Film, Uncategorized, World War 2

Cary Grant and WW2 on the Silver Screen

Going to the movie theater is a rare event in my household.

My husband and I have to get awfully excited about a film to go to the trouble of finding babysitting and paying for an evening out.  Most of the time we decide it’s not worth it. Consequently, the last ‘recent’ movie I saw was My Little Pony: The Movie. (Rented for the kids. Really.)

While I may be slow to give new films a try, when I get a chance to view a classic film it’s a different story.

There’s just something about movies that employ stunt people instead of CGI, and that have to rely on their actors’ abilities rather than prettily digitized backdrops. I’m amazed at how a silent film like The Big Parade can portray the raw fear and anger and unbearable tensions of war without the luxury of dialog.

Of course, not all old all war films are serious.

Take, for instance, the World War 2 stories portrayed by Cary Grant.

Cary Grant was born in 1904 as Archie Leach of Bristol. He came to the U.S. at sixteen as part of a travelling comedy troupe. He remained in the States, broke into Hollywood with the help of contemporaries like Mae West, and eventually became a citizen.

Grant did not serve as a soldier in World War 2,*  but he did act the part in several films. In fact, his Operation Petticoat made the highest box-office earnings in his career.

In Operation Petticoat, Grant plays Lt. Cmdr. Matt T Sherman. His brand new submarine, the USS Sea Tiger is, unfortunately, docked in the Philippines on Dec 10, 1941. She is sunk before she can ever sail.

Unwilling to allow his boat to be scrapped, Sherman and his ingeniously corrupt supply officer (Curtis) make enough repairs to get the Sea Tiger underway. They hope to make it to a safe shipyard in Australia to complete repairs.

Enroute they are forced to take a group of five stranded U.S. Army nurses on board. With the women crammed into the close quarters of the sub things go…about how you’d expect. However, the film is from 1959, and in spite of some romantic entanglements and awkward situations, things stay fairly tame. 🙂

If you’re looking for strict historical accuracy Operation Petticoat isn’t your best bet, but if you are willing to overlook a few small anachronisms, you may find that a bad paint job, an embarrassing tattoo, a torpedoed truck and creative uses for feminine garments all come together to make an entertaining, if very silly, film.

While Operation Petticoat was Cary Grant’s most monetarily successful film, I personally prefer one of his other visits to the Pacific Theater.


World-weary alcoholic Walter Eckland (Grant) wants nothing more than to sail away alone on his private boat. However, when he runs into a British officer of his acquaintance, he is ‘persuaded’ (as in, ‘forced by the deliberate sinking of his ship’) to stay on a small island, radioing reports on Japanese planes .

In an attempt to get someone to take his place and regain his freedom, Eckland inadvertently ends up rescuing a teacher (Leslie Caron) and the seven little girls in her charge.

While the romance that develops between Grant and Caron is a little odd, they work well together and the interactions with the child actors and the humor in this movie make it another silly, but enjoyable, piece of almost-sort-of-kinda-historical entertainment.

As an interesting side note, both films share more than a leading man. According to they also share the same stock footage of a submarine. Ah well, waste not…

So, readers, do you have any favorites that could fall into the ‘classic film’ category? Whether they involve Cary Grant, World War 2, or neither, I’m always interested in recommendations 🙂

Thanks for visiting!


*While Cary Grant did not serve in the military, according to he gave all of his fee from his 1940 film The Philadelphia Story to the British War effort, and his salary from 1944’s Arsenic and Old Lace to the U.S. War Relief Fund.


22 thoughts on “Cary Grant and WW2 on the Silver Screen”

  1. Wasn’t Cary Grant fairly unusual, in being one of the few Hollywood stars who didn’t serve his country? That would make an interesting piece of research. Those that did included David Niven, Clark Gable and, possibly most famously, James Stewart. That said, I did used to enjoy Cary Grant’s movies – he was almost always pretty much Cary Grant in them, but invariably enjoyable – North by North West and the Bishop’s Wife being a couple of (non-war) favourites. I vaguely remember seeing Father Goose and Operation Petticoat – they sound fun (a quick trip to the local charity shop might be in order). Hmm – classic war movies…there are so many… Longest Day – gives a surprisingly accurate account of D Day and its build-up; Great Escape – a slightly over-blown account of a real escape and subsequent war crime; Matter of Life & Death – fascinating account of a crashed bomber pilot’s fate being decided in a kind of heavenly court, switching between monochrome and colour; Went the Day Well – badly made wartime film about an English village infiltrated by German parachutists – interesting as a piece of propaganda and view of how we Brits saw ourselves 70+ years ago; Reach for the Sky – the story of Douglas Bader, who foolishly lost his legs in a pre-war flying accident and ended up being a fighter pilot and leader during the Battle of Britain. Oh, that’s enough.. Nice post, Anne – made me think. Sorry about the long comment 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Don’t be sorry! I enjoy the comments! And new films to check out are always good- I just saw Longest Day last summer and Great Escape a few years ago, but the others are new titles. (Yes, the thrift stores are the place to look here too!) I enjoy Cary Grant’s films, but you hit it on the head- he almost always plays the same role. He even admitted it! One of his most interesting quotes I came upon was when someone told him everyone wanted to be Cary Grant. His reply: “So do I!” Father Goose was one of his few ‘changes’- an unshaven cranky face instead of the suave comedian. It didn’t go over so well with his public. Jimmy Stewart- ah, he’s my favorite 🙂 (And there’s a fairly long reply!)

