Friday, January 18, 2008

The More the Merrier (George Stevens, 1943)

****½
USA



George Stevens was mostly a conventional director but he had a gift for capturing intimacy. He was responsible for some of the most gush-inducing scenes of Hollywood romancing, several of which take place in this gem that brings together Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea and Charles Coburn in a cramped Washington apartment during the WWII housing shortage. Technically it's Arthur's vehicle, and Coburn was the one to snap up an Oscar, but it's ever patient, unassumingly sexy McCrea who steals the picture. As well as his usual goofy charm he brings weathered melancholy and yearning to a stock role. The script helps, for sure, as does Arthur's charm and groundedness, but the love scenes wouldn't be half as resonant without McCrea's conviction and half-buried vulnerability.

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