I Was a Male War Bride ★★★

Coasting amicably on the charm of its two stars, Cary Grant and Ann Sheridan, this Fox comedy is disjointed, maybe on purpose, and doesn't feel that much like a Howard Hawks picture apart from a couple of bawdy punchlines, which land better than anything else here; it helps that Grant delivers those lines out the side of his mouth and instantly moves on, like he's completely above waiting for you to catch up to him. The transition from the film's first half (two bickering comrades stuck with each other) barely seems to relate to its second and slightly more inspired (a man who's married a female soldier gets stuck in red tape constantly because his situation is so unusual; this is based on actual events), a problem exacerbated by the relative paucity of Sheridan in the latter portions. It feels like two separate stories awkwardly blended, and the characterizations really suffer, though Grant's character has very little discernible personality from the first -- discarding his absurd existence as a supposed Frenchman -- feeling like a crude burlesque of his Bringing Up Baby role, even when he briefly gets put in semi-drag toward the end. Sheridan, however, is a delight, and a great (and rare) 1940s portrait of an independent woman dedicated above all else to her work.

Presumably this is separated from Father Goose and Operation Petticoat in prestige only because it isn't hard to read its screenplay as a critique of the absurdity of traditional gender roles, though I have no idea whether that was anyone's intention, but it's clear that its plot was considered "safe" because it constantly reinforces that Grant's situation is an outlier. Some "men's-rights" dickhead could probably declare it a paean against emasculation, too, but that would require them to watch a movie called I Was a Male War Bride in the first place.