The More the Merrier
|The More the Merrier|
|Directed by||George Stevens|
|Produced by||George Stevens|
|Screenplay by||Richard Flournoy
Lewis R. Foster
Robert W. Russell
|Based on||Two's a Crowd
by Garson Kanin
|Music by||Leigh Harline|
|Edited by||Otto Meyer|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Box office||$1.8 million (US rentals)|
The More the Merrier is a 1943 American comedy film made by Columbia Pictures which makes fun of the housing shortage during World War II, especially in Washington, D.C. The picture stars Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea and Charles Coburn. The movie was directed by George Stevens. The film was written by Richard Flournoy, Lewis R. Foster, Frank Ross,[Note 1] and Robert Russell, from "Two's a Crowd", an original story by Garson Kanin (uncredited).
During World War II, retired millionaire Benjamin Dingle (Charles Coburn) arrives in Washington, D.C. as an adviser on the housing shortage and finds that his hotel suite will not be available for two days. He sees an ad for a roommate and talks the reluctant young woman, Connie Milligan (Jean Arthur), into letting him sublet half of her apartment. Comedy ensues when the two clumsily get in each other's way while arising and preparing for work. Connie makes things work by keeping to an exacting schedule, including eating breakfast and leaving for work at precise times.[Note 2] Then Dingle runs into Sergeant Joe Carter (Joel McCrea), who has no place to stay while he waits to be shipped overseas. Dingle generously rents him half of his half.
When Connie finds out about the new arrangement, she orders them both to leave, but she is forced to relent because she has already spent the men's rent money and cannot refund it. Joe and Connie are attracted to each other, though she is engaged to high-paid bureaucrat Charles J. Pendergast (Richard Gaines). Connie's mother married for love, not security, and Connie is determined not to repeat her mistake. Dingle happens to meet Pendergast at a business luncheon and does not like what he sees. He decides that Joe would be a better match for his landlady.
One day, Dingle goes too far, reading aloud to Joe from Connie's private diary, including her thoughts about Joe. When she finds out, she demands they both leave the next day. Dingle accepts full blame for the incident, and Connie allows Joe to stay the few more days before he is to ship out to Africa. Joe gives Connie an expensive suitcase as a surprise. They go out to dinner, and have a romantic and affectionate talk. She tells him he may stay there his final night before leaving.
Due to a nosy teenage neighbor, Joe is taken in for questioning as a suspected spy for the Japanese, and Connie is brought along as well. When Dingle and Pendergast show up to vouch for them, it comes out that Joe and Connie are living in the same apartment, despite her engagement to Pendergast. They are eventually released, but the story reaches a reporter. Dingle advises the young couple to get married to avoid a scandal and then to have it annulled later. They follow his advice and wed. However (as Dingle had foreseen), Connie's attraction to Joe overcomes her prudence.
As appearing in The More the Merrier, (main roles and screen credits identified):
- Jean Arthur as Constance Milligan
- Joel McCrea as Joe Carter
- Charles Coburn as Benjamin Dingle
- Richard Gaines as Charles J. Pendergast
- Stanley Clements as Morton Rodakiewicz
- Bruce Bennett as FBI Agent Evans
- Frank Sully as FBI Agent Pike
- Don Douglas as FBI Agent Hardy
- Clyde Fillmore as Senator Noonan
- Henry Roquemore as Washington Sun Reporter (uncredited)
With the original working title, Merry-Go-Round, principal photography took place for the film, from September 11 to December 19, 1942, with additional "inserts" filmed in late January 1943. Working under a special three-film contract with Columbia Studios, George Stevens completed the last of directorial duties with The More the Merrier. The other two films were Penny Serenade (1941) and The Talk of the Town (1942).
Under fire at Columbia for turning down too many projects, Jean Arthur and her husband Frank Ross invited a friend, Garson Kanin, to create a vehicle for Arthur, and they paid him out of their own pocket. Kanin's "Two's a Crowd", with Robert W. Russell, co-writing, received Harry Cohn's go-ahead. Other titles considered included, "Washington Story", "Full Steam a Head", "Come One, Come All" and "Merry-Go-Round", which actually tested best with audiences. Testy Washington officials objected to the title and plot elements that suggested "frivolity on the part of Washington workers". The More the Merrier was finally approved as the title.
Bosley Crowther of The New York Times enjoyed The More the Merrier, calling the film "as warm and refreshing a ray of sunshine as we've had in a very late spring". He praised all three leads, the writers, and the director, singling out Coburn as "the comical crux of the film" who "handles the job in fine fettle". TV Guide characterizes it as "a delightful and effervescent comedy marked with terrific performances" and praises Coburn as "nothing short of superb, stealing scene after scene with astonishing ease". Time Out Film Guide notes, "Despite a belated drift towards sentimentality, this remains a refreshingly intimate movie."
Coburn won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor while Arthur was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Other nominations included Best Director, Best Picture, Best Writing, Original Story and Best Writing, Screenplay.
This film is available on Region 1 (USA/Canada).
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- The More the Merrier at the TCM Movie Database
- The More the Merrier at the American Film Institute Catalog
- The More the Merrier at the Internet Movie Database
- The More the Merrier at AllMovie