Thursday, September 2, 2021

On This Day...I Was a Male War Bride (1949)

On today's date back in 1949, Cary Grant's 54th full length feature film, I Was a Male War Bride, was released. 


Captain Henri Rochard (Cary Grant) of France is assigned to work with First Lieutenant Catherine Gates (Ann Sheridan) of the U.S. Army. Through a wacky series of misadventures, they fall in love and marry. When the war ends, Rochard tries to return to America, like female war brides could under the auspices of America's 1945 War Brides Act. Zany gender-confusing antics follow.


Cary Grant...Captain Henri Rochard
Ann Sheridan...1st Lt. Catherine Gates
Marion Marshall...Lt. Kitty Lawrence
Randy Stuart...Lt. Eloise Billings
Bill Neff...Capt. Jack Ramsey (as William Neff)

Did You Know?

Howard Hawks's first film to be shot in Europe, it was beset with problems. The German winter was unbearably cold and most of the cast and crew fell ill. Ann Sheridan caught pleurisy (which developed into pneumonia), Cary Grant contracted hepatitis with jaundice, and Hawks broke out in hives. Production was shut down for three months while Grant convalesced and resumed only after he was able to regain around thirty pounds. Hawks best summed up the lapse in production: "Cary ran into a haystack on a motorcycle and came out weighing twenty pounds less."

Despite his illness, Cary Grant thoroughly enjoyed making the film, calling it "the best comedy I've ever done."

Calling upon his vaudevillian roots, Cary Grant insisted upon doing his own stunts, including one in which he was lifted up by a railroad-crossing gate. Ann Sheridan even got into the act, driving a 400-pound motorcycle with Grant in the sidecar for a sequence. She navigated the bike expertly, except for an unfortunate run-in with a goose; its death terribly upset the actress, but despite this, Sheridan had a positive experience making the film.

Cary Grant's character (French Captain Henri Rochard) is a pseudonym for Belgian Army Major Roger Henri Charlier on whom the movie is loosely based. Major Charlier served as a liaison officer for the Belgian Government at the Nuremberg and Dachau War Crimes trials. While as a representative at the trials, he was accidentally hit by a car, landing him in a U.S. Army hospital. It was there Maj. Charlier met his future wife, U.S. Army nurse Captain Marie Helen Glennon. Upon release from the hospital, he was discharged from the Belgian Army and returned to Nuremberg as a civilian employee of the U.S. War Department.

When screenwriter Charles Lederer was ill, his friend Orson Welles wrote part of a short chase scene as a favor to him.


Capt. Henri Rochard: My name is Rochard. You'll think I'm a bride but actually I'm a husband. There'll be a moment or two of confusion but, if we all keep our heads, everything will be fine.

Sergeant: Any female trouble?
Capt. Henri Rochard: Nothing but, Sergeant.

Soldier: You're not Mrs. Rochard!
Capt. Henri Rochard: I'm MISTER Rochard.
Soldier: Well, it's your WIFE who must report here for transportation to Bremerhaven.
Capt. Henri Rochard: According to the War Department, I AM my wife.
Soldier: You can't be your wife!
Capt. Henri Rochard: If the American army says that I CAN be my wife, who am I to dispute them?

Lt. Catherine Gates: [Rochard is holding a baby for a stranger. His wife and Kitty walk up, both laughing] Ah, Henri, you look so maternal!
Lt. Kitty Lawrence: What is that?
Capt. Henri Rochard: A human fire extinguisher. You wanna try it?
Lt. Kitty Lawrence: Oh, come on.
[takes baby andfrowns at its prodigious wetness]
Lt. Catherine Gates: Aww, he's cute. What's his name?
Capt. Henri Rochard: Niagara.
Lt. Kitty Lawrence: [shaking hand dry] Henri, what a thing to do.
Lt. Catherine Gates: Where's the mother?
Capt. Henri Rochard: She went to get *more* water.
Lt. Kitty Lawrence: She ought to get a plumber!

Lobby Cards:

Directed by Howard Hawks.
Distributed by 20th Century-Fox.
Running time: 105 minutes.

Artwork by Rebekah Hawley at Studio36.

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