Cast & Crew
In Heidelberg, French army captain Henri Rochard seeks out WAC lieutenant Catherine Gates and, when he finds her, returns a collection of underwear. Deeply embarrassed and angered, Cathy follows him and demands that he come back to her office and explain to her fellow WACs that their laundry was accidentally switched. Henri refuses and the two continue the quarreling that has characterized their relationship since their first mission together. Henri informs Cathy that he is in Heidelberg to meet the WAC who will accompany him on his next mission, but soon learns that his prospective partner has been reassigned, and Cathy will again be working with him. Next they discover that the only available transport is a motorcycle with a side car, and because only Cathy has been cleared to operate the machine, Henri will have to ride in the sidecar. After several mishaps, including a road block, a near plunge over a waterfall, and losing their way, Cathy and Henri arrive at their destination, Bad Nauheim. At the hotel, Cathy complains of back pain, and Henri offers to give her a back rub. After she falls asleep, Henri tries to leave her room, but discovers that the door handle has fallen off, trapping him inside. Henri spends an uncomfortable night in a chair, and in the morning, Cathy refuses to believe his story. Unknown to Henri, the innkeeper's wife has replaced the knob, and so, when he again tries the door, it opens easily. Eventually, the innkeeper's wife explains everything to Cathy, but not before Henri falls off the roof while trying to keep his presence in Cathy's room a secret. Later, Henri disguises himself to search for Schindler, a black market lens grinder. He refuses to let Cathy help him, so she has breakfast with a fellow officer. From him, she learns that the black market is about to be raided, and when Henri asks her to vouch for his identity, she follows his earlier orders not to reveal that she knows him, and allows the police to arrest him. While Henri is in jail, Cathy finds Schindler, who happily agrees to leave Germany and ply his trade in France. Later, she apologizes to a furious Henri, and by the time they return to Heidelberg, they have fallen in love. After a great deal of red tape and interference by well-meaning friends, Cathy and Henri are married in three different ceremonies. Before they can consummate the marriage, however, Cathy is ordered back to the United States. They subsequently learn that the only way Henri can get a visa to emigrate with her is under the War Bride Act, as a spouse of a member of the expeditionary forces. After many misunderstandings, Henri is granted permission to sail for America with Cathy, but before they leave, circumstances and Army regulations conspire to keep them from spending the night together. Finally, in order to get past unbelieving Navy officers, Henri must dress as a woman. The deception works, but once underway, Henri's disguise is penetrated, and he is arrested. Cathy manages to straighten out the situation, and although he is free to leave the room where he has been imprisoned, Henri invites Cathy in. After he locks the door on the inside and throws away the key, Henri and Cathy finally have their wedding night.
Dr. Roger F. Charlier
James B. Clark
Charles Le Maire
Walter M. Scott
Sol C. Siegel
I Was a Male War Bride
I Was a Male War Bride was based upon the true account of the real Henri Rochard, a Belgian who married an American nurse; the experience was told in his story entitled I was an Alien Spouse of Female Military Personnel Enroute to the United States Under Public Law 271 of the Congress. Understandably, the filmmakers shortened the title to something a little catchier and attempted to capture the magic Hawks and Grant had created with two earlier successes, Bringing Up Baby (1938) and His Girl Friday (1940). The role of Grant's co-star needed to be played by an actress who could hold her own against one of the world's top movie stars; rising talent Ava Gardner was briefly considered for the part, but soon eliminated; Hawks wasn't sure she could handle the part. Instead, he pushed for Ann Sheridan, an actress he had personally screen-tested years before for The Road to Glory (1936). In the meantime, Sheridan had established herself as a versatile and charismatic actress with an aptitude for comedy and Hawks quickly secured her for the role.
