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I'm amazed at the bad reception that Once Upon a Honeymoon got from
other reviewers here. It's not the greatest film from either the stars
or the director, but far from the worst. See Satan Never Sleeps or My
Son John for Leo McCarey's worst. And it's one of Walter Slezak's best
Slezak plays the fictional Baron Von Luber who like the Fuehrer was Austrian born and played a big hand in the Anschluss. After that he became a Nazi ambassador of good will. But in his wake countries seem to fall to the Germans after every one of his missions. He's a rising star in the Nazi movement.
He's also married a show business American wife in the person of Ginger Rogers. That and his activities arouse the curiosity of editor Harry Shannon and commentator Cary Grant.
Once Upon a Honeymoon is very similar to that other Cary Grant film from Alfred Hitchcock, Notorious. Of course the Hitchcock film has Grant as an FBI agent who gets Ingrid Bergman to marry Claude Rains to spy on his postwar activities in a country with no extradition. Rains actually becomes an object of some audience sympathy even as a Nazi, but Slezak never does.
In fact his role is similar to that other exhibit of the master race found in that other Hitchcock film, Lifeboat. But he's gotten in a way that the gauleiter of the lifeboat never is. Cary Grant damns him with faint praise and a shrewd use of reverse psychology on the Nazi mind. Slezak's reactions to Grant's broadcast are worth seeing the film alone.
Leo McCarey makes some very serious points about the Nazis mixed in with the humor. When Grant and Rogers are caught when they think they're Jewish, it's a very harrowing predicament indeed until they are providentially rescued.
Once Upon A Honeymoon though firmly dated to World War II, holds up very well in the laugh and propaganda departments both.
Although there is a silly side to this movie, I really don't think that its only value is as a curiosity. In reality, it was a singular vehicle for Ginger Rogers to flex her acting muscles, instead of merely being a sidekick in a dance routine. She is something to behold in this movie. And, I maintain that if you are a Cary Grant fan, it's nothing to sit through this slightly confectionery film. It is practically astonishing that the Jewish issue was addressed in a movie made in 1942. Finally, it's worth pointing out that any average film from this period is Shakespearean compared to the dreck on offer most of the time these days.
This comedy is good and at the same time shows the situation in Europe when the nazis were invading step by step each country of central and east Europe. The story is refreshing although it touches a very delicate issue, which affected millions of people in Europe in early 40s. Cary Grant was able to play a good role as a journalist, who is very well informed of the problems caused by nazis and the ways the latter used for invasion. Splendid Ginger Rogers also did very well, and no less important was Walter Slezak playing well the role of the nazi officer Baron Von Luber. In the film there is some thrill, romance and comic scenes, in conclusion Leo McCarey directed a good comedy once again.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This was not the best propaganda film from Hollywood during World War
II. I would start that list with MRS. MINAFER or SINCE YOU WENT AWAY.
Even LIFEBOAT would be ahead of it, despite having the services of
Walter Slezak here as well. As is noted in many of the reviews of this
thread, ONCE UPON A HONEYMOON is a trifle too schizoid, being a comedy
regarding the triangle between Cary Grant and Slezak over Slezak's wife
Ginger Rogers, and the issues of Slezak as a "Von Papen" or
"Ribbentrop" style diplomat for the Third Reich. Still, it is not as
horrendously bad as it's detractors make it sound, and it actually
touches (at one of it's best points) a theme that the Allies joked
about but really were in no position to discuss until long after the
Slezak is (as was pointed out in another review) a fellow Austrian to Der Fuhrer, and so one can see him undermining the Schussnigg Regime in Vienna in 1938 (pals of that gauleiter who makes things rough for Captain Von Trapp and his family in THE SOUND OF MUSIC - you can tell the type). Whenever you watch Walter Slezak in his Nazi roles, just like his fellow mittle-European Conrad Veidt, you genuinely see their performing on film the really horrendous creatures that Hitler unleashed on Europe and the globe. Slezak was lucky. He was the son of Leo Slezak, a famous opera/operetta performer, and the Slezak family was able to get out of Europe for the U.S. in the 1930s (just like Veidt and Peter Lorre were able to do). But he captures the career diplomat, serving under Von Ribbentrop's watchful eye - and making contacts throughout the globe to spread Nazi power.
