75 Years of Film: 1943–The More The Merrier

This is a continuing series where my wife and I watch one movie from each release year and observe how film and the world have changed. For a brief intro and a list of all movies so far, click here. 

I had never heard of this film, but after a horror flick and a war story, a romantic comedy seemed appropriate. And what’s funnier or more romantic than a housing shortage during World War II? Sheesh, find humor where you can, I guess.

There’s a housing shortage in Washington D.C., so Connie Milligan (Jean Arthur) opens up her spare apartment bedroom for rental. It’s taken by a well-to-do old billionaire named Mr. Dingle (Charles Coburn) who decides Connie needs a man in her life, so he rents out half of his half to the handsome Joe Carter (Joel McCrea). Unfortunately, Connie is already engaged to another man and Joe won’t leave because he’s all paid up for the week. But when scandal and misunderstanding rear their ugly heads, well, they’ll all have to use theirs to get out with their reputations intact.

Yes, quite. The comedy is actually darn good because the characters are all very sure of themselves, so to see them all clashing is fun, plus the way they all get what they want simply by being cleverer and more assertive than the others is pretty entertaining. However, the latter parts are more romance and I admit my attention started to drift, but it won me back over by the end. It’s worth a watch. 3.5/5 stars.

Money went a lot farther back in 1943. Mr. Dingle rented out his room for $12 a week. $12 a week. That’s $48-60 a month, or $624 a year. My MONTHLY rent is $885. Granted, it was just one room, but my apartment is only a one-bedroom. Sheesh!

The comics in the newspaper were also more epic. At one point, Joe and Mr. Dingle goof off by reading a Dick Tracy comic in-character. And they just keep going. The comic just keeps going. It’s like an actual comic book in the newspaper. Nowadays? A few panels and that’s it. Short, funny, the end. Even the serious papers like “Mark Trail” are wicked short.

These old movies could really do physical comedy. There are two brief moments where a person wipes out on wet ground and they are far funnier than they should be. They don’t zoom it on it or anything, they just slip and BAM! Then they get back up like the whole take was an accident, but it’s a crack-up. Then again, I did love The Three Stooges.

I think this movie was a bit racy for its time. Having a man live in the same apartment as a woman? A young, handsome man and a young, pretty lady? And the pretty lady is already engaged? Ruh-roh, Raggy! Plus, at the end we see a woman in a nightgown that seems more for show than sleep because the sides are see-through mesh and boy do you see some hip.

But more than that, there’s a rather saucy scene where Connie and Joe sit on the stairs of their apartment and she tries to keep the conversation neutral and be loyal to the man she’s supposed to marry (but doesn’t love). Joe keeps making very cautious advances and the sexual tension just climbs until he finally gets his mouth on her neck. Dang! For 1943, dang!

Heck, even now that scene is pretty steamy. Nudity is not sexuality’s only facet.

Something I almost missed in this film is how there are far more women in this world than men. And the ladies flock around Joe. I thought it was because he was handsome, but then it clicked: all the guys are off at war. Living in 2016, that didn’t cross my mind.

However, I still don’t understand why there was a housing shortage. Again, I was not alive back then and my history lessons didn’t cover that. It felt a little out of the loop. However, Mr. Dingle is a silly old man, so this plot works anyway.

Finally, happy endings were only relative at the time, it seems. Even when they inevitably get together, Joe has to leave to return to war on government business. It’s still World War II, and nobody knew how it would end at the time. What a bizarre scenario. I can’t imagine, but it’s nice to see Hollywood kept making upbeat films, too.

MAJOR EVENTS IN 1943 (source):
Jan 13–Hitler declares “Total War.”
Feb 13–Women’s marine corp. founded.
Feb 20–American film studio executives agree to let the Office of War to censor films (loose lips sink ships, I guess)
Mar 13–Official baseball approved (the ball itself)
Mar 13 and 21–Failed assassination attempts on Hitler
Apr 8–President Franklin D. Roosevelt freezes wages and prices and prevents Americans from changing jobs for a time to check inflation. (Okay…)
May 19–Berlin declared “Free of Jews.”
Jun 10–US Income tax becomes a thing (and never goes away)
Jul 13–“Greatest tank fight in history” ends. Almost 6000 tanks involved (Russian v Germany, Germany won)
Jul 25–Italian Fascist leader Benito Mussolini dismissed as Premier and arrested (He then resigned on Jul 28…somehow).
Sep 8–Italy surrenders to Allied forces.
Nov 22–Royal Air Force begins bombing Berlin (payback is a you-know-what)
Dec 1–Roosevelt, Churchhill, and Stalin agree to what would become D-Day.

And this isn’t mentioning the countless battles of World War II or the insane number of Jews who were killed or imprisoned. The more I read about Jewish persecution, the the less amusing I find Justin Beiber’s “belieber” faux pax about Anne Frank.

OTHER MOVIES FROM 1943 (according to IMBD.com):
Batman–Yes, there was a movie before Adam West. It looks awful.
Shadow of a Doubt
Girl Crazy
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Heaven Can Wait
Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman
Tarzan Triumphs–over the Nazis. You can’t make this up.

PREVIOUS: 1942–Mrs. Miniver

NEXT: 1944–Meet Me in St. Louis

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