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Fox Home Entertainment presents
I Was a Male War Bride (1949)

Lt. Catherine Gates: It says spouses mean mates. Doesn't say anything about male or female. We're mates, aren't we?
Capt. Henri Rochard: I really wouldn't know.

- Ann Sheridan, Cary Grant

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: January 06, 2004

Stars: Cary Grant, Ann Sheridan
Other Stars: Marion Marshall, Randy Stuart, William Neff
Director: Howard Hawks

Manufacturer: Panasonic Disc Manufacturing Corp.
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild innuendo, cross-dressing)
Run Time: 01h:45m:15s
Release Date: January 06, 2004
UPC: 024543102625
Genre: romantic comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ BB-B- C-

DVD Review

One of the more unexpected but enduring effects of World War II was a shift in gender roles. Although Rosie the Riveter was a necessity during wartime, there was a certain understandable anxiety about who would wear the pants in the family upon the return of the soldiers. These fears are echoed in this comic tale based on the reminiscences of the real-life Henri Rochard.

French captain Henri Rochard (Cary Grant) is assigned to the German town of Bad Neuheim along with American Lt. Catherine Gates (Ann Sheridan). The two have a bit of a frictional history between them, and the trip is interlarded with hostilities and smart-aleck remarks. Of course, before long the two are madly in love and get married (repeatedly, in several languages). Then Lt. Gates is ordered back to the States, and the title concept comes into play, for immigration is stopped except for spouses of soldiers, most commonly known as "war brides." But so few taking advantage of this provision were men that the military is unable to cope with the concept and comedy ensues.

Grant is as usual marvelously entertaining in the lead role, though he's not exactly convincing as a Frenchman; he makes zero effort at a French accent, which is just as well. Co-star Ann Sheridan is appropriately saucy and stands up well as both a foil and romantic interest for Grant. The supporting cast isn't terribly memorable, but the leads play off of them with sparkling comic timing. The obtuseness of the military makes for much humor, as does the penchant for lengthy and unintelligble acronyms.

The first half tends to be more heavily slapstick, with the brilliant setpiece of the motorcycle-and-sidecar tour of the pair (with Sheridan driving) through Germany. Although the gags regarding sleeping arrangements get tired after a while, for the most part the exchanges are sufficiently witty to allow one to overlook some slow spots. The second half prominently features Grant as he attempts first to find lodgings and then to board Gates' ship. There's a persistent undercurrent of sexual tension as they attempt time and again to consummate their marriage without success; considering the Hays Office was still very powerful, the adult themes are surprisingly frank here. The culmination is the inevitable cross-dressing finale, which apparently was hilarious in the day but now just results in eye-rolling.

Director Howard Hawks for the most part keeps the proceedings moving snappily. Although there's not much in the way of innovation in the staging or the themes, this is an entertaining comedy of gender roles that gives an interesting glimpse into an odd little episode of history.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The original full-frame picture generally looks pretty good for its age. There's quite a bit of speckling in the early reels, and aliasing is present on occasion as well. The film is quite grainy, but it's rendered pretty well and doesn't sparkle excessively. Greyscales are quite decent and black levels are good. In comparison to the contrasty trailer, it looks terrific. Detail is fairy crisp and clear, though minor digital artifacting is present on camera pans.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The English soundtrack is available in two versions: a 2.0 mono and what purports to be a 2.0 stereo. While there's a significantly broader soundstage, I didn't note any pronounced directionality on the stereo track. Both sound fairly good, although noise (but oddly enough not hiss) is prominent in quieter episodes. Dialogue is always clear. Music has decent presence though as to be expected little is here in the way of deep bass. Both tracks are adequate for their time.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Monkey Business, An Affair to Remember, Kiss Them for Me, People Will Talk
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:45m:15s

Extra Extras:
  1. Still gallery
Extras Review: A few extras are included here. A still gallery contains about a dozen shots, mostly behind-the-scenes photos featuring Hawks. Movietone News raw footage (5m:13s) of the filming and the German premiere (without sound) is included as well. Some clearer identification of the people onscreen, perhaps through the subtitle function, would have been welcome. The rest of the extras are trailers, including an ugly UK one that's full of noise and features the unfortunate tag line, "the gayest comedy to come to the screen in years.". Four other Cary Grant trailers are provided, two of them (An Affair to Remember and Kiss Them For Me) in widescreen, but only the latter is anamorphic.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

An amusing little screwball romantic comedy, given an okay transfer and a few minor extras.


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