The film has a very heavy framework because of the Nazi threat - which makes the handling of the comic triangle all the more odd to viewers. But that framework has many nice touches in it, mostly due to Leo McCarey's direction. For example, we see Slezak's Baron Von Luber traveling to France - and (after making sure he is not being observed) going towards a house with a sign out front saying "Laval". He goes to Norway and he has a conference with Vidkun Quisling. Towards the end, when he is planning to head for America, one wonders if he was going to visit Henry Ford or Charles Lindbergh (or should I say "Robert Forrest"). There is also a nice introduction at the start showing the face of a huge clock with a swastika in place of the hour and minute arms, and it's called "the clock of Adolf Hitler", with the fall of various countries shown as the swastika turns clockwise.
The interesting thing is that Slezak's character is so committed to the cause of his friends that he does not really care all that much for the embarrassment Roger's affair with Grant causes. In fact he gets Grant to do propaganda for the Nazi cause. This leads to the best scene of the film, wherein Grant is delivering a speech that Slezak wrote over the radio, but that Grant rewrites on the air. In 1942 Americans and their allies really had no idea of the intense inner schisms and power rivalries Hitler pushed among his top echelon of advisers. In a room where Slezak is surrounded by Goering, Goebbels, and Himmler, they hear a radio valentine directed at making Slezak's Baron seem more fitting a successor of Hitler than the other three. We never see the actors playing those three monsters, but we see their backs as they turn at a thoroughly embarrassed and frightened Slezak shrinking before their angry eyes.
The film also is the first time that McCarey and Grant would find an ocean liner as a backdrop (the second would be AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER), but as we discover at the end of this film the ship is as much a weapon and a prop as it is a backdrop.
Although an intriguing curiosity - a comedy/intrigue with hearty doses of wartime propoganda - the film never resolves its schizoid persona. The Nazi characters are too cartoonish to provide real menace, and what comedy there is is overshadowed by the sincere attempt to portray the threat to European Jewry. The ending is abrupt (mercifully so?) and doesn't really resolve anything. Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers do their best but their efforts don't save matters. The scene where the allied agent attempts to prove his American identity to Rogers is tediously, painfully humorless. Watchable only as a curiosity.
I am watching the Cary Grant films in a very odd order. This is my
second (the first was "Bringing Up Baby", which is a sensible first
Cary Grant film). I originally wanted to watch this because of Ginger
Rogers co-starring with Cary Grant, without knowing what the film was
about. Unfortunately, Ginger does not do any dancing or singing, but
she and Cary do a marvellous job! These two actors are the points I
like most about "Once Upon a Honeymoon", but this film is interesting
in other aspects as well...
It was a film made in the "The war in Europe," around the time America had only just joined the war. This film was probably made to convince Americans that they should help the Europeans in the war. Only a few days after "Once Upon a Honeymoon" was released, America happened to join the war. Whether this film convinced anybody or not does not seem to be clear, but it certainly made some sort of impression on the average public.
I found the war theme disturbing in places in this film, especially the part where Cary and Ginger are briefly taken to a concentration camp. Luckily, this film has quite a deal of little old humorous bits popped in every now and again, thanks to the actors playing the good characters and it is quite a light film to watch.
I recommend this to people who like Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers (and do not mind if she does not dance or sing), people who are interested in World War II and to people who like films that are a good deal different. Enjoy "Once Upon a Honeymoon"! :-)
**SPOILERS** Combination 1930's screwball comedy and WWII Hollywood
propaganda movie that has the Nazi's looking so ridicules even when
their taking over all of Western Europe that you don't know if you
should either laugh or cry as your watching it. Brooklyn showgirl and
gold-digger Katie O'Hara, Ginger Rogers, has traveled to Vienna Austria
to strike it big by lassoing in a rich Austrian baron. Katie hit's the
bullseye with chubby but rich and well bred Baron Von Luber, Walter
While Katie is planning to get married to the Baron American reporter Pat O'Toole, Cary Grant,is trying to get the big story, Brooklyn girl marries rich European Aristocrat, impersonates Katies tailor only to have the real one show up, after Pat took Katie's measurements, thus making a quick withdrawal from Katie's bedroom. It's at that moment that the Nazi's enter Vienna incorporating Austria into the German Reich.
Pat smitten by Katie and ignoring her soon to be husband starts to follow her and the Baron to Prague Czechoslovakia. Just then just like in Vienna the Nazi's suddenly march into town with their Fuhrer Adolph Hitler leading the parade. We see the big man himself, Adolph Hitler, all five foot eight inches of him in newsreels and being played actor Carl Ekberg throughout the film.
