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"I Was a Male Warbride"

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"I Was a Male Warbride"

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Character's Name: Captain Henri Rochard
Release Date:  September 2, 1949
Director:  Howard Hawks
Studio:  20th Century Fox
Running Time: 105 minutes

Cast: Cary Grant (Henri Rochard), Ann Sheridan (Lt. Catherine Gates), Marion Marshall (Wac), Randy Stuart (Wac), William Neff (Capt. Jack Rumsey), Eugene Gericke (Tony Jewitt), Ruben Wendorf (Innkeeper's Assistant), Lester Sharpe (Waiter), John Whitney (Trumble), Ken Tobey (Seaman), Robert Stevenson (Lieutenant), Alfred Linder (Bartender), David McMahon (Chaplain), Joe Haworth (Shore Patrol)

- by Zoë Shaw
Henri is a French captain and Catherine his assistant, an American WAC. They fall in love and get married. Catherine wants to return to America, but Henri will only be permitted immediate entry to the states if he becomes a "war bride". Then the fun starts!

- by Donna Moore
In this wonderful film which is based on a true story, and set in Germany just at the end of WWII, Cary Grant plays slightly cranky, but ever so charming French Army officer Henri Rochard. Ann Sheridan plays the American Army Lieutenant Catherine Gates who is sent on several assignments with him for the French Economic Mission.

They have a seemingly hate/hate relationship (on a previous occasion she pushes him into a vat of blue dye - in fact some part of him is still blue, but we are not told which part!)

In true screwball comedy fashion they set off on a motorbike on their mission and it is only after they end up in the middle of a haystack that they admit their true feelings.

Having decided to get married, they discover that they are tied up in a whole roll of military red tape, and have to forego their wedding night to travel back to the States. BUT - the only way Henri can gain entry to the States is as a warbride - well, you can imagine the comic possibilities to be made out of that one!

He is unable to get on the boat until he dresses up as a female American Army officer, complete with a very fetching bob made out of a horse's tail. He makes a horrible woman, but oh what a gorgeous man!

I loved this film. It is a brilliant, sparkling comedy that leaves you with a big smile on your face for ages afterwards. The barbed banter between Cary Grant and Ann Sheridan is spot on. Some of my favourite scenes - Henri trapped in Catherine's bedroom and how awkward and uncomfortable he looks trying to sleep on the chair (he never seems to be able to get a decent bed for the night!), the scene where he is filling out the form which is patently designed for female warbrides - the question "Any female trouble?" is met with a terse "Nothing but, sergeant"!

Oh, it was so good, I'm off to watch it all over again!

VARIETY Film Review - August 10, 1949
- by "Stal"
- submitted by Barry Martin
"I Was a Male Warbride" is 20th-Fox's latest entry in the sophisticated comedy sweepstakes. Basically a bedroom farce in military dress, the picture is well-stocked with the mature dialog and situations which are bound to get it not only laughs but also tremendous word-of-mouth. That, coupled with Cary Grant and An Sheridan for the marquee, makes it in a cinch boxoffice winner.

Scripting trio of Charles Lederer, Leonard Spigelgass and Hagar Wilde translated Henri Rochard's ofttimes risqué yarn almost literally to the screen. Result is a smash combo of saucy humor and slapstick.

Title describes the story perfectly. Grant is a French army officer who, after the war, marries Miss Sheridan, playing a WAC officer. From then on it's a tale of Grant's attempts to get back to the U.S. with his wife by joining a contingent of war brides. Plot forms a neat background for the comedic talents of the two stars and they sock across both the situations and the dialog. Film was caught at a sneak preview in a New York nabe house, where the laughs came so hard and fast that many of the lines were lost.

Picture's chief failing, if it can be called that in view of the frothy components, is that the entire production crew, from scripters to director Howard Hawks and the cast, were apparently so intent on getting the maximum in yocks that they overlooked the necessary characterizations. Despite his French nationality, for example, Grant is completely familiar with American slang; yet later in the story he stumbles over "Massachusetts." Fuller detailing of his background somewhere along the line might have explained that. Film's impact, as a result, remains on the surface; the deeper emotions are hardly scratched, and never penetrated.

