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Howard Hawks: The Measure of Man

Saturday, March 31, 2012
6:30 p.m. I Was a Male War Bride
Howard Hawks (U.S., 1949)

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Hawks’s perennial theme of sexual role reversal was never more literal, and the bleak, cynical side of his humor rarely more blatant, than in this farce of bureaucratic frustration improbably based on an actual memoir. Amid the rubble of postwar Germany, French Army Captain Henri Rochard (Cary Grant) and American Lieutenant Catherine Gates (Ann Sheridan) argue their way into a romance based on what Gates diagnoses as “sex antagonism.” What ensues is all antagonism and no sex: they fill out forms in quadruplicate and get married in triplicate, but thanks to the U.S. government, their wedding night is delayed indefinitely. After a cumulative series of humiliations, the alarming sight of Grant in a military-issue skirt and a horsetail wig consummates the comedy.

—Juliet Clark

• Written by Charles Lederer, Leonard Spigelgass, Hagar Wilde, from a story by Henri Rochard. Photographed by Norbert Brodine, Osmond H. Borrodaile. With Cary Grant, Ann Sheridan, William Neff, Eugene Gericke. (105 mins, B&W, 35mm, From 20th Century Fox)