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Howard Hawks' Best Comedic Effort,
This review is from: I Was a Male War Bride (DVD)
They don't make 'em like "I Was a Male War Bride" anymore. Hawks made this wonderfully silly flick when such masters of comedic direction such as Billy Wilder, Preston Sturges and George Cukor were at their peak; the great Ernst Lubitsch had passed on just the year before.
Yet, Hawks had a sense of comic timing that probably died with him as a trade secret: You don't even need to see the titles to a Howard Hawks picture -- his fingerprints are all over the pacing, the quick banter and the editing. Even in such diverse movies as "The Big Sleep" (film noir melodrama) and "El Dorado (Western), Hawks always directed with the light touch: Never imposing, but always keenly felt. "I Was a Male War Bride" is no exception.
The screen chemistry between Cary Grant as the French Army officer Henri Rochard and Ann Sheridan as American Lt. Catherine Gates is electric, even better than Grant and Hepburn in "Bringing Up Baby."
The ridiculous plot was conjured by two of screwball comedy's great screenwriters, Hagar Wilde ("Bringing Up Baby," 1938) and Charles Lederer ("His Girl Friday," 1940), both of which were directed by Hawks. Still, this movie is so deftly made that audiences can't get enough of the attraction masquerading as repulsion sexual tension between the love-struck leads.
This movie is also a real hoot for anyone who's ever served in the Army in Germany: It was shot on location, and watching Cary wade through the military acronyms and red-tape in triplicate rings true.
If you want to forget your troubles for a couple hours and take a fun romp through postwar Europe, this is your ticket. Ann Sheridan is hot, and there's a cute scene where Cary massages her shapely gams for that nice gratuitous touch Hawks always gives. Sure, casting Cary Grant as a Frenchman is even more of a stretch than watching Chuck Heston play a Mexican in Orson Welles' "Touch of Evil," but so what! There never has been any actor who could touch him with a ten foot pole in the screwball movies. He was a great physical comedian and watching him get flustered is always priceless.