Directed by Howard Hawks
Written by Charles Lederer & Leonard Spigelgass and Hagar Wilde, from a story by Henri Rochard.
Starring Cary Grant, Ann Sheridan
Cary Grant is generally thought of today as a suave and romantic leading man. But Grant was also a fine comedian, and seemed very much to like playing comic roles. One of the best of these was in I Was a Male War Bride.
It’s set in Germany after WWII has ended. Cathy Gates (Ann Sheridan) is a American assigned to drive French Army Captain Henri Rochard (Cary Grant) in a mission to recruit a German to join the American side. Cathy and Henri rub each other the wrong way from the start,* but slowly warm to each other and fall in love. They marry, but Cathy is immediately ordered back to the states. Henri wants to go with her, but the only way to do it is to get permission under the War Brides Act.** The problem is that, even though the law does allow this, it happens so rarely that no one believes it.
The movie has the typical Hawks fast pace, and works very nicely in making the romance seem believable. Red tape can be very funny onscreen, and the movie makes the most of that.
Grant is Grant and is willing to take a pratfall in order to sell a gag.
One of my favorite running gags is Grant having to repeatedly recite “I am an alien spouse of female military personnel en route to the United States under public law 271 of the Congress” whenever he has to explain what’s going on. The payoff is when they finally get things settle and someone explains to him – in the exact same words he’s been using all along. I’ve had similar things happen to me and they always remind me of the movie.
*A typical event in romantic comedies of the era.
**An actual law, that allowed GIs to bring their wives back to the US without being screened out at immigration.