Friday, March 12, 2021

Cary Grant and Ann Sheridan in Howard Hawks’ “I Was a Male War Bride”

 I Was a Male War Bride (1949) is a comedy directed by Howard Hawks and starring Cary Grant and Ann Sheridan. It was based on I Was an Alien Spouse of Female Military Personnel En route to the United States Under Public Law 271 of the Congress by Henri Rochard. Man, that is a title if there ever was one! Author Rochard was a Belgian who married an American nurse. Most of the filming took place in Heidelberg, Germany. Filming also took place at Shepperton Studios in London, and at 20th Century-Fox studios in Los Angeles.

The film concerns the relationship between Women’s Army Corps officer Catherine Gates (Sheridan) and French Army officer Henri Rochard (Grant). Officer Gates is assigned to transport Rochard by motorcycle (he has to ride in the sidecar) in an assignment to find Schindler (Martin Miller) a lens maker who Rochard is trying to recruit to work for France.

Gates and Rochard have a bumpy ride (both figuratively and literally) in their efforts to find Schindler. The two argue constantly and distrust each other. Will they be able to overcome their differences in order to bring their mission to a successful conclusion? 

Cary Grant and Ann Sheridan

Howard Hawks (1896 - 1977) was an American director, producer, and screenwriter. He is considered one of the great directors from the classic Hollywood era. Hawks excelled in directing films in all genres. His films were famous for featuring strong women characters. These tough-talking “Hawksian women” helped to define the director’s work. Some of Hawks’ popular films include Scarface (1932), Bringing Up Baby (1938), Only Angels Have Wings (1939), His Girl Friday (1940), Ball of Fire (1941), To Have and Have Not (1944), The Big Sleep (1946), Red River (1948), and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953).

Cary Grant (1904 – 1986) was an English-born American actor who became one of the most popular leading men in film history. Grant started his career in vaudeville before heading to Hollywood. He became a superstar in the late 1930s in a series of screwball comedies including The Awful Truth (1937) with Irene Dunne. He was a memorable C. K. Dexter Haven in The Philadelphia Story (1940) opposite Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart. He received two Best Actor nominations for Penny Serenade (1941) and None but the Lonely Hearts (1944). Other classic Grant films include Gunga Din (1939), Only Angels Have Wings (1939), and Arsenic and Old Lace (1944). He made four popular films with Alfred Hitchcock: Suspicion (1941), Notorious (1946), To Catch a Thief (1955), and North by Northwest (1959). He was presented with an Honorary Oscar at the 42nd Academy Awards in 1970.

Grant and Sheridan on a pleasant motorcycle ride

Ann Sheridan (1915 - 1967) was an American actress and singer. Her movie career began in 1934 where she appeared in 19 films! Her roles were all small and mostly unbilled, but she appeared in another 20+ films before she was signed to Warner Bros. in 1938. She was given better roles and was groomed for major stardom. The studio dubbed her “The Oomph Girl,” a title she hated but helped contribute to her popularity. During World War II she was a popular pin-up girl. As a star, Sheridan starred in Angels Wash Their Faces (1939), Castle on the Hudson (1940), It All Came True (1940), They Drive by Night (1940), City for Conquest (1941), and The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942). During this time she starred opposite Warner’s top leading men including John Garfield, James Cagney, and George Raft. Her biggest success during this period came with Kings Row (1942), a film in which she received top billing over Robert Cummings, Ronald Reagan, and Betty Field. Sheridan made the transition to television and was starring in the weekly western series, Pistols 'n' Petticoats (1966-67) when she became sick with cancer. She died on January 21, 1967, at the age of 51.

Sheridan’s first starring vehicle; notice who is billed third!

 I Was a Male War Bride trivia:

  • The production was beset with problems; Ann Sheridan caught pleurisy that turned into pneumonia, Cary Grant contracted hepatitis, and Hawks broke out in hives. The production was shut down for three months so Grant could recover and gain back the 30 pounds he lost while he was sick.
  • Cary Grant did a lot of his own stunts.
  • Ann Sheridan actually drove that motorcycle in the film without the use of a double.
  • Ava Gardner was considered for the part of Catherine.
  • The film was 20th Century-Fox’s biggest box office hit of the year.

To watch the film on YouTube, click on the link below.

To join a discussion of the film on Zoom on March 16, 2021, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time, click here. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation via email with a link to the Zoom meeting.

Questions for discussion:

  1. What type of comedy genre do you think this film fits best?
  2. What did you think of the pairing of Grant and Sheridan?
  3. Did I Was a Male War Bride remind you of any other films?
  4. Did anything about the film surprise you?

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