I Was A Male War Bride Review

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A bureaucratic SNAFU means that French Army captain Henri Rochard has to pose as a woman to return Stateside to his new WAC bride, Catherine Gates.


It was a case of diminishing returns where Howard Hawks, Cary Grant and comedy were concerned, with His Girl Friday, this tepid postwar farce and the laboured Monkey Business successively failing to match the screwball genius of Bringing Up Baby. However, Grant himself wouldn't have agreed, insisting that this was `the best comedy I've ever done'.

Curiously, this far-fetched tale was based on fact, as Belgian nurse Henri Rochard had such a trying time attempting to leave Europe with his American bride that he related his experiences in the story `I Was an Alien Spouse of Female Military Personnel En Route to the United States Under Public Law 271 of the Congress'.  

Grant was initially to be teamed with Ava Gardner, but Hawks insisted on pairing him with Ann Sheridan, whose strong personality and confidence with comedy had earned her the nickname `the Oomph Girl'. He took less trouble over the casting of her roomate, however, by selecting his then-mistress, Marion Marshall. Grant and Sheridan never really hit it off. But it's surprising that the film is as enjoyable as it is, considering the crises that befell its production. With Hollywood costs rising steeply, Fox opted to make the picture in Germany and Britain to release some of the monies frozen during the war. However, the shoot was dogged by poor health. Hawks suffered from an all-over rash, while Sheridan's pleurisy developed into pneumonia and Grant's hepatitis was complicated by jaundice (around 15 weeks were lost, as Grant recouperated and regained the 30lbs he had lost during his illness).  

 He returned to give a courageous performance, although his refusal to attempt a French accent somewhat undermines his characterisation. However, Hawks's decision to play the drag scenes for macho laughs pays off, as Grant is much funnier enduring the discomfort of the WAC uniform than he could ever have been attempting the feminine mannerisms that he had originally spent hours practising. 

Not up there in the Hawkes pantheon, but and effortlessly enjoyable old flick nonetheless.