Hawks was given license to cast whomever he wanted in the supporting roles, so he cast his current girlfriend, Marion Marshall, in the role of Sheridan's roommate. As the rest of the cast fell into place, the director prepared to film external locations in Germany and interiors in England. During production, however, the cast and crew suffered from an assortment of maladies: Marshall was the only principal to emerge unscathed from the experience. Sheridan contracted pleurisy that developed into pneumonia, suspending shooting for two weeks. Hawks broke out in mystery hives, as he described it, "an itch that started on the top of my head and went right through my balls and everything down to my feet." Lovely. The worst off was Grant: he fell seriously ill with a case of hepatitis complicated by jaundice. Production was shut down for three months while the actor convalesced and resumed only after Grant 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, Grant thoroughly enjoyed making I Was a Male War Bride, calling it "the best comedy I've ever done." At first, however, he disagreed with Hawks over his performance. The director recalled in Hawks on Hawks by Joseph McBride, that "Cary was gonna put on a woman's uniform and be feminine. And he practiced little tricks, worked on 'em and everything, and I said, "Hey...don't work on it. We're not gonna do that." 'What do you mean?' "Well," I said, "just act like a man in woman's clothes." 'Oh, now, you're missing something there, Howard.' We'd gotten to Germany by that time, and the generals gave a party. I got on a WAC's outfit and a red wig, and I want to tell you, I looked funnier than Grant did. I came in, pulled out a cigar and said, "Got a light, general?" He didn't know who or what I was. He thought I was a WAC. Cary was having convulsions, and he said, 'You sold me, I know just what to do.' You make the wig out of a horse's tail. You show a horse's behind and dissolve to Cary, and he's just sitting there. He doesn't have to do anything."
Calling upon his vaudevillian roots, Grant also insisted upon doing his own stunts, including one in which he was lifted up by a railroad-crossing gate. 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.
I Was a Male War Bride was a box office success, eventually claiming the #3 film of the year for 1949. Audiences flocked to see their idol Grant dressed in drag, something the film is best remembered for, although he only appears as such for about ten minutes of screen time. Grant recalled, "I just saw the film and the audience laughed themselves sick. I've been in many comedies but I've never heard an audience react like this one." Just goes to show you that neither hives, pneumonia, hepatitis, nor a dead goose can stop a funny film.
Producer: Sol C. Siegel
Director: Howard Hawks
Screenplay: Hagar Wilde, Leonard Spigelgass, Charles Lederer
Art Direction: Albert Hogsett
Cinematography: Osmond H. Borradaile
Editing: James B. Clark
Music: Cyril Mockridge
Cast: Cary Grant (Capt. Henri Rochard), Ann Sheridan (Lt. Catherine Gates), Randy Stuart (Mae), William Neff (Capt. Jack Rumsey), Marion Marshall (Lt. Kitty Lawrence), Eugene Gericke (Tony Jowitt), Kenneth Tobey (Seaman).
BW-106m. Closed captioning.
by Eleanor Quin
I Was a Male War Bride
Kenneth Tobey (1917-2003)
Born in Oakland, California on March 23, 1917, Tobey originally intended to be a lawyer before a stint with the University of California Little Theater changed his mind. From there, he went straight to New York and spent nearly two years studying acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse, where his classmates included Gregory Peck, Eli Wallach and Tony Randall. Throughout the '40s, Tobey acted on Broadway and in stock before relocating to Hollywood. Once there, Tobey soon found himself playing a tough soldier in films like I Was a Male War Bride and Twelve O' Clock High (both 1949); or a tough police officer in Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye and Three Secrets (both 1950). Such roles were hardly surprising, given Tobey's craggy features, unsmiling countenance and rough voice.
Needless to say, no-nonsense, authority figures would be Tobey's calling for the remainder of his career; yet given the right role, he had the talent to make it memorable: the smart, likeable Captain Hendrey in The Thing From Another World (1951); the gallant Colonel Jack Evans in the "prehistoric dinosaur attacks an urban center" genre chiller The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953, a must-see film for fans of special effects wizard, Ray Harryhausen; and as Bat Masterson, holding his own against Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957).
