Saturday, June 21, 2014

I Was a Male War Bride (1949)

Amusing if overlong romantic comedy, directed by Howard Hawks with an uncharacteristically unhurried pace. The first half is standard "battle of the sexes" stuff, with sexual tension brewing between Cary Grant and Ann Sheridan as a French Captain and American Lieutenant, respectively, who fall in love while forced to travel together from Heidelberg to Bad Nauheim. The romantic comedy turns to farce in the second half, as the newlyweds attempt to travel back to the U.S., with Grant - as the male war bride - forced to deal with mass confusion from the army bureaucracy, the perpetual inability to find a place to sleep, and the seemingly endless delay of his wedding night.

It's a good premise, but Grant and Sheridan lack the chemistry necessary to really make the most of it, and the energy frequently lags, emphasizing the shapelessness of the script (by Hagar Wilde, Charles Lederer and Leonard Spigelgass). By the time Grant finally shows up in drag in order to board the ship home, the film is nearly over, and it only hints at some of the comic possibilities to be had with the cross-dressing angle. Mining that aspect for further material, along with some judicious trimming, particularly of the first half, could have resulted in a tighter and more solid comedy. As it is, the premise feels dragged out while failing to reach its full potential, and is ultimately too predictable in its execution to provide many surprises at each new turn.

Not one of Hawks' better comedies, but still an entertaining enough diversion.

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