Once Upon a Honeymoon (1942)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers in Once Upon a Honeymoon (1942)

Honeymoon for None

I like screwball comedies and I don't mind propaganda movies but combining the two well "Once Upon a Honeymoon" shows that it is a bad idea. Now I can understand what director Leo McCarey was attempting to do, he was trying to give a glimpse of the war to an American audience so that they could understand it but do so in a bright and breezy manner with Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers providing some romantic comedy. It is a blend that really doesn't work with the romantic comedy lacking the spark and abandon you would expect whilst the propaganda side does little other than give some WWII fundamentals.

Pat O'Toole (Cary Grant - The Philadelphia Story), an American radio journalist learns that American dancer Kathie O'Hara (Ginger Rogers - Kitty Foyle) is masquerading as Katherine Butt-Smith in order to marry Baron Franz Von Luber (Walter Slezak - Wonderful Life) who is suspected of being one of Hitler's right hand men. Unaware that the Baron is an important man she initially won't listen to Pat when he tricks his way into meeting her and tries to explain about the Baron. But as time passes Kathie becomes aware of the truth and also falls for Pat who had already fallen for her the first time he laid eyes on her.

Walter Slezak and Ginger Rogers in Once Upon a Honeymoon (1942)

So what we have going on in "Once Upon a Honeymoon" is two storylines and two styles, we have a war time propaganda movie and then a romantic comedy and as already mentioned the two don't work together. The trouble comes from in trying to be funny the actual drama of the story, Kathie discovering who her husband is and the glimpse of war in Europe as well as the sacrifices of those involved is lost. It becomes a weak drama which whilst still highlighting things from a brief mention of the fate of Jews to an American spy risking his life never really delivers any depth to it.

But then at the same time the romantic comedy also ends up weak because it doesn't have the freedom or gay abandon needed to bring it to life. It sort of lacks the spark, the speed of the banter and the quirkiness because it doesn't want to turn war into an all out laughing matter. The end result is a movie which whilst giving a rudimentary glimpse of WWII occasionally has a laugh but more often than not struggles.

And that is a shame because when you have Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers together the potential to deliver great comedy is there. In many ways it is thanks to Grant and Rogers that occasionally the comedy makes you laugh because it is there delivery of it rather than the comedy itself. In a scene where Pat shows up at Kathie's hotel room shattered due to the bombing raids the way Ginger Rogers moves, wanting to rub his shoulders but doesn't is such a great moment which is not only funny but speaks volumes of their characters but it is a fleeting moment in a movie which struggles. Fortunately Grant and Rogers are not alone and Walter Slezak is on fine form as Baron Franz Von Luber.

What this all boils down to is that for me "Once Upon a Honeymoon" was a misguided attempt to deliver screwball comedy in a propaganda movie. It just doesn't work and the two end up weakening each other as the comedy never kicks into gear whilst the storyline is water down. And it is a shame because having Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers on screen together offers up so much potential for sharp, snappy comedy.


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