Happy National Classic Movie Day! This post is my contribution to the My Favorite Classic Movie Blogathon in celebration of this inaugural holiday on May 16, 2015. The blogathon is hosted by the great site Classic Film and TV Cafe, and you can click here to view the schedule listing all the posts in this blogathon.

An escaped prisoner and a stuffy law professor vie for the hand of a spirited schoolteacher.

They say goodbye in the hallway. It’s sad and tender:

Plus, it’s just about the cutest thing you’ll ever see when Joe turns around and practices his best “smoldering look” on his imaginary partner.At one point Dingle loses Joe, and goes looking for him in Connie’s room. A thoroughly cold-creamed Connie catches him coming out of her bedroom, but she doesn’t even say anything. Her expressions are eloquent enough, and she’s clearly come to expect odd things from Dingle.

It all becomes official when Connie makes a new label for the front door, just the first of many in this film.

Once the clock strikes its final toll, both almost run out of their bedrooms to meet the other!  They’re just about in love.

McCrea opens the box to reveal a beautiful traveling bag. Peter, Joel McCrea’s son, said that this is one of his favorite scenes. Everyone talks about the stoop scene, (coming up later!) but this is Peter’s favorite, mainly because of his father’s wonderfully relaxed and understated delivery.

I’m so grateful to you for this article. I didn’t know that movie at all. I’m also disappointed because it’s quite impossible to find it in zone2 DVD. I guess France is not anymore that country of culture and spirit we claim(ed ?) to be. Jean Arthur is great in Mr Smith goes to Washington, she’s funny and so touching. She’s noticeable in all the movies I saw her. I hope seeing this one as soon as possible.

Joe is walking Connie to the door when there is a knock. It’s her neighbor Morton (Stanley Clements) who wants to talk to Connie about whether he should join the Boy Scouts. It’s about the worst possible timing–Joe and Connie are in a hurry to leave in case Mr. Pendergast shows up! As usual, I recommend that you watch Joel McCrea in this scene.  His alternately impatient and fearsome reactions to Morton are priceless:

You can watch this scene here, beginning with their walk home and ending with their entrance to the apartment. Please do.

“All the technicians liked him. Teddy Tetzlaff, the cameraman, knew George would seldom ever have to look through the camera…He trusted Ted and he knew what he’d get.” (That “Teddy Tetzlaff” is the same cinematographer from Hands Across the Table, Love Before Breakfast, The Princess Comes Across, Easy Living, My Man Godfrey, and Notorious.)

This is one of the funniest, most clever movies I have ever seen and with three of my favorite actors. Hope it makes it to Blu-Ray soon.

The actual apartment dweller, Constance Milligan (Jean Arthur) arrives home to find Dingle waiting on her threshold.

When Joe says he’d better get going and find another place to live, Connie tells him that maybe it would be okay for him to stay just for the two days before he leaves D.C. His response:

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. 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.

In his interviews, McCrea remembered these dancers, but not for the reason you might think. Arthur had gotten upset after she saw some rushes and thought she looked old and wrinkly. She locked herself in her dressing room before they were supposed to film the restaurant scene, and Stevens couldn’t get her to come out. He asked McCrea to give it a try.

This movie is never completely serious, which is one reason that I love it so much. For example, Joe has the cosmetics spot on his nose during their conversation about him going to war! 

She doesn’t know it, but Joe is in the apartment packing up his things. Rather than have them meet in the hallway or something boring, we get an adorable screwball scene. Connie’s hat falls on the floor with an incongruous crash. Then she removes her shoes, but instead of small thumps as each one hits the floor, loud booms echo in the apartment. Connie finally realizes that this odd sound effect is because someone is still in the apartment, and he’s slamming drawers.

Do you know what kind of car was driven by Connie’s work friends when dropping her off at home? Adorable little mystery car!

He follows Connie to the apartment. Both are awkwardly conscious of their scandalous situation! In a really funny gag, Joe unlocks the door with a key chained to his vest. Connie pushes the door open before he can extract the key, and Joe is pulled into the apartment by the chain, right on Connie’s heels! She looks at him as though he is crazy.

great post! such a good description of the acting choices and what makes this fantastic movie work.

Amidst all the exits and entrances, there’s a dance break. Connie turns on some music and begins a casual rhumba in her bedroom. Joe hears it and begins his own dance in the hallway. It’s one of my favorite moments; not only is it funny to watch these two adults practicing their dance moves, especially Joe in his bathrobe clutching his shaving gear, but how adorable is it to have our two leads dancing “together” before they even meet?

Like William Wyler, George Stevens liked to shoot multiple takes and film the same scene from several angles. He used to get in trouble for using so much film and extending the production schedule.

Stevens said, “You will be,” and went on to persuade him: “Look, you’ve got to make this picture. I have to make it. Jean has to make it. We have to do it. We’ll get Charlie Coburn for the older guy.”  McCrea liked Stevens and “knew [he] could count on him.” He left the meeting thinking, “Well, I’ve got to do the picture.”

I’m holding a grudge against Hollywood for trying to remake this film in the 1960s. This chemistry can’t be duplicated!

Stevens told McCrea that he was being such a perfectionist because he wanted The More the Merrier to “be one of the ten best pictures of the year.” And it was! This film was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Story, Best Screenplay, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actor for Coburn. Coburn was the only winner.

The More The Merrier (1943)

Kahane told McCrea: “I was just looking over your contract. Do you realize that I turned you down at $1,000 a week; you’re now getting $10,000 a week?” McCrea’s answer: “That’s just kind of the way she flows…You never know. I might not have even been up for this picture, but you happen to have a girl who wants either me or Gary Cooper for any picture she would do.”

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Connie keeps the gardenia in her hair (it looks nice but I doubt it would be comfortable to sleep on). Joe tells Connie that he loves her, and Connie makes Joe promise that he’ll stay where he is before admitting that she loves him, too. 

McCrea didn’t want to make any more films that year (The More the Merrier began filming in September of 1942) since he usually only made two movies per year and had already shot three.

Stevens moves things along a lot more briskly than is usual for him.

Joe goes to his bedroom and starts packing, and Connie goes to her bedroom and starts crying. She forgot to take her beautiful bag on her honeymoon!

Since no one can refund anyone else, everyone has to stay, and the apartment label gets changed yet again. The whole scene makes me giddy. You can watch it, beginning with Dingle’s own dance move, here.

Thank you so much. Loved that little car. And am buying that movie!

Connie arrives on this damning scene.  She snatches the diary as tears well up in her eyes.  Sidenote: I love that Joe apparently brought two different robes on his weeklong trip to D.C. He has that striped number and then this white one, but I’m skeptical that both, and all of his other belongings, could fit in his one small suitcase. Movie magic!

Love the background you’ve provided on this fabulous film, one of my very favorites.

Connie changes into a rather daring black lace nightgown as she and Joe talk. Joe tells Connie that he doesn’t want her taking in any more roomers: “You know what happened last time. Let that be a lesson to you.”  She protests, and he turns to her and says that as long as she is married to him, she won’t be taking in boarders! He turns back around…

As soon as the song ends, women swarm Joe. Connie is pulled away by a telephone call from Pendergast saying he and Dingle are going to keep working, and Joe can take her home. Connie is pretty thrilled by this, but she’s not thrilled by the women throwing themselves at Joe.

After Joe kisses her, though, the Pendergast conversation is over. She kisses him right back.

I think of “The More the Merrier” as THE romantic comedy. It’s the one all others must be measured by. I thoroughly enjoyed your very interesting background material and the revisit of the special scenes in the movie.