Television would also offer Tobey much work: he had his own action series as chopper pilot Chuck Martin in Whirlybirds (1957-59); and had a recurring role as Assistant District Attorney Alvin in Perry Mason (1957-66). He would also be kept busy with guest appearances in countless westerns (Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Virginian) and cop shows (The Rockford Files, Barnaby Jones, Ironside) for the next two decades. Most amusingly, the tail end of Tobey's career saw some self-deprecating cameo spots in such contemporary shockers as The Howling (1981); Strange Invaders (1983) and his role reprisal of Captain Hendry in The Attack of the B-Movie Monsters (2002). Tobey is survived by a daughter, two stepchildren, and two grandchildren.
by Michael T. Toole
Kenneth Tobey (1917-2003)
He could leave marks on me anytime. I'd bring the stick!- Lt. Kitty Lawrence
Henri Rochard, the pen name of Dr. Roger H. Charlier, first published his story, then entitled "Male War Bride Trial to Army," in the Baltimore Sun on September 28, 1947. A condensed version of the story appeared in the November 1947 issue of Reader's Digest, retitled I Was a Male War Bride. [A modern source records the title of Rochard's story as "I Was an Alien Spouse of Female Military Personnel Enroute to the United States Under Public Law 271 of the Congress."] According to a November 12, 1947 Los Angeles Times news item, Rex Harrison originally was to star in the film. Some scenes in the film were shot in Germany. Heidelberg, which had not been damaged during wartime bombing, was the major location; other scenes were filmed in bomb-shattered Manheim and Frankfurt and the old village of Zuzenhausen. Twentieth-Century Fox publicity material reports that after three months of filming in Germany, the troupe moved to Shepperton Studios in London, England, where many of the actors became ill: Ann Sheridan developed pneumonia from filming in bad weather and was bedridden for three weeks. Randy Stuart was stricken with jaundice. Then Cary Grant became ill with infectious hepatitis and lost thirty-seven pounds, and Hawks broke out in hives. Production shut down on February 8, 1949, according to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library. Filming resumed in early May 1949, after Grant regained the weight he lost during his illness. A February 4, 1953 Variety news item reported that author Charlier and his wife, the former Marie H. Glennon, were suing Twentieth Century-Fox for breaching their original 1947 deal by releasing a serial version of the screenplay to the German magazine Herz Dame. The outcome of the suit has not been determined.
Material included in studio records adds the following information about the production: Producer Sol C. Siegel suggested Louis Jourdan for the lead. Studio publicity adds Buzz Barbee and William Janssen to the cast. According to the studio legal files, Mary Helen Fay and Laszlo Bus-Fekete worked on early drafts of the script but did not contribute to the final screenplay. According to studio records, actor William Challee was to appear in the film, but as he had not been filmed prior to Grant's illness, his contract was terminated. After filming resumed in the U.S., some scenes were shot on location at the docks in Long Beach, CA. The following crew members received credit in British advertising only: Art Director C. P. Norman, Film Editor Manuel Del Campo, Sound Buster Ambler, Production Manager, Ronnie Kinnoch, Assistant Director John Bremer, Camera Operator Robert Walker.
Modern sources add the following information about the production: Cary Grant did his own stunts. For the portion of the picture in which he dresses as a WAC, Grant wanted to play the character with effeminate gestures, but Hawks convinced him it would be funnier if he just acted like a man in women's clothes. A Lux Radio Theatre version of the film was to be broadcast on August 28, 1950, starring Grant and Sheridan, but was canceled when Charlier failed to release his radio rights in the story to Lux.
Released in United States August 1997
Released in United States Fall September 1949
Shown at Locarno International Film Festival (50 Years of American Film) August 6-16, 1997.
Released in United States August 1997 (Shown at Locarno International Film Festival (50 Years of American Film) August 6-16, 1997.)
Released in United States Fall September 1949