Saturday, February 14, 2009

Movie Review: The More the Merrier (1943)

"Damn the torpedoes! Full steam ahead!"

It's 1943 and there's a housing shortage in Washington. Newcomers from all over the country are bunking down in lobbies and hallways, scouring newspapers for "room to let". Connie Milligan (Jean Arthur) is looking to do her civic duty by renting out her second bedroom but gets a surprise when Benjamin Dingle (Charles Coburn) barges his way into her life. Not only his he pushy, he's nosy and when he finds that her fiance is not to his liking he decides to play matchmaker. Sgt. Joe Carter (Joel McCrea) and his propeller are looking for a place to stay when Dingle puts his plan into action, renting out half of his half to the young soldier. Things go topsy turvy after Milligan's fiance gets involved and Carter is arrested on suspicion that he is a spy.

The Good:

The casting in here is perfect. Jean Arthur was 42 when this movie was made and manages to pull off a young working girl. Charles Coburn played Mr. Dingle and was adorably nosy. He won a Supporting Oscar for this role. Joel McCrea was a self-deprecating gentleman and I loved the scene where he gave Arthur the traveling bag. You can really see the chemistry between them as they fuss over the thing like a married couple.

The humour in this madcap romp is mostly thanks to Coburn. Watch for Arthur to explain the morning routine to him and witness his utter failure to put it into practice. He and McCrea get along famously, presenting a united singing front against Arthur and her shy, proper personality.

My favourite scene of the movie though, was the walk home from the restaurant. Both Arthur and McCrea are obviously inebriated and they walk past several other couples, winding up on the apartment steps. Notice that even though Arthur's had a few drinks, she's still quite reserved. McCrea on the other hand, can't seem to keep his hands off her. As the emotion in the scene heightens, the camera pulls in for tighter and tighter shots.

As well, this movie was remade in 1966 set in Tokyo during the Olympics with Cary Grant in Coburn's role. He tries to engineer a relationship between Samantha Eggers and Jim Hutton.

The Bad:

Arthur's crying made me want to mute the film. Her wailing was like the screech of ungreased wheels. Cringe worthy like nails on a chalkboard.

The Ugly:

Somebody find Eli Wallach.

Rating: 3.5/5

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