Howard Hawks was a director who put his mark on every genre of film
that he touched. Not content to stay in one area, Hawks directed
popular and influential westerns (Rio Bravo, El Dorado,) war movies
(Sergeant York,) film noir (Big Sleep,) gangster films (Scarface,)
and even science fiction (he produced and was an uncredited director on
The Thing From Another World.) But the one genre that he is
associated closest with, at least in my mind, is comedy. He made,
arguably, the first screwball comedy, Twentieth Century, in 1934.
In 1938 he directed the classic Bringing up Baby with Katherine
Hepburn and Cary Grant. The following year he used Cary Grant again in
another comedy, probably the best screwball ever committed to film, His
As a genre, screwball comedies only lasted through the depression.
As the US entered WW II they died out for the most part. But even
after most of Hollywood turned theri backs on the genre, Hawks couldn't
resist the allure of making another one, 1949's I Was A Male War Bride.
I Was a Male War Bride stars Cary Grant as Captain Henri Rochard
of the French army. With only one week left in his enlistment, he is assigned
to work with Lt. Catherine Gates (Ann Sheridan.) Unfortunately, they
can't stand each other and bicker at every opportunity. Their mission,
supposedly a simple affair, is filled with comic mishaps in which Grant
usually ends up getting into trouble. But before long Henri and Catherine
realize that they love each other and set out to get married.
Wading through the military paper work is a hassle, but it pales in
comparison to the hoops they have to jump through in order to get Henri
back to the US. Since he does not have a job or any means of supporting
himself, he cann't go to America through the regular channels. There
is a loop hole though. Since he married an American service person
he is eligible to go to the states as a 'war bride.' The rest of
the movie focus on Cary Grant trying to convince various clerks that he
is: 1) a male, and 2) the spouse of an American officer.
As far as screwball comedies go, I Was a Male War Bride is a
solid entry, but not one of the best. The movie does have a lot of verbal
humor and innuendo. When Catherine's friends are gossiping about
how badly Henri had bruised her once in the past, one of them chimes in
"He could leave marks on me anytime. I'd bring the stick."
While there are a lot of hilarious gags in the film, most of them come
early in the movie, before Grant and Sheridan fall in love. After
that point, about half way through, the jokes are more about military efficiency,
or lack there of, and are a little dated.
I realize that you can't analyze a comedy like this one too deeply or
it falls apart, but there were a couple of aspects I had trouble overlooking.
The whole gag of a couple who hates each other falling in love is a staple
of screwball comedies. It usually stretches credibility a little
but in this case I just couldn't swallow it. There wasn't any reason
for them to be attacked to each other, and it seemed like something that
was just thrown in to jump start the plot.
The characterization was a little off too. Cary Grant came across
as whiney and incompetent, and Ann Sheridan appeared just plain mean.
The couple had very little screen chemistry which probably accounts for
a lot of the movies failings. I just never felt like these two people
hated, or loved, each other as much as the dialog was telling me they did.
Beautifully filmed on location in Germany, the direction and camera
work was up to Hawks usual high standards. The country scenery was
wonderful, but the city scenes, with the still bombed out German cities
was very interesting to see.
Though this is not Hawks greatest film, nor his funniest, it is still
a funny and entertaining movie which is well worth seeing.
The DVD has both mono and stereo audio tracks, as well as English and
Spanish subtitles. The sound was very good, especially for a film
this old. There was no hiss or crackles that can be associated
with an analog master, and the sound effects and dialog were properly balanced.
Overall, the video quality was very good, but there were a couple of
issues I had with the disc. The main complaint is that there was
a little too much digital noise reduction used, and that caused a lot of
the scenes that had wide fields of one shade (such as the sky) to appear
grainy. This wasn't due to film grain, it would show up just as often
in light and dark areas. There are a few specks of dirt on the print,
but these are minor.
On the plus side, the contrast was very good, and the image detail was
excellent. The edges were very sharp, and not soft and blurry.
There were no reel change markings either. Though not a perfect
transfer, a very good looking disc.
This disc has a still gallery featuring candid photos of the cast and
crew while shooting this picture. This is one of the better galleries
I've seen. Often they are frame from the movie, or posed publicity
pictures that don't really interest me, but these pictures show a very
small slice of what it was like on the set, and were fun to see.
Also included are five minutes of raw newsreel footage. All the
newsreels I've seen are have narration over silent pictures, and this footage
is silent too. I assume that it, and just about all newsreel film,
was shot that way. It includes images of the cast and crew filming
the movie, and meeting Army VIPs while in the set. A majority of
the time is taken up with views of promotion posters and ads in Germany
for the premier, and the audience at the first showing of the film.
A very interesting extra.
There are also trailers for Cary Grant movies: I Was a Male
War Bride, An Affair to Remember, Kiss Them for Me, Monkey Business, and
People Will Talk
A good comedy with a few flaws, but none of them fatal. Cary Grant
does his usual wonderful job and Ann Sheridan is suitable. Though
the laughs do slow a bit in the second half, the first part is hilarious.