Starring: Cary Grant, Ann Sheridan, Marion Marshall
Director: Howard Hawks
Running Time: 105 mins
I Was A Male War Bride is an American film about a French army officer who marries an American woman in order to pass as a war bride to get to the United States, but the army’s numerous procedures and miles of red tape complicate the plan.
Screwballs in the 40s were all the rage. Put Cary Grant in it, and you’ve got the recipe for the screwballiest of all screwballs. In that, I Was A Male War Bride does exactly what it says on the tin, with likable and enjoyably manic chemistry between Grant and co-lead Ann Sheridan, as the story throws the pair into all manner of ridiculous situations and farces as they attempt to marry, and enter Grant as a war bride despite the army’s bewilderment.
However, I want to start off with the film’s opening act, which is undoubtedly its weakest portion. When compared to the likes of Bringing Up Baby, I Was A Male War Bride really struggles to get its manic humour into gear in the opening act, simply because of its unorthodox characterisation.
While it breaks from the formula of typical screwballs, and doesn’t feature a strong woman and a weak-willed man, which is one of the things about Bringing Up Baby that makes it so immediately hilarious. Instead, this film’s lead pair are both rather strong-willed, with Ann Sheridan’s character a fairly typical female screwball lead, but Grant’s character a lot stronger than is typically the case, meaning he has comebacks and answers to all of Sheridan’s strange and bizarre actions.
As a result, the comedy in the opening act just doesn’t have that innocent, fun quality of the best screwball comedies, because rather than being a farce where one character is effectively dragged along by another, this film starts off with the two’s dialogue coming across as more of an argument – given that they’re on more of a level playing field. From there, it really takes a while for the film to feel more farcical than it does simply naggy, which means it’s difficult to really get into the fun feel of it all until long after should be the case.
With that said, the movie does pick up a little better when the two eventually decide to marry. The opening act’s will-they-won’t-they vibes are predictable and annoying, but when it actually happens, it turns their bickering relationship into a entertaining satire on marriage, while the situation they find themselves in becomes all the more ridiculous.
That’s where the real laughs come, and although it takes a while to get used to the film’s more formulaic yet equally more enjoyable atmosphere, the seemingly endless hours of forms and red tape the pair have to fill in in order to classify as a war couple, not to mention the fact that it seems to get them absolutely nowhere anyway, makes for some great laughs.
And what’s more, despite the sheer bewilderment of the army at the idea of a man being classed as a war ‘bride’ in the paperwork, the farcical and simply moronic lengths to which the pair go to get their marriage recognised are hilarious to watch, with an endless series of crazy attempts to find a loophole in the system that eventually leads to total farce in the final act.
Overall, I enjoyed I Was A Male War Bride. Although it starts off poorly with a misjudged opening act, the film really picks up once the lead pair get married, and find themselves lumbered with tons of paperwork to verify their relationship. From there, the farce and sheer ridiculousness of the situation makes for some great laughs, and with a likable and manic lead pair in the form of Cary Grant and Ann Sheridan, it’s a lot of fun right to the finish, so that’s why I’m giving it a 7.0.