Saturday, December 3, 2016

Once Upon a Honeymoon (1942)

What starts out as a light, frothy comedy
turns quickly into a war drama...
You will fall in love with Cary Grant in this picture,
that is, if you haven't already...

Those are the things I would have written had I been a critic or reporter in 1942, the year Once Upon a Honeymoon starring Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers was released. This movie has a little bit of everything and is a great watch from start to finish.

Of course, had I actually lived during WWII I might have thought differently. At least the critics and newspapers seemed to have somewhat different opinions from my own:
"Trying to mix romantic comedy with tragedy too stark and real" was a mistake according to the New York Times.
"The result is probably a screen hit, but the attempt to play for both laughs and significance against a terrifying background of Nazi aggression is, on the whole, a little disappointing." ~ Newsweek

The film tells the story of Katie O'Hara (Rogers), a gold-digging ex-burlesque queen posing as Philadelphian socialite Katherine Butt-Smith (that's pronounce "butte"). She is getting ready to marry the wealthy Austrian Baron Von Luber (Walter Slezak) who is suspected to be an undercover agent for the Nazis. War correspondent Pat O'Toole (Grant) is trying to expose him and wangles himself up to Miss Butt-Smith's apartment under the guise of a tailor to try to get some information. He recognizes her from her strip-tease act but when he asks her she insists that he has the wrong girl. We then get my favorite scene from the movie:

Notice the monogram on Roger's satin jumpsuit.

Pat of course becomes interested in Miss Butt-Smith and follows her as she goes by train to Prague, where she and the Baron are married, and then to Poland. Pat tries to warn Katherine about her husband - every place they stop the Nazi's happen to invade - but she won't listen.

Rogers in a gorgeous dressing gown (left) and a cozy robe.

In a lovely pansy evening gown. Jewelry provided by Eugene Joseff.

It is here that the film takes a darker turn and we are plunged into the war. Katie realizes that her husband is in fact a bad man and leaves him. But she hasn't seen the last of him! There is a lot of crossing and double-crossing, political intrigue, and a touching scene where Katie helps her Jewish maid escape before Katie and Pat find themselves on a boat to America, with an unexpected guest. There are plenty of surprises in this film, and hints of Suspicion (1941), that make it a must-watch for any fan of Grant.


The film was put on hold twice - the first time when director Leo McCarey was suddenly taken ill, during which time Cary made In Name Only (1939), and again when Rogers was not free and Cary made My Favorite Wife (1940), also directed by McCarey. Filming finally began in April of 1942.

Behind-the-scenes with McCarey, Grant, and Rogers

In the past, Grant and McCarey had not gotten along well (The Awful Truth, My Favorite Wife, An Affair to Remember) as McCarey loved to improvise in his comedies, writing dialogue the morning of filming and making his stars come up with their own lines. However, Once Upon a Honeymoon was a propagandist film and McCarey's focus was more on what the studio required for such a film. That didn't stop him from having some lovely romantic scenes though!

After filming wrapped in July, Grant intended to join the American Army Air Corps. He became a U.S. citizen and officially changed his name from Archibald Leach to Cary Grant. On July 8th he married Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton, reporting back to the RKO lot for work the next morning.

The following month, Grant was given his enlistment date but at the last minute, like so many other actors, was told he was more valuable to the cause as an actor.
Wherever Uncle Sam orders my utilization to the best purposes, there I will willingly go, as should every other man. I feel that Uncle Sam knows best.

Grant spent the remainder of the war years entertaining the troops with Goodwill Tours and making two more war pictures, Mr. Lucky (1943) and Destination Tokyo (1943).

This post is my entry to The Cary Grant Blogathon hosted by myself. I hope you enjoyed it and that you will read all of the other posts on this iconic actor and his contribution to cinema history!


  1. I had no idea that's what this movie is about!!! Holy cow, that is a lot different than what I had kind of assumed from the title. It sounds quite cool -- adding this to my Amazon to-watch list!

    1. Yeah, it's one of those titles that doesn't really convey what the movie is about. I'm sure you'll like it!!

  2. I've only seen this film once, but I remember enjoying it. Ginger and Cary are a lovely, underrated team -- actually, this whole movie is underrated. It kind of mixes a lot of genres, which I think some people have trouble with. Nice post! Love that clip you included!

    1. I had seen it listed on TCM several times but the title/description combo didn't sound that exciting. When I finally watched it I wished I had watched it sooner!!!

      Thanks for reading!

  3. Not mentioned a small role as a German official who has a chat with Ginger's character is an almost unrecognizable John Banner, in his first credited movie role, and before he put on a couple hundred pounds to later become Sergeant Schultz.