The More The Merrier – George Stevens
Although Mr. Dingle no longer lives in the apartment, he still manages to play Cupid by engineering an evening in which he manages to get Connie away from Pendergast and alone with Joe. In one sequence, she reminds the soldier that she is engaged to Pendergast since he becomes somewhat amorous, kissing her neck; Connie continues to speak fondly of Pendergast, but it is apparent that her emotions are weakening toward Joe. Inside the apart¬ment later on, they admit that they love each other but Joe is scheduled to leave Washington the next day.
At this point the fates seem to take the upper hand as-the FBI shows up to take Joe into custody. Apparently, in a rash moment, Joe has scared away a pestering neighborhood boy by claiming that he was a Japanese spy, and the boy has reported him to the authorities.
Joe’s denials avail him little, and he finds himself and Connie at the police station trying in vain to explain the situation. In the ensuing confusion, both Dingle and Pendergast turn up, with the latter horrified to see his betrothed in custody. As he hears the story, however, he becomes less interested in the claims that Joe is a spy, and more, interested in the revelation that he has been sharing Connie’s apartment. It is a development that he can scarcely tolerate. Simultaneously, one of the newspapermen, knowing that Pendergast is a government official, sees the making of a great story as Pendergast sees the making of a great scandal; his future would certainly be ruined by being linked to such a scandalous woman. Pendergast therefore steadfastly maintains that the only solution to this sticky situation is for Connie to marry Joe quickly and then get an immediate annulment. This is a side of Pendergast that Connie has not seen before, and she finds it distasteful. She agrees reluctantly to his idea, however, and she and Joe, cleared of the charges that he is a foreign agent, return to the apartment, where they regretfully agree to play out Pendergast’s scheme. Mr. Dingle, however, convinces them to get married but not have an annulment, leading them at the film’s finale in a chorus of his favorite saying: “Damn the torpedoes! Full steam ahead!”
The role of Connie was one of Jean Arthur’s best; her winsome charm suited the working-girl character perfectly, and a more glamorous star in the same role might have robbed it of credibility. McCrea, another successful “Everyman” type of character, is likewise effective as Joe. Most, however, agreed that the film was stolen by Charles Coburn, who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his rich comic performance. The film’s other nominations included Jean Arthur for Best Actress, Stevens for Best Director, Ross and Russell for Best Original Screenplay, and the film for Best Picture. The basic plot of The More the Merrier was updated and remade as Walk Don’t Run (1966), starring Cary Grant in the Coburn role, with the romantic leads Samantha Eggar and Jim Hutton. Capitalizing on the housing shortage in Tokyo during the 1964 Olympics, the remake was a pale shadow of the original, lacking the innate charm given it by the stylish direction of George Stevens.
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