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During World War II South Sea beachcomber Walter Eckland is persuaded to spy on planes passing over his island. He gets more than he bargained for as schoolteacher Catherine Frenau arrives on the run from the Japanese with her pupils in tow! Written by
Col Needham <email@example.com>
If you are looking for comparisons and don't mind a bit of a stretch, then you can consider "Father Goose" (1964) as another version of "Bringing Up Baby". In both Cary Grant gets to play a character experiencing a host of aggravations. Leslie Caron's Catherine Frenau is not as zany as Hepburn's Susan, but still manages to irritate Grant for most of the film until he finally realizes that he is in love with her. And instead of a leopard and a dog running amuck in rural Connecticut, "Father Goose" features seven schoolgirls of various nationalities running amuck on a Pacific island during WWII.
Everything works pretty well in this film although Grant is not quite up to an American accent so there are several awkward moments with the script. And the age difference makes the Grant-Caron romance unconvincing. Fortunately the producers skate over the romantic elements. In fact, the romance is treated so superficially that you wonder why they bothered to insert it into the story. A similar romance got much the same treatment that year in "My Fair Lady".
The film's real strength is the interaction between Grant and the seven schoolgirls as it manages a fair amount of believable characterization for each of them. The initially silent Jenny (Sharyl Locke), tomboy Harry (Jennifer Berrington), chronic complainer Anne (Pip Sparke), Elizabeth (Stephanie Berrington) and her imaginary friend Gretchen, coming of age Christine (Venina Greenlaw), and the French twins (Laurelle and Nichole Felsette). All have distinct personalities and it is obvious that Grant had a lot of fun working with each of them; so much so that he stayed in touch with them even after they grew up, married, and started their own families.
Grant's Walter Eckland is an American drifter hoping the war will just pass him by; illustrated during the opening credits by Digby Wolfe singing "Pass Me By" as Eckland (with an unwanted hitchhiking Pelican) steers his boat into the harbor. The war catches up with him there when the Harbor Master (Trevor Howard) tricks him into taking a coast-watching job until a replacement can be found.
His job is reporting by radio any movements by Japanese planes and ships near his island station. The reluctant recruit is rewarded with a bottle of whiskey (previously hidden somewhere on the island by the Royal Navy) each time one of his reports is confirmed.
Walter seems to thrive on this assignment until he has to share his island with a French teacher Catherine Frenau (Leslie Caron) and seven young charges. Miss Frenau hides the remaining whiskey bottles and the females take over Walter's hut.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
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