I Was a Male War Bride (Ovation) (1949)

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Released 16-Feb-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romantic Comedy Gallery-Poster
Featurette-Movietone Premiere (No Audio)
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1949
Running Time 101:02 (Case: 103)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Howard Hawks
Studio
Distributor

Ovation
Starring Cary Grant
Ann Sheridan
Marion Marshall
Randy Stuart
Bill Neff
Case ?
RPI $14.95 Music Cyril J. Mockridge


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    I Was a Male War Bride is a very disappointing comedy. It is barely funny at all. I am a big fan of Howard Hawks' films (for a testament, read my rave review of His Girl Friday), so I'll admit to a little doubt about my own response. However, I could barely muster much more than a few chuckles and only one genuine laugh at the very end.

    Cary Grant plays Henri Rochard, a captain in the French army stationed in post-war Germany, a man with the propensity to find himself caught within the confounding machinations of the American Army's bureaucratic processes. Personally, I was confounded by Grant's casting as a French officer, and was almost half way through the film before the penny dropped. Rochard is a man with a short temper, compounded by the contrived circumstances of which he is invariably the victim. Presumably, Grant's exasperated outbursts are meant to be a source of comedy, but the only person who finds amusement in his performance is Ann Sheridan's character, Catherine Gates, a Lieutenant in the American army. The two officers are paired together on a mission of minor importance because they have worked together before. Little do their superiors know that they could not stand each other and fight like cat and mouse.

    This mission is different though: it is not long before Catherine is soon falling for Henri, despite his aggravating behaviour, and soon after Henri also realises he must also be in love with Catherine. They succeed in their mission, proclaim their love, and decide to marry. That's the first half of the film. The second half of the film is dedicated to the problems of negotiating the red tape of their respective armies, then the problem of leaving Europe to settle down in America, and a recurring joke of Henri trying to secure a bed and a good night's sleep. The film's title comes from a legal loop hole that the couple exploit which allows Henri to enter America as the spouse of American army personnel; because tradition holds that most soldiers are men the law is referred to as the War Brides act.

    It is hard to accurately identify where the humour fails in this film, but there are a number of suspects I'm prepared to point the finger at. The screenplay, based on a story by the real Henri Rochard (although I have no idea just how autobiographical this story is), is by Charles Lederer (who also wrote the screenplay for His Girl Friday), Leonard Spigelgass, and Hagar Wilde (who provided the story of Bringing Up Baby). At every step of the story the problems that the couple are about to face next are very predictable. A worse problem is that most of the set ups are not actually that funny: when a door handle comes off in Henri's hand, trapping him in Catherine's room whilst she is asleep he attempts to sleep in an uncomfortable chair; another night finds him curled up in a bathtub; and on his final night in Europe he finds himself rejected from hotel after hotel. Grant deserves some blame here, as he never really seems sure how to play his scenes, and his performance comes across as quite flat. Hawks also deserves a share of the guilt, as his direction seems limited to basic staging of scenes, and eschews a zany style that might have enhanced the material which was so clearly aiming for zaniness.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    I Was a Male War Bride comes in a 1.33:1 ratio, which is typical for a film that was originally 1.37:1.

    There are much better examples of DVD transfers from film this old, so there are a number of things to be disappointed with here. But not the sharpness, which was relatively good throughout, and low level noise is also under control. The real problem is excessive grain which recurs at different parts of the film. It was an annoying presence for the first 40 minutes, then mysteriously disappeared, before turning up 10 minutes later. It occasionally took a break at later points in the film, but would soon come back.

    There is no real problem with film-to-video artefacts, and film artefacts on the source print are also only minor.

    This is a black and white film so there is no colour to worry about.

    Subtitles are not available, and because this is a single layer disc there is no layer change to detect.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The only audio track on this disc is the default English, a Dolby Digital 2.0 track surround encoded at 448Kb/s.

    Dialogue quality and audio sync are pretty good, but the overall audio is very average. It is plagued by hiss and a number of pops throughout.

    The music is credited to Cyril Mockridge, and is a relatively amusing blend of military themes and up beat music.

    I have no idea why this soundtrack has been surround encoded, as it was most certainly a mono track originally. The surrounds were used mainly for extra hiss and distortion, and there was no subwoofer activity.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

 

Menu

    This is a 4x3 screen, with a picture of Grant and Sheridan on the side, and the menu on the right. There is no accompanying music.

Poster Gallery

    Hardly an exhaustive gallery: there are only 5 images, three of which are posters.

Featurette (5:12)

    This is one of the most useless extras I have ever seen. It is five minutes of various footage from the film's set and from a number of premiere screenings. There is no sound at all, so the footage is even more boring than it would have been. None of the action on set even looks interesting, with actors and crew simply taking their places, and the footage of the premieres seems to be exclusively military officers, with no sign of the actors.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    I Was a Male War Bride was released in Region 1 on 6 January 2003, and seems to be very similar to what we have been given here. There are two soundtrack options, a stereo and a mono, as opposed to our stereo track. However, most reviews claim the audio to be very good and clear of all hiss and distortion, which is most certainly not the case with our disc. Most of the reviews also mention the excessive grain, but do not express the same negativity that I had towards it. The same poster gallery and lame featurette is also included, which one reviewer thought was interesting. Each to their own.

    The Region 1 comes with English and Spanish subtitles, an original trailer, plus four other trailers. It is also a single layer disc, and has a runtime of 105 minutes, which is similar to our disc's runtime of 101 minutes if you include the PAL speedup. For the clearer soundtrack, the original trailer, and the subtitle options, the Region 1 disc is definitely the one to own.

Summary

    I had high hopes for a comedy from Howard Hawks, but I Was a Male War Bride was mostly unfunny and boring.

    The video quality was quite poor.

    The audio quality was bearable, but suffers from hiss and pops.

    The extras are barely worth a mention.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Michael Cohen (read my bio)
Monday, December 12, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPhilips 860, using RGB output
DisplaySony 76cm FD Trinitron WEGA KV-HX32 M31. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationSherwood
SpeakersSherwood

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