|I Was a Male War Bride|
|Directed by||Howard Hawks|
|Screenplay by||Charles Lederer|
|Based on||"Male War Bride Trial to Army"|
Baltimore Sun 1947
by Henri Rochard
|Produced by||Sol C. Siegel|
|Edited by||James B. Clark|
|Music by||Cyril J. Mockridge|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$4.1 million (US/ Canada rentals) |
I Was a Male War Bride is a 1949 comedy film directed by Howard Hawks and starring Cary Grant and Ann Sheridan.
The film was based on "Male War Bride Trial to Army", a biography of Henri Rochard (pen name of Roger Charlier), a Belgian who married an American nurse.
The film is about French Army officer Henri Rochard (Grant) who must pass as a war bride in order to go back to the United States with Women's Army Corps officer Catherine Gates (Sheridan).
In Heidelberg in post-World War II Allied-occupied Germany, French Army Captain Henri Rochard is given the task of recruiting a highly skilled lens maker named Schindler. He is assigned American Lieutenant Catherine Gates as his driver, much to their mutual discomfort (arising from several prior clashes). The only available transportation is a motorcycle which, due to Army regulations, only Catherine is allowed to drive; Henri has to ride in the sidecar. After several mishaps, the constantly quarreling couple arrive at their destination, Bad Nauheim.
At the hotel, bothered by back pain, Catherine warily accepts Henri's offer of a back rub. When she falls asleep, he tries to leave her room, but the exterior door handle falls off, trapping him inside. He spends an uncomfortable night in a chair. In the morning, she refuses to believe his story. Unknown to him, the innkeeper's wife has replaced the exterior knob, so when he tells Catherine to see for herself how the door will not open, it does. Eventually, the innkeeper's wife comes to the room, forcing Henri to hide on the ledge outside the window. The innkeeper's wife explains everything to Catherine, but not before Henri falls off the ledge.
Later, Henri goes undercover to search for Schindler, now working in the black market. He refuses to let Catherine help him and tells her that if she sees him to pretend she does not know him. The black market is raided by the authorities, and he is rounded up with everyone else. When he asks her to vouch for his identity, she obeys his earlier order not to reveal that she knows him. While he is in jail, she finds Schindler, who is happy to leave Germany and ply his trade in France. Later, she apologizes to a furious Henri, and by the time they return to Heidelberg, they have fallen in love.
Red tape forces Henri and Catherine to be married first in a civil ceremony before they can each have their choice of ceremony: Army chaplain (Catharine) and church (Henri). Before they can consummate their marriage, she is ordered to report immediately to headquarters in the morning; her unit has been alerted they are about to be shipped back to the United States. They subsequently learn that the only way Henri can get a visa is under the War Brides Act as the spouse of an American soldier. After many misunderstandings, he is given permission to accompany her, but circumstances and Army regulations conspire to keep them from spending the night together.
When they try to board the transport ship, Navy sailors do not believe that Henri is a war "bride". He is forced to dress as a female Army nurse to get aboard. The deception works, but once underway, his disguise is discovered and he is arrested. Catherine manages to straighten out the situation, and they finally have some privacy - in the ship's brig.
Filming began on September 28, 1948 and lasted more than eight months due to a variety of illnesses contracted by cast members and crew. Sheridan contracted pleurisy that developed into pneumonia, suspending shooting for two weeks. Hawks broke out in unexplained hives all over his body. Grant came down with hepatitis complicated by jaundice, and production was shut down for three months, until Grant recovered and regained around 30 pounds. When screenwriter Charles Lederer was ill, his friend Orson Welles wrote part of a short chase scene as a favor to him.: 404 The delay in production pushed the budget over $2 million.
Filming took place primarily in Heidelberg, Germany, London at Shepperton Studios, and Los Angeles at the 20th Century Fox studios. King Donovan, Charles B. Fitzsimons, Robert Stevenson, and Otto Waldis all shot scenes for this film, but all of them were ultimately deleted.
The film played Grauman's Chinese Theatre for two weeks starting August 19, 1949. Its New York premiere was on August 26, 1949, at the Roxy Theatre. The opening was originally scheduled for Radio City Music Hall, but filming delays placed the opening in conflict with the Music Hall's schedule.
Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote a generally positive review, finding that a "tediously long time" was spent setting up the plot but that the film's best scenes were "convulsingly zany stuff". Variety was also mostly positive, calling the film "a smash combo of saucy humor and slapstick", though it thought that the story had "trouble finding a point at which to end." Harrison's Reports called it "An hilariously funny sophisticated comedy ... The direction is bright and snappy, and both Grant and Sheridan do very good work, romping through the farcical situations in a highly amusing way." Richard L. Coe of The Washington Post wrote that there were "a good many laughs" in the film, though he found too many of the comedic situations to consist of "the obvious worked to death". Philip Hamburger of The New Yorker was negative, writing, "One cannot blame Miss Sheridan for the accumulated inanities to which she is subjected (the antics in this film are too childish to bear enumeration), but she does as little with them as humanly possible."
The film holds a score of 79% on review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes based on 11 out of 14 surveyed critics giving it a positive review.
The film grossed over $4.5 million, making it 20th's biggest earner of 1949. It was also Howard Hawks' 3rd highest grosser to that time, behind only Sergeant York (1941) and Red River (1948).