Someday I will be able to recognize Deborah Kerr from one movie to the next. Here she’s a singer who runs into celebrity playboy Cary Grant on a cruise ship. After they’re seen together a few times, everyone on the ship assumes they’re having an affair, so while they’re trying to cover up an affair they’re not even having, they fall for each other. Actually I suppose it happens at a shore stop when Cary takes Deborah to meet his granny (Cathleen Nesbitt of Family Plot, not as frail as she looked, lived another 25 years). It wasn’t enough to be attractive and in love in the 1950’s – you had to prove your family values by being nice to granny. Second half: painting, empire state building, secrets, and that awful reveal when he finds out she didn’t mean to stand him up, but was hit by a car on the way to their rendezvous. When I try typing up more story details, my eyes get strangely blurry until I can’t see the screen.

Remake of McCarey’s own Love Affair, and nominated for almost as many oscars, again with no wins (apparently Bridge on the River Kwai was really fucking good). I definitely preferred this version – Kerr is Irene Dunne’s equal, Grant blows away Charles Boyer, and the movie’s color/widescreen look is intensely appealing. Late McCarey, made a decade after Good Sam. Grant was between To Catch a Thief and Indiscreet (another love-scandal movie) and Kerr a few years after From Here to Eternity. As their fiancees: Creature with the Atom Brain star Richard Denning and Desk Set computer programmer Neva Patterson.

Cary Grant with too much lip liner (between I’m No Angel and Sylvia Scarlett) and Sylvia Sidney, who I can never remember who she is. Sidney plays a princess who comes to NYC on an important public relations mission but gets the mumps and can’t go on her intended tour. Some scam banker (Edward Arnold, Jimmy Stewart’s dad in You Can’t Take It With You) conducts a hurried search for a lookalike, turns up an actress (also played by Sidney) who goes to all the spots saying all the right things, drumming up princess fever in the U.S. press. So Sidney plays a New York actress, a princess with a fake accent, and the actress faking that fake accent, while the real princess’s betrothed Count Vince Barnett takes his own clownish approach to the accent. It’s a cute, forgettable flick which we watched because Preston Sturges cowrote the screenplay (based on someone else’s story, even though the whole out-of-work-actress-becomes-famous-princess plot sounds like one of his).

Cute comedy, doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that’d be nominated for seven oscars, but there you have it. Town malcontent Cary Grant is arrested for a trumped-up charge. Everyone knows he’ll be killed by the town mob, so he escapes and hides out in old schoolmate Jean Arthur’s house. But she’s fixing it up for visiting law professor Ronald Colman, and when he arrives early, she arranges to stay in the house as his secretary so she can take care of Grant, keeping him hidden away from Colman in the attic. Colman is a self-important Good Man who refuses to deal with real people in real situations, preferring to stay apolitical and theoretical as he’s about to be appointed to the Supreme Court, so Arthur and Grant arrange run-ins between him and the corrupt town officials that are rigging Grant’s case, convincing him to bring his great influence into play.

Jean Arthur would be in Stevens’s The More The Merrier the following year, which I thought about while watching this – Jean and two guys in a single living space trying not to run into each other. Grant was between Suspicion and Once Upon a Honeymoon, and Colman played amnesiac in Random Harvest the same year. “This is a great country is it not?” I was happy to recognize the commie from Trouble In Paradise ten years later as a borscht peddler.

Katy’s response to this: Mae West is so weird. It’s true – takes some time to get used to her personality at the start of the movie, as she slowly struts and moans, throwing out quips in a Popeye mutter as everyone who sees her becomes instantly entranced. Then the story gets weird too. Circus star Tira has been dating a rich guy (prolific small-timer Kent Taylor, who’d end up in MST3K-bait in the 1960’s) under the nose of his jealous fiancee Alicia, then dates the rich guy’s rich friend (Cary Grant) instead. Tira ends up suing Grant when he breaks off their engagement due to interference from her pickpocket ex-buddy Slick, acts as her own attorney, winning both the case and Grant. Feels more like she has successfully defended her own promiscuity, coming off as the most sexually liberated woman in movies for thirty years in either direction. The authorities agreed, establishing the production code to shut her up.