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Oh! And as far as his not enlisting, he finalized his American citizenship at about the same time as war broke out. Apparently some folks speculated it was so that he wouldn’t have to go back and fight for Britain- but then, people always like to gossip about the famous.


  2. We gave up going out when my kids were young. We had a wonderful babysitter who moved away. No one after that proved trustworthy (at least to my standards). It wasn’t a hard decision: children’s safety vs. dinner out. Yeah, I know that answer!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No kidding! Finding excellent sitters is anxious work! I have a couple of good friends who will swap babysitting from time to time (and our kids play well together) but still, most of the time it’s just a no go 🙂


  3. Well, we FINALLY found a good babysitter after losing the lovely neighborhood girl to college in AZ. It took 2 years, but yay! So of course we wasted her on seeing the movie ANNIHILATION. (sigh) I think this is why Bo and I don’t go to movies. 🙂 And I think the most recent kid movie we rented for the kids was the LEGO NINJAGO movie…I think…which I don’t recommend, it’s such a rush job compared to the other Lego movies. Anyhoo, I’m sure Bo would have gobs to say on this, but I think Grant and John Wayne both got a little flack for playing military men while never serving. Well SOMEone’s got to play those roles. Who’s going to believe a male rated 4F by the war office capable of rugged action on the silver screen? So if anything it was a touch of American propaganda on our part–look at the rugged, brave men upon the screen! Don’t forget the thousands of other rugged, brave men fighting overseas! Buy war bonds!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hooray for babysitters! Boo for bad movies! I won’t go into my experience with PAYING a babysitter to see the first Hobbit…thing. (But I know not everyone shares my feelings on that one 😉 )
      I didn’t realize Wayne never served- interesting! I always think of him in…whichever religious movie it was…as the centurion at the cross saying in his John Wayne-I-est accent “Surely he WAS the son of God” and it makes me smile. (But, hey, Latin’s ‘dead’ so maybe centurions sounded like cowboys…. 🙂
      Yeah, Grant had to (according to a bio I watched on YouTube, which at least LOOKED reliable) change the tenor of his films a bit when it was war time- though his actual war films that I mentioned were made quite a bit after the fact. (I think his closest would have been “I Was a Male War Bride” – 1949.)

      Liked by 1 person

    2. (I take it back- Grant made “Destination Tokyo” in 1943. And I may be missing others, but now I should probably do dishes and feed the children, and besides, Bo undoubtedly knows more about this than I anyway! 😉 )

      Liked by 1 person

      1. LOL! Bo knows plenty, and I dare not turn on that faucet at this late hour. 🙂 But I thought Grant’s war films came out during wartime. interesting! I’ll have to ask him what kinds of films Grant made during WW2…

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post, Anne. I love Cary Grant movies. But I like old movies and the old stars. My kids, who are in their twenties love them too. Some of my daughter’s favorites are Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Fred Astaire, Bill Cosby, and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The older films just have a certain charm, don’t they? My littles have enjoyed the ones I’ve introduced (not ‘Petticoat’ yet- some questions I’m not ready to answer 😉 ) but it’s fun watching films from nearly a century ago (like the silent Buster Keaton stuff) cracking them up 🙂 Good stories keep their value!


  5. I am a huge old movie fan. I am constantly looking up movie on TCM’s site. Currently, I am interested in film noir, the film style of crime drama filmed between 1940-1958. Some of my favorites — Out of the Past, Mildred Pierce, The Third Man, and Inferno. I also have a soft spot for some the Sherlock Holmes movie starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. They were B movies but some were great fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love a ‘good’ B movie- I’ll take them over an overblown but poorly done film with a big budget any day!
      We also have a few on our shelves that might fit into the ‘noir’ category- Have you seen ‘A Touch of Evil’? I’ve been wanting to check those out again, but I’d have to be awake after the kids go down, and that’s not happening just now!

      Liked by 1 person

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