Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The More the Merrier (1943)

Jean Arthur discovers that her lodger has sublet her
apartment to a young officer.
Production of quality cinema during WWII was severely limited, but this film manages to be one of the happy exceptions to that rule. In fact, if it weren't for the housing crisis caused by the war, this classic screwball comedy probably never would have been made. At least this is one small consolation for one of the most horrible conflicts of the past century.

The More the Merrier stars Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea, and a riotously funny Charles Coburn, who steals the show as the quirky, meddlesome Mr. Dingle. The plot goes as follows: with all the servicemen coming in and out of D.C. because of the war, housing is next to impossible to find. Thus Jean Arthur feels it's her patriotic duty to sublet her apartment in order to help ease the situation. Obviously hoping to end up with a female lodger, she instead gets fast-talked by Mr. Dingle into subletting to him, which she figures will be all right because he's an elderly gentleman. Dingle, however, decides he must find a husband for her, so he sublets his half of the apartment to a young serviceman played by Joel McCrea, and hilarity ensues.

This film is one in which the brilliance lies more in the execution of the plot and the comedic details than in being terribly original. None of the gags are particularly memorable but they are built up so well and the timing on them is so impeccable that they still produce belly laughs. Arthur and McCrea were both veterans of romantic screwball comedies by the time this film came out, and they both shine in their roles, Arthur mostly reacting to the insanity around her, and McCrea fluctuating between a playful boyishness and genuine feelings for his landlady.

I give this film a 7.8 out of 10, one of the few good comedies produced during the Second World War.

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