I wonder if 12-year-old Jack Clayton (director of The Innocents and Something Wicked This Way Comes) saw Cary Grant’s “Jack Clayton” getting the girl and thought he oughtta get into the picture business.

Once Upon a Honeymoon (1942, Leo McCarey)

Another nazi comedy, this one McCarey’s follow-up to Love Affair. Ginger Rogers has finally landed a rich baron (Walter Slezak, title star of Dreyer’s Michael, also in Lifeboat), follows him to various countries, each of which falls to Hitler soon after. This gets the attention of reporter Cary Grant, and French secret agent Albert Dekker (ultimate baddie of Kiss Me Deadly). Ginger proves her loyalty to the viewer by rescuing her Jewish maid (Natasha Lytess, Marilyn Monroe’s acting coach) before agreeing to spy for Dekker, while Cary takes a nazi radio propagandist job, like if Mother Night was a comedy. The spy game doesn’t work too well, so Ginger pushes the baron overboard on an ocean liner and sails away with Cary.

The More The Merrier (1943 George Stevens)

A different kind of wartime picture than Once Upon a Honeymoon. This one focuses on the high women-to-men ratio in the D.C. area, and a housing shortage that forced people to take roommates. The story is short on logic, but the cast is super cute – and I don’t mean Jean Arthur and Joel McCrea, I’m talking about Charles “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” Coburn, great scammer of The Lady Eve. It’s the usual setup, where sweetie Jean is engages to a boring dude (Richard Gaines, Edward G. Robinson’s boss in Double Indemnity) but oughtta be with Joel instead, so Coburn invents complicated ways to make that happen, but all while the three are roommates.

Nominated for most major oscars, but up against Casablanca. Coburn still won an award. Remade as Walk, Don’t Run with Cary Grant. The last comedy Stevens would make before heading to war. IMDB: “Joining the Army Signal Corps, Stevens headed up a combat motion picture unit from 1944 to 1946. In addition to filming the Normandy landings, his unit shot both the liberation of Paris and the liberation of the Nazi extermination camp Dachau, and his unit’s footage was used both as evidence in the Nuremberg trials and in the de-Nazification program after the war.”

A rah-rah-war-effort movie disguised as something else. Potter’s follow-up to the great Hellzapoppin’ is a letdown in the comedy and unpredictability departments, but solid on the drama and romance – Katy agrees, a decent flick overall. Cary Grant plays a Harry Lime type, a gambler and draft-dodger who takes advantage of a woman who loves him (Laraine Day of the Dr. Kildare series), a war relief campaign, and a dead man with whom he swaps identities, all to raise money for a gambling cruise. At the end he ought to be killed, but you can’t kill Cary Grant so he’s redeemed by love instead.

Amusements: Grant and his assistant Crunk learn to knit in order to impress Laraine and set up a running joke. And the movie’s lasting legacy is that it introduced Katy to rhyming slang.

I enjoyed watching this with Katy much more than I did in film class. Everything is worse when doing it in class (or everything is better with Katy).

Mail flyers in Argentina struggle with difficult terrain, disabled pilots, a love triangle, infighting and a contract saying they get new planes if they fly a few more difficult missions on schedule. Dutchy (Sig Ruman, covert nazi in A Night in Casablanca) owns the planes but Cary Grant gives orders to the flyers. Kid (Thomas Mitchell) is the oldest with poor eyesight, Joe (Noah Beery Jr.) dies early, Sparks is the radio man, I think Les gets injured (most of them do at some point) and Tex (Westerns actor Don Barry) sits in a booth warning of weather conditions.