It's not until the Baron travels together with Katie and Pat tagging along to Warsaw Poland that we get an inkling of just what he's all about. It turns out that the Baron is the advance man for Hitler's vaunted Whermacht and Luftwaffe. In that he softens up every country that he stays in making them easy for the German Military to invade and take over. In Poland just before the German invasion the Baron sells the Polish military commander General Boneiski, Albert Bassermann, a load of new and state of the art automatic weapons only to later find out that they don't work. Making it a piece of cake for the Whermacht to overrun the Poles and capture Warsaw.
It's during the bombardment of Warsaw that both Pat and Katie come up with the idea of having her declared a fatality of war which in return has her marriage to the Baron no longer valid. This, lucky guy, has handsome and debonair Pat O'Toole, well really Cary Grant, get a crack at Katie as her new and fellow American husband.
The film starts to get serious when after both Pat and Katie run into the Baron in Paris France, another country that the Baron helped his Fuhrer Hitler to take over, this after spending some time in a German concentration camp on the suspicion of them both being Jewish. Katie switched her US passport with her Jewish maid so she and her two young children can get out of Nazi occupied Europe.
Pat cooks up a scheme to get a job as a broadcaster for the German propaganda ministry, this is in 1940 before the US was at war with Nazi Germany, to give him and Katie, whom the Baron had since lost interest in,time to get new passports and get the first boat out of Nazi occupied France and back to the USA. Pat now really getting under the Baron's skin in his first and only broadcast to America.Pat's on the air hysterics almost has the over-sized and arrogant jerk shot and killed by the Gestapo by him announcing that the loyal and obedient Baron is planning to overthrow the Fuhrer, Hitler, himself and take over the government! All in jest of course. The real kicker in Pat's hilarious broadcast is revealing, again all in jest of course, that the pure blooded Aryan Baron Von Luber is actually married to a Brooklyn Jewish woman! The identity that Katie has on her passport that she switched with her Jewish maid. That had the big and sputtering Nazi buffoon almost burst one of his pure blooded Aryan blood vessels!
The Baron now back in the good graces of the Fuhrer, whom he was accused by Pat of trying to do in, is given a chance to redeem himself by traveling on an ocean-liner to America and do his thing undermined the country and set up the land of the free and home of the brave for the next Nazi conquest. It's then when he runs into his ex-wife,the Fuhrer had annulled his marriage, Katie on deck and the rest of the movie, as well as the Baron himself, is soon to become history.
You don't know how to take this movie since it's about a very serious subject, WW II, but at the same time it doesn't seem to take itself seriously at all. It's as if the film is a precursor to movies and TV shows of post-World War Two goofy and bumbling Nazi's like in the movie "The Producers" and the 1960's TV comedy "Hogan's Heroes".
This movie is interesting more as a historical piece than as a source of entertainment. This movie makes repeated references to the Nazis and Adolf Hitler. The story itself is trite and banal and Cary Grant's attempts at comedy fall flat. However, these drawbacks are negated by the presence of Ginger Rogers who is absolutely stunning, even in black and white. She is HOT. No way that that Cary Grant was going to upstage her; he definitely plays second-banana to Ms. Rogers. Trying to imagine how an audience may have received this movie when it was released in 1942, for twenty-five cents, which was how much it cost to go to a movie in those now practically ancient days, the audience certainly got their money's worth. After all, the world was at war, Adolf Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo were running amok, victory was uncertain, but when seated inside a nice, comfortable movie theater watching Cary Grant coming on to Ginger Rogers, it must have offered at least a welcomed respite from the anxiety associated with the war, which is what entertainment is all about. Today there are many beautiful actresses, and some of them can even act, but Ginger Rogers set the standard and she's still number one.
When Leo McCarey made this film, America was only a number of months into WWII. The events leading up to the start of the war (at least in Europe) were known to some, with most of America still getting their news from the newsreels at the theater or radio. This film is a great way for people to learn about how the opening of WWII began, especially now where some schools are limited in their ability to cover the events. Two "average Americans" moving about Europe, sometimes steps ahead (or behind as in the Polish through Low Countries scenes) of the events which changed Europe. The time in the Polish Ghetto, as well as in Paris, allow for the audience to get to know the characters, without having to gather the facts as the story goes along. Just as National Treasure teaches about American History while entertaining, this movie belongs in the same group, as it tells a "You Are There" version of 1939-40 European History.
Grant and Rogers and Slezak should be a prescription for greatness but this is no Monkey Business or People Will Talk -- two much better films. This is one of the most bi-polar movies I've ever seen, attempting to balance tragedy and farce and flippancy == it tips over more than once.
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