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Film / The More the Merrier

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Jean Arthur with a glorious two piece.

A 1943 Screwball Comedy from The Golden Age of Hollywood directed by George Stevens, starring Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea, and Charles Coburn.

A retired millionaire, Benjamin Dingle (Coburn), finds himself with nowhere to stay during the World War II housing shortage in Washington, D.C. Somehow, he weasels his way into sharing an apartment with Connie Milligan (Arthur), a spunky, engaged girl. Various hijinks ensue, especially when Dingle decides to play Cupid between Connie and Joe Carter (McCrea), the man he sublets his rented room to without letting Connie know (yes, super screwbally). As per usual in a screwball comedy, all ends well.

Nominated for several Academy Awards, with Charles Coburn winning for Best Supporting Actor for his role.

Remade in 1966 as Walk, Don't Run, which starred Cary Grant in his last film role and changed the setting to Tokyo during the 1964 Summer Olympics. Compare Government Girl, another 1943 comedy about wartime overcrowding and bureaucracy in Washington, D.C.

Tropes found in this work:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Between Mr. Dingle and Joe.
  • Almost Kiss: Twice do Joe and Connie come quite close to having a kiss but are interupted by outsiders.
  • Altar the Speed: Dingle arranges for Connie and Joe to board the plane to South Carolina at 5.42 a.m. so they could be back as a married couple by noon.
  • Anywhere but Their Lips: The famous stoop scene. A Hollywood Kiss follows this sexy tease of a scene.
  • Baldness Angst: Pendergast suffers from this. He wears a hat whenever possible and in situations where a hat isn't appropriate, such as having dinner with his fiancee in a nice restaurant, he wears a (rather obvious) toupee
  • But I Would Really Enjoy It: What Connie's clearly thinking during the stoop scene.
  • Catchphrase:
    Benjamin Dingle: Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead!
  • Chekhov's Gun: Chekhov’s wall, really.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Benjamin Dingle to a tee. Where would screwball comedies be without them?
  • Cosmetic Horror: Connie has a face full of cold cream when she bumps into Joe. She's not impressed.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Joe. Take this tidbit:
    Benjamin Dingle: Say, what brought you here, Mr. Carter?
    Joe Carter: Railroad.
    Benjamin Dingle: No, I mean, what's your job?
    Joe Carter: I'm a mechanic. I work in a baby carriage factory.
    Benjamin Dingle: Where?
    Joe Carter: California.
    Benjamin Dingle: San Francisco?
    Joe Carter: Burbank.
    Benjamin Dingle: Baby carriage factory, eh?
    Joe Carter: Yep. Tokyo Baby Carriage Corporation - plain and fancy baby carriages for carrying babies to Tokyo.
    Benjamin Dingle: Oh. Maybe you think this is none of my business.
    Joe Carter: Maybe I do.
    Benjamin Dingle: Probably your name isn't even Bill Carter.
    Joe Carter: Probably not. It's probably Joe Carter.
    • Okay, another one.
      Joe Carter: What do you do?
      Benjamin Dingle: I'm a well-to-do, retired millionaire. How 'bout you?
      Joe Carter: [deadpan] Same.
  • Delayed Reaction: Happens at several times.
    • When Dingle locks Connie out of the apartment, she rings and he opens and closes the door. It takes a few seconds before it dawns on him what he just saw.
    • Connie and Joe's Meet Cute moment involves quite some delay.
    • Pendergast realizing he was talking to a newspaper man.
  • Disposable Fiancé: Poor Mr. Pendergast.
  • Dodgy Toupee: On Mr. Pendergast. In a meeting, he's the only one wearing a hat to hide his baldness. Then, the audience gets to see the toupee in all its glory during the restaurant scene. This guy can't catch a break!
  • Double Take: Both Joe and Connie do this once they find out about each other.
  • Fourth-Date Marriage:
    • Averted with Connie and Charles J. Pendergast who were dating for 22 months.
    • Played straight with Connie and Joe who only knew each other for a couple of days.
  • Gold Digger: Downplayed. Connie is marrying an older, established man for the financial security that a marriage to him would provide her with.
  • Gratuitous French: A failed attempt at giving their chaotic morning routine some dignity.
    Connie Milligan: All right, Mr. Dingle, après moi.
    Benjamin Dingle: Après vous, mademoiselle.
  • Guys are Slobs: Connie asserts that Joe is this. Then comes this beautiful exchange about the difference between Joe and Mr. Pendergast (Connie’s fiancé):