New flyer Bat (Richard Barthelmess, star of Broken Blossoms and The Dawn Patrol, sort of Henry Fonda crossed with Peter Lorre) shows up putting everyone on edge because of a word-of-mouth story that he’d abandoned a copilot – oh, and he brings new wife Rita Hayworth, an ex-flame of Cary’s who doesn’t know the dead-copilot story. And Jean Arthur (You Can’t Take It With You, Easy Living) was just passing through until she caught sight of Cary Grant, then follows him like a puppy for two hours trying to get him to tell her to stay, refusing to leave until he does, a catch-22 that works out romantically at the end.

Hawks and Cary Grant made this between Bringing Up Baby and His Girl Friday. Thomas Mitchell (The Kid) won best supporting actor as Doc in Stagecoach, also played the plantation owner (Scarlett’s dad) in Gone With The Wind, king of the beggars in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and appeared again with Jean Arthur in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington – all in the same year as this movie.

Like two short films – a classic courtship comedy and a gender-politics comedy, with a wedding in the middle. In the first half, Cary Grant is reluctantly stuck with Ann Sheridan (of They Drive By Night & Good Sam) on a softball military mission in France, his last before retirement from the armed services. In the second, he’s Ann’s “war bride,” a civilian married to a “serviceman,” a loophole in the system, dealing with paperwork and regulations in attempts to stay (or better, sleep) with his new wife.

Smart, funny movie – Katy and I liked it. Based on a true story by Henri Rochard (the name of Grant’s character). Senses of Cinema has a write-up, but the very first sentence declares the difficulty to adequately situate the film within “accepted interpretative frameworks,” so I didn’t make it much further.

Not the most lighthearted comedy in the world, beginning with the death of Katharine Hepburn’s mother, following with the death of her drunken crook father. Hepburn (already in her third film with Cukor) lives in France with her father Edmund Gwenn (the so-called bodyguard in Foreign Correspondent who keeps trying to kill Joel McCrea, also Santa in Miracle on 34th Street). They escape to England with her disguised as a boy for cover from dad’s embezzling crimes.

They meet con man Cary Grant (in his 20th film in four years) on the boat, and he teams up with the couple – which was our first complaint with the movie. When we meet Grant, he’s smuggling diamonds inside his shoes, which has got to be more lucrative than running con games in public parks with a busted drunk and his “son.” Grant (with a fun cockney accent) introduces them to an acquaintance named Maudie, a maid at a house where Grant hopes to steal some jewelery. Hepburn (very funny in her hat and suit) foils the heist, her dad ends up marrying Maudie, and the four go on the road as a vaudeville act.

Family portrait:

Kate falls for an artist (mustachioed Brian Aherne, title characters in Captain Fury and The Great Garrick) who’s being chased by some rich-looking Russian girl named Lily. The artist finds himself falling for Kate as well, much to his own confusion. Dad falls off a cliff while drunkenly searching for his cheating wife, and the same morning Lily tries to drown herself, rescued by Kate. After a brief sidetrack in jail, Kate and the artist escape on a train, running into Cary and Lily. My Katy thought it unfair that Kate didn’t get Cary Grant at the end, but he didn’t deserve her.

The artist and the princess:

The movie flopped so hard that Cukor was fired from RKO Pictures over it. It’s said that audiences thought Hepburn was awful as a boy, that they walked out in droves after Maudie tries to make out with her, but nobody ventures that crowds found the plot stupidly implausible – especially after the vaudeville bit. It’s all in good fun, I know. If Some Like It Hot was daring for messing with gender roles in 1959, I imagine it was completely unheard-of in films 25 years earlier. I thought that aspect and lots of the character and acting were much more successful than the overall story – it’s a good movie strapped onto a mediocre plot.

Grant’s noirish introduction:

TCM:

The role seemed a natural for [Hepburn]; she had already set tongues wagging as one of the first women in the U.S. to wear trousers in public. Not only did she make a very convincing young man with her hair cut short, but Time Magazine’s reviewer would quip that “Sylvia Scarlett reveals the interesting fact that Katharine Hepburn is better looking as a boy than as a woman.”