The More the Merrier
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 screenplay by Garson Kanin (uncredited).
|The More the Merrier|
Theatrical poster, with a fanciful imagining of the characters' relationships.
|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 (uncredited)
|Music by||Leigh Harline|
|Edited by||Otto Meyer|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Box office||$1.8 million (US rentals)|
Retired millionaire Benjamin Dingle 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, into letting him sublet half of her apartment. Then Dingle runs into Sergeant Joe Carter, 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. Joe and Connie are attracted to each other, though she is engaged to bureaucrat Charles J. Pendergast. 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 takes full blame for the incident. Connie allows Joe to remain in the apartment as he has only a few days before being shipped out to Africa. Joe asks Connie to go to dinner with him. She is reluctant to do so, but decides to go if Pendergast does not call for her by 8:00 that evening. At 8:00, she and Joe are ready to leave, but her noisy teenage neighbor seeks her advice and delays her until Pendergast arrives. Joe spies on the two of them from the window. When the young neighbor asks what he is doing, Joe flippantly tells him he is a Japanese spy.
Dingle calls Joe to meet him for dinner. There, Dingle bumps into the couple (Pendergast and Connie) and pretends he is meeting Connie for the first time, forcing Joe to do the same. Dingle engages Pendergast in talk about his work, eventually maneuvering him up to his hotel room so that Connie and Joe can be alone together.
Joe takes Connie home. The two talk about their romantic pasts and even kiss. From their separate rooms, Joe confesses that he loves her. She tells him she feels the same way, but refuses to marry him, as they will soon be forced apart when he leaves for Africa. Their talk is interrupted by the arrival of the FBI, who have been called to investigate Joe for spying, thanks to the young neighbor. Joe and Connie are taken to FBI headquarters. They identify Dingle as a fellow apartment occupant who can testify that they are only roommates. Dingle arrives, bringing Pendergast as a character witness. It comes out during questioning that Joe and Connie live at the same address. When they ask Mr. Dingle to tell Pendergast that their living arrangement is purely innocent, he denies knowing them.
Outside the station, Dingle says he lied to protect his reputation. Taking a taxi home, they discuss what to do to avoid a scandal. Connie grows angry when Pendergast thinks only of himself. When another passenger in the shared cab turns out to be a reporter, Pendergast runs after him to try to stop him from writing about the cohabiting situation. Dingle assures Connie that if she marries Joe, the crisis will be averted, and they can get a quick annulment afterwards. The couple follow his advice and wed after flying to South Carolina, where a license can be more quickly obtained than in DC. Returning home, Connie allows Joe to spend his final night in her apartment. As Dingle had foreseen, Connie's attraction to Joe overcomes her prudence; the intimacy is facilitated by the fact that the wall separating Connie's and Joe's bedrooms has vanished, presumably thanks to Dingle. Outside, Dingle puts up a card on the apartment door, showing that it belongs to Sgt. and Mrs. Carter.
- Jean Arthur as Constance Milligan
- Joel McCrea as Joe Carter
- Charles Coburn as Benjamin Dingle
- Richard Gaines as Charles J. Pendergast
- Bruce Bennett as FBI Agent Evans
- Frank Sully as FBI Agent Pike
- Donald Douglas as FBI Agent Hardy (as Don Douglas)
- Clyde Fillmore as Senator Noonan
- Stanley Clements as Morton Rodakiewicz
- Henry Roquemore as Washington Sun reporter (uncredited)
- Grady Sutton as diner server (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's friend, Garson Kanin offered to write a screenplay—for $25,000—that they could pitch to studio boss Harry Cohn as a free vehicle for Arthur, which might placate Cohn. Kanin's "Two's a Crowd", with Robert W. Russell co-writing, received Cohn's go-ahead. Other titles considered included "Washington Story", "Full Steam Ahead", "Come One, Come All" and "Merry-Go-Round", which actually tested best with audiences. 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". Variety called it "a sparkling and effervescing piece of entertainment." Harrison's Reports wrote, "Excellent entertainment! George Stevens' masterful direction, and the fine acting of Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea and Charles Coburn, make this one of the brightest and gayest comedies to have come out of Hollywood in many a season." David Lardner of The New Yorker wrote, "As is the case with a lot of madcap comedies, this one tends to fall part somewhat toward the end, when all the accumulated mixups are supposed to be resolved without a complete sacrifice of logic but by no means are. As long as these mixups are purely being established, however, and nobody's worrying about clearing them up, everything is fine."
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 (although Kanin is not credited) and Best Writing, Screenplay.
The film was released on Region 1 DVD.
- Frank Ross was Jean Arthur's husband at the time.
- Oller, John (1999). Jean Arthur: The Actress Nobody Knew. New York: Limelight Editions. p. 140. ISBN 0-87910-278-0. OCLC 40674992.
- Hanson, Patricia King, ed. (1999). American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures Produced in the United States: Feature Films, 1941-1950. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. p. 1609. ISBN 0-520-21521-4.
- Dick 1993, p. 160.
- "Top Grossers of the Season", Variety, 5 January 1944 p 54
- Sarvady et al. 2006, p. 49.
- Steffen, James. "Articles: The More the Merrier (1943)." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: August 24, 2013.
- Crowther, Bosley. "The More the Merrier (1943)." The New York Times, May 14, 1943.
- "Film Reviews". Variety. New York: Variety, Inc.: 8 April 7, 1943.
- "'The More the Merrier' with Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea and Charles Coburn". Harrison's Reports: 82. May 22, 1943.
- Lardner, David (May 15, 1943). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. New York: F-R Publishing Corp.: 48.
- "Review: The More the Merrier." TV Guide. Retrieved: April 2, 2010.
- "The More the Merrier (1943)." Archived 2011-06-06 at the Wayback Machine Time Out Film Guide. Retrieved: April 2, 2010.
- "The More the Merrier". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved: August 19, 2017.
- Dick, Bernard. The Merchant Prince of Poverty Row: Harry Cohn of Columbia Pictures. Lexington, Kentucky : University Press of Kentucky, 1993. ISBN 978-0-8-1319-323-6.
- Harrison, P. S. Harrison's Reports and Film Reviews, 1919–1962. Hollywood, California: Hollywood Film Archive, 1997. ISBN 978-0-91361-610-9.
- Maltin, Leonard. Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia. New York: Dutton, 1994. ISBN 0-525-93635-1.
- Oller, John. Jean Arthur: The Actress Nobody Knew. New York: Limelight Editions, 1997. ISBN 0-87910-278-0.
- Sarvady, Andrea, Molly Haskell and Frank Miller. Leading Ladies: The 50 Most Unforgettable Actresses of the Studio Era. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2006. ISBN 0-8118-5248-2.