That gay old Hollywood practice of shooting a picture "off the cuff," which meant making up the story and the situations as the filming went along, appears to have been the one followed [ . . . ] Not that this mode of construction is incongruous to the brand of farce that is wildly tossed off in this picture when it finally slips into full speed. The illusion of spontaneity that accumulates in the last half is entirely appropriate to the nonsense that glibly and haphazardly occurs. And even a moderate lot of misses with the slapstick flow naturally with the hits.
Wikipedia accurately describes it as a "low key screwball comedy".

Those tempted to watch this to see how Grant tackles a French accent will be disappointed: He avoids embarrassing himself by the most English portrayal of a Frenchman in film history.
posted by mark k (8 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Watched it today for the first time after it came up in a shelter-in-place discussion. (It's available on Prime for a few bucks.)

It's a very typical Grant screwball comedies, I imagine people will like it or not based on their general opinion of the genre. I do like these so I enjoyed it. As is the case in many comedies of the time I think the leading woman gets a better treatment than in many later eras, though obviously not everything holds up. Not strictly a "comedy of remarriage" but it does assert a prior acquaintance of Grant and Sheridan, which always makes it easier for me suspend disbelief over the 48-hour romance being anything more than a fling.

The NYT review explicitly complains about the fact that Sheridan is "getting on." She was 34, Grant was 45.
posted by mark k at 10:23 PM on June 28, 2020 [4 favorites]

I Was a Male War Bride is streaming in the US via Fubo and TCM.
posted by Etrigan at 5:50 AM on June 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

...by the most English portrayal of a Frenchman in film history...

I think Patrick Stewart's Jean Luc Picard might dispute that with you. At least Cary Grant is wearing a French uniform in the beginning of the movie.
posted by seasparrow at 11:36 AM on June 29, 2020 [8 favorites]

I should praise a little, insignificant scene that got me literally guffawing: Grant is trying to find a comfortable spot in a hardbacked chair so he can get some sleep. But he somehow manages to twist and turn and he manages to get about 90% of his body comfortable, except every time he settles down there is one arm stuck at a strange angle so it looks like a disembodied hand floating in front of his face. It's completely artificial of course but looks totally natural and unforced, a bit of physical comedy that changes an utterly cliched scene to a moment of actual comedy.

@Naberius: Interesting. If I had to pick a part that was made up I would have said the inability of the army to handle a male spouse of a soldier, but that was the only part that was true. I guess I should never underestimate idiocy in any bureaucracy.

They changed the profession of the American from "nurse" to something vague in the office of economic something or other, and the fictionalized courtship very much did not put her into the traditional role of caregiver. As I noted earlier I don't think changes in this direction would be as natural just a decade later.
posted by mark k at 12:33 PM on June 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

This comment is a little more serious than the tone of the movie but I've seen it a bunch and this is what I was thinking about when it came on tv this weekend. I was thinking about how it shows how the bureaucracy of war can warp peoples minds and limits the kinds of thoughts they can even form. I was interested in watching how Grant had to figure out how to take each person by the hand and step them through the concept that a woman can be an officer, and a woman officer can fall in love and get married here in France just like all of these men officers did, and that guy needs a way to travel with the group. Outside of the context of war bureaucracy none of this would have been questioned.

In a massive bureaucratic effort like WW2 they needed everyone to be thinking about the same things at the same times and writing the same things down into the same forms and that's what they got. But that's why war hurts us as a species & limits us, because if we all have to be thinking the same things then we can't easily adapt to have new thoughts unless the other person can figure out how to baby step us through it.
posted by bleep at 5:06 PM on June 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

I have severely mixed feelings about this movie, and others Hawks directed with and without Grant that reference some sense of gay/trans perspective. The competing tone of laughing at Grant dressed as a woman and the incongruities of that versus the way Grant's character navigates the situation with all the subsidiary characters who have difficulty reconciling what they see, and the audience "knows" to a more real sense of exclusion faced by those outside accepted social norms of the time, and still, sadly, now.

That Grant himself was gay and Hawks seemed to have "fun" with that in this film and others also gives a uncomfortable feeling of outing involved, which may or may not be deserved depending on how Grant himself took on the task. Hawks later movie, Man's Favorite Sport, I think works within this quandary much better, with Rock Hudson taking on a similar kind of role to that of Grant here, but without being in drag and having the "funny" being so tied to a sense of awkward impropriety. (Hudson plays a "fishing expert" at a major sporting goods store who doesn't actually know how to fish and has to be taught by Paula Prentiss' character.) I guess the deal breaker for me here was that I find the movie much more uncomfortable than funny and finds Hawks difficult, so it's not my cup of tea, but there are some important critics, like the late Robin Wood, who strongly disagree and see Hawks through a much more favorable gay oriented perspective. So mileage really varies.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:36 AM on June 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

I think Patrick Stewart's Jean Luc Picard might dispute that with you. At least Cary Grant is wearing a French uniform in the beginning of the movie.

Star Trek TNG was shot on film, so I think this counts. How fondly does Cary Grant's character think of Shakespeare?
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 12:16 PM on July 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

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