I Was a Male War Bride (1949)

“Who cares about regulations at a time like this?”

I Was Male War Bride Poster

Synopsis:
Shortly after WWII, a French soldier (Cary Grant) marries an American WAC (Ann Sheridan), but finds he must label himself a “war bride” in order to get into the U.S. with her.

Genres:

Review:
As noted by DVD Savant in his perceptive review, this “lightly amusing comedy” by Howard Hawks — based on Henri Rochard’s autobiography I Was an Alien Spouse of Female Military Personnel Enroute to the United States Under Public Law 271 of the Congress — has “probably… dated more than a lot of other 1950 comedies”, and requires an understanding of its geopolitical “context to become fully functional”. Its primary calling card is the image of Cary Grant in drag — but this only occurs for about 10 minutes late in the film; the bulk of the storyline (once quibbling Grant and Sheridan realize they’re a perfect romantic fit for one another) revolves around Sheridan’s attempts to get her new husband back to the United States with her, coupled with an ongoing “gag” about their inability to consummate their marriage. Fortunately, the script (by Charles Lederer, Hagar Wilde, and Leonard Spigelgass) keeps one engaged even when the premise itself starts to feel somewhat tiresome — and Sheridan’s feisty performance reminds one that she was an underutilized presence in Hollywood. But this one will primarily be of interest to Hawksian completists.

Note: Interestingly, Peary nominates Grant as one of the Best Actors of the Year in his Alternate Oscars — though Grant never even bothers to attempt the requisite French accent for his Belgian character (!), and his performance is really nothing special.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Ann Sheridan as Lt. Catherine Gates
    I Was a Male War Bride Still2
  • Fine direction of an amusing script by Charles Lederer, Hagar Wilde, and Leonard Spigelgass

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended for one-time viewing. Listed as a Cult Movie in the back of Peary’s book.

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One Response to “I Was a Male War Bride (1949)”

  1. Not must-see.

    I had a feeling of dread at the thought of revisiting this film. I had seen it once, years ago, and didn’t care for it much at all. The only memory I had of it was the feeling that it was, indeed, tiresome; one of a handful of Hawks comedies that just don’t play very well.

    Seeing it again… I can concede that it’s a different kind of comedy than what audiences usually expect: it’s humor is often rather dry and light amusement can be found in that. But more to the point is that, yes, the film has become very dated: the navy rule that is the source of the comedy no longer applies – so the film has become quaint at best. ~which might explain why it is now a rather forgotten film, one that is hard to believe would have much of a cult status.

    Hagar Wilde was, of course, the writer of the source material for Hawks’ ‘Bringing Up Baby’. One can guess that Hawks brought Wilde on-board because of the similarly combative nature of the two main characters. (If you pay attention, you can hear in the dialogue a tone that is similar to the battling nature of Grant and Katherine Hepburn in ‘BUB’.)

    Overall, this isn’t, after all, as terrible a film as I recalled – but its one- (or two-) note situation does become repetitive and the humor remains consistently mild (and occasionally labored) throughout.

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