Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 1943. Columbia Pictures Corporation. Story by Robert Russell, Frank Ross, Screenplay by Robert Russell, Frank Ross, Richard Flournoy, Lewis R. Foster. Cinematography by Ted Tetzlaff. Produced by George Stevens. Music by Leigh Harline. Production Design by Lionel Banks, Rudolph Sternad. Film Editing by Otto Meyer. Academy Awards 1943.
Hollywood writers working after the Hayes code came into effect rarely had anything other than sex on their minds, taking items from the headlines as the jumping off point for some pretty naughty scenarios. Here we have the housing and hotel crisis of Washington, D.C. in the early months of World War II as a great way to force men and women into very close quarters, with Jean Arthur offering up half her apartment to a boarder in an effort to prove her patriotism. Delightful old codger Charles Coburn forces his way in as roommate, visiting the capital city to discuss this very issue of housing with the stuffed shirts on the hill; he quickly lets sexy Joel McCrea take half of his half of the apartment in order to help his delightful landlady find some romance. Arthur and McCrea, who is there on government business as well, hit it off immediately (and honestly who didn’t have sexy chemistry with McCrea?), which puts her own devotion to her dull fiance to the test. Sweet and sharp, featuring a superb performance by Arthur in the lead, this one’s charms are slightly dampened by George Stevens’ calm direction: a great filmmaker in his own right, Stevens doesn’t give this one the breathless pace that Preston Sturges or Billy Wilder would have. It makes perfect sense that he would achieve his greatest successes with prestige dramas in the fifties, but this film is gorgeous and the intimacy between the two leads really is enough to blow your collar off.