Story, in addition, seems to have trouble finding a point at which to end. Although it seldom drags, the script halts several times and then resumes for a fresh start on a slightly modified tack. Film picks up the two stars on a postwar mission inside Germany. Despite a previous antagonism, their forced proximity naturally leads to romance and they marry. When Miss Sheridan gets her sailing orders, they find all the immigration quotas filled, leaving Grant's only chance to accompany her home the "war bride" twist. Army regulations prevent them from consummating their marriage night after night until finally, after considerable skirmishing with Army brass and red tape and the accepted diplomatic amenities, they finally get together on the boat.

Story was filmed for the most part in Germany, until illness of the stars and several of the supporting players forced their return to Hollywood, where the remaining interiors were lensed. Illness, however, did not hamper the cast's cavortings. Grant and Miss Sheridan, carrying most of the film, display some of their best comedic thesping yet. Supporting players get little chance to shine, although Marion Marshall, as Miss Sheridan's sidekick, and Randy Stuart, as a naive WAC from the south, manage to score.

Hawks' directorial finesse is evident throughout, as are the fine production techniques of Sol C. Siegel. Most notable, of course, are the authentic German backgrounds - those bombed-out cities could never have been duplicated in Hollywood. Film is tightly-knit and well-paced but might have been trimmed from its 105-minute running time with little loss. 

NEW YORK TIMES Film Review - August 27, 1949
- by Bosley Crowther
- submitted by Barry Martin
That gay old Hollywood practice of shooting a picture "off the cuff," which meant making up the story and the situations as the filming went along, appears to have been the one followed by Howard Hawks and Twentieth Century-Fox in banging out "I Was a Male War Bride," which came to the Roxy yesterday.  We don't say it was, necessarily.  Three writers are credited with the script and the whole thing is said to be based on the actual story of one Henri Rochard.  But the flimsiness of the film's foundations and the disorder of its episodes provoke the inevitable impression that it all fell together en route.

Not that this mode of construction is incongruous to the brand of farce that is wildly tossed off in this picture when it finally slips into full speed.  The illusion of spontaneity that accumulates in the last half is entirely appropriate to the nonsense that glibly and haphazardly occurs.  And even a moderate lot of misses with the slapstick flow naturally with the hits.

For the latter half of this picture is impiously concerned with the staggering confusion of a young Frenchman married to an American Wac lieutenant in Germany - married, indeed, on the same day that the lady is ordered home.  This, of course, presents towering obstacles to the husband accompanying his bride, not to mention to his realization of an undisturbed honeymoon.  It also presents a unique case to the Army authorities, whose manner of handling unique cases is one of the happiest demonstrations in this film.

Out of this cheerless situation, Mr. Hawks and the fellows who inked his cuff have whipped up a spate of complications that burst with gaiety and fun.  Whether attempting to lodge their Frenchman in bachelor officers quarters for the night or get him aboard a transport with a lot of American-bound brides (as one of which he is listed), they gleefully kick him around.  And Mr. Grant, who plays this Frenchman in a blithely unGallic way, accepts the persecution with a remarkable tolerance of pain.

Maybe the boys have loaded it on him a little heavily in the end, when they force him to dress up like a woman, with a horse's tail for a wig.  His pitiful plea is significant: "Couldn't you cut it off of the mane?"  But the rest - his battles with red-tape, and his gropings for Ann Sheridan, who plays his unmerciful helpmate - are convulsingly zany stuff.

Miss Sheridan also does nicely by her somewhat metallic role of the crisply efficient lieutenant who is supposed to be dynamite.  That she isn't, precisely.  Miss Sheridan is getting on.  But she plays a nice foil of feminine sangfroid to the supercharged ire of Mr. Grant.  And three or four other young people pop cute gags in very minor roles.

This as we say, is what happens in the latter half of the film.  In the first half, the going is heavy - and that's where the flimsiness shows.  For a tediously long time is taken in getting Miss Sheridan and Mr. Grant to the point where a matrimonial venture appears even remotely possible.  And during this time, the casual writers and Mr. Hawks simply drag them around on a sightseeing tour of Germany, from Heidelberg to Bad Nauheim.  To be sure, the scenery is pretty, being the genuine article, but the humor is obviously impromptu.  Take a hint: let the first half go.

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