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I Was a Male War Bride (1949).

May 15, 2007

The Scoop:
One of the truisms of comedy is that nothing guarantees a hearty laugh quite like seeing men wearing women’s clothing. It long ago became a cliché, but each generation still manages to produce performers and performances that pull it off and give it a fresh spin.

While Howard Hawks’ “I Was a Male War Bride” sticks to the cheap laughs inherent in cross-dressing, it keeps it to a minimum and more than makes up for it in other ways. The incomparable Cary Grant works his usual charm on a script that examines a little-known historical curiosity following the second World War — the military offered special help to American GIs who met women in Europe or Asia and wanted to marry them and bring them to the United States. However, the cases of American military women who wanted to bring home husbands were overlooked. This movie fully exploits the comic possibilities inherent in this situation. Grant is a French army officer (based on the travails of the real life Henri Rochard, who gets story credit here) who plans on marrying American officer Ann Sheridan. Unfortunately, the apparatus set up to benefit military spouses isn’t prepared to handle husbands. So, Grant must become a war bride instead. This is a hilarious film, and one of Grant’s better performances.

Best Line:
“The process of turning a man into a woman is enormously complicated — but I’ll do my best.”

Side Note:
After Sheridan’s luggage was lost during her trip to Europe to begin shooting, a group of military wives pitched in to give her new clothes. They were repaid by being cast as extras.

Companion Viewing:
“Ball of Fire” (1941) and “Bringing Up Baby” (1938).


Take a Look:
This clip doesn’t involve cross-dressing, and it’s one of the lamer gags in the movie, but it’s online, so here ya go…

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