I Was a Male War Bride
Howard Hawks' I Was a Male War Bride (1949) never made it onto laserdisc, despite being one of the director's best postwar comedies. It has been released on DVD, however, in a handsome, mid-priced edition that comes with a decent helping of visual extras -- not just the original trailer (and those of a handful of additional Cary Grant movies), but also raw, unused, behind-the-scenes newsreel-type footage of the shoot and Hawks at work with Ann Sheridan, et al., and film of the movie's premiere in Heidelberg. The movie itself was a very improbable success for a comedy, set against the bleak, chaotic background of Allied-occupied, postwar Germany. (George Seaton did The Big Lift in the same setting a year later and it was a more natural fit as a multi-layered drama.) Yet Hawks and company managed to pull it off, mostly because of the interplay between Grant and Sheridan and the sheer ridiculousness of the plot (anticipating Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot), with Grant spending much of his screen time disguised as a woman in uniform. The verisimilitude of the location shooting also helps, giving the movie an edgy immediacy that makes the comedy more bracing and effective. (Ironically, Hawks' shooting of this film on location caused him to leave the final cutting of his prior movie, the Western Red River (1948), in the hands of editor Christian Nyby, which compromised the integrity of that film for decades.) The full-frame (1.33:1) transfer of the black-and-white War Brideis beautiful, the source apparently in stone-mint condition, and the audio is crystal clear and mastered at a decent volume level. The movie is good enough and important enough in Hawks' and Grant's outputs that it should have been included in Fox's "Studio Classics" series, complete with audio commentary, but this release will suffice for most viewers. The 105-minute movie has been encoded with an extremely generous and well-chosen 32 chapters, and opens on a simple two-layer menu that is very easy to maneuver.