Classic Film Guide

Princess O'Rourke (1943)

Writer Norman Krasna had received three Academy Award nominations for his original stories or screenplays (most recently for The Devil and Miss Jones (1941)) by the time he tried his hand at directing his first film, this one. Since he only directed two more films in his career, once in 1950 and again in 1956, one might assume that he preferred writing. For this romantic comedy, Krasna finally earned his only Oscar (on his last nomination) for an Original Screenplay. His creative story about an incognito princess out of her native country who meets & falls in love with a commoner predates by 10 years the better known classic Roman Holiday (1953) (its three different writers would share Oscar nominations & Academy Awards for their similar story & screenplay).

Olivia de Havilland plays Princess Maria, who lives with her Uncle Holman (Charles Coburn) in exile, because of World War II, in New York City. Count Peter (Curt Bois) wants to marry her, but she doesn't love him even though Holman expresses concern about their country's succession (e.g. she needs a male offspring, an heir). However, he's also concerned about his niece's well being, so he sends her to San Francisco under an assumed name, Mary Williams, to improve her state of mind and/or broaden her horizons. Because of bad weather and too many sleeping pills to combat her fear of flying, she ends up back in New York in the apartment of the plane's pilot, Eddie O’Rourke (Robert Cummings). It's not what you think, she was passed out and he was chivalrous not lecherous. He assumes she's a war refugee and she doesn't enlighten him. Instead, they begin dating during which she meets his married friends, Jean & Dave Campbell (Jane Wyman & Jack Carson), who naturally quarrel a bit (providing additional comic relief). When Holman finds out about Maria's beau, he has an agent investigate the pilot and is delighted to learn that Eddie is from a large family of boys (as was Eddie's father). Things get rather complicated, diplomatically, at this point. The princess is willing and able to marry a commoner, provided that he'll renounce his U.S. citizenship, which is of course a showstopper for him. It's all resolved in a rather cute (if incredible) way, with Harry Davenport as the Supreme Court judge who performs the ceremony at the White House, the President (FDR) and his dog.

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