    Connie Milligan: You look messy. Don't you ever brush your hair?
    Joe Carter: [fixing his hair] I bet Mr. Pendergast combs his hair every hour, on the hour.
    Connie Milligan: Mr. Pendergast has no hair!
  • Hot And Cold: Connie is a little bit of this.
  • Humiliation Conga: Pendergast learns that his fiancee has been living with a younger (and better looking) man. Then his fiancee tells him off for not caring about her and she calls off their engagement. This all witnessed by a gossip columnist who has been desperately looking for a story to publish and as Pendergast runs out to stop him he slips and falls into a deep puddle of grimy water.
  • Hysterical Woman: Connie is near the end. Played for Laughs for great comedic effect. Connie can’t stop crying during her honeymoon with Joe, because it isn’t the way she imagined it. Later made even more hilarious with the reveal of the missing wall.
  • I Kiss Your Hand: Joe kisses Connie's hand as part of their door step makeout.
  • Internal Reveal: You know that wall between the two rooms? Yeah, it’ll be important later.
  • Last-Name Basis: Connie never calls her fiancé by his first name, Charles.
  • Love Triangle: Connie Milligan is engaged to marry Washington bureaucrat Charles Pendergast. But she starts to fall in love with a soldier named Joe Carter.
  • Married to the Job: This is Pendergast. He's still a bachelor in his early forties, he and Connie have been engaged for 22 months, he readily cancels a date with her to conduct business with Benjamin Dingle and at the end when it's revealed Connie has been living with Joe his only concern is of how it will affect his career.
  • Meet Cute: It’s almost mandatory in the screwball oeuvre.
  • Mistaken for Spies: More like Mistaken for Spy. Joe is arrested for rising the suspicions of Connie’s young neighbour.
  • Morning Routine: Connie has a strict one.
  • Ms. Fanservice: On top of the apartment's roof, Connie shows off her nice legs. Later in the film, we see her in a lacy negligee. Pretty racy for the era of The Hays Code.
  • Post-Kiss Catatonia: Both Connie and Joe have this during the stoop scene, and forget they're living together.
  • Returning the Wedding Ring: While riding in a crowded taxi cab, Connie angrily gives Pendergast back his ring when she realizes that he's more concerned with his career than he is with her.
  • Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: Mr. Pendergast earns $8,600 a year while Joe is just a soldier.
  • Running Gag: Dingle’s silly suspender pants disappearing and reappearing to his surprise.
  • Screwball Comedy: A delightful one.
  • Secret Diary: Connie keeps one, but Dingle is quick to guess that she has one. He calls her out on it too:
    Benjamin Dingle: There are two kinds of people - those who don't do what they want to do, so they write down in a diary about what they haven't done, and those who are too busy to write about it because they're out doing it!
  • Singing in the Shower: Joe. More like yelping like a seal.
  • Shipper on Deck: Benjamin Dingle to Connie and Joe. He succeeds!
  • Slippery Skid: In his final scene Pendergast suffers a nasty slip and fall while chasing a reporter across a street that had just been sprayed down by a street sweeper.
    Cab Driver: Your friend just stole third base!
  • Spit Take: Joe does this when he realizes Connie is living in the apartment.
  • Tagalong Reporter: For a short time. And not good news, for he is a gossip columnist. He overhears that Joe has been living in Connie’s apartment. Maybe not a problem now, but in 1943, it’s scandalous. Connie could lose her job!
  • Talking in Bed: Connie and Joe do this, of course, separated by the thin wall. They confess their feelings for one another, but admit it would be pointless to start the relationship since Joe will be shipped off to Africa in three days.
  • Talking in Your Sleep: Mr. Dingle says Joe’s being doing this, whispering Connie’s name.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Joe. (Joel McCrea in general.)
  • There Are Two Kinds of People in the World: Dingle's comment on Connie's Secret Diary.
    Dingle: There are two kinds of people... those who don't do what they want to do... so they write down in their diary what they haven't done.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Sandwich: At the airport restaurant Joe and Connie are about to have lunch but because of Connie's constant sobbing Joe decides they'd better go so they leave dishes behind untouched.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Between Connie and Joe, of course.
  • Zany Scheme: Mr. Dingle’s plan to get Joe and Connie together.