This movie I hadn’t seen became the basis for a television show I never saw. The only reason the TV show was memorable is because Henry Mancini wrote a great musical theme for it. And the TV show was only broadly based on the movie. In fact, just about all Blake Edwards, the creator of the show, used was the title of the movie and the fact that he ran an off-shore gambling boat. And then, even that was changed when the sponsor, Lever Brothers, objected to it. The boat became a restaurant. Sponsors actually paid for shows in those days, the whole budget, and were very sensitive and controlling about content. I have to believe that the TV show was a very, very tepid version of the movie, just like M*A*S*H was a watered-down and sweetened-up version of the movie.
The movie has a nice tang to it. Cary Grant is in full charming wise-guy mode, one of his best schticks, as a con artist and co-owner of a gambling boat. This was made in wartime, but set just before America’s involvement, when the Nazis were overrunning Europe. An organization of do-gooder ladies is soliciting money to buy blankets and medical supplies for the brave forces fighting in Greece and Yugoslavia and so forth, and Cary sees an opportunity to steal some much-needed money from them. The head of the organization is Laraine Day, and she falls hard for this bad boy. She tells her father that Cary is the only man who has ever scared her, and she likes that.
But first he has to deal with the draft board. He appropriates the identity of a Greek friend of his who has just died, and becomes a draft dodger. (I was curious about what he actually did during the war. He tried to join the British Navy but was turned down as too old. (He was 35 in 1939.) He became an American citizen in 1942, and donated a lot of money to wartime relief.) This was apparently a gutsy sort of character to play in 1943, and we see him several times looking startled, but not actually guilty, at one of those I WANT YOU! posters of Uncle Sam.
Of course there will be a change of heart, a redemption, and a happy ending, though it seems the original story ended sadly. Cary gets a letter from the mother of his dead alter ego. The fucking Nazis parachuted into their small town in Greece. The man’s two brothers and the other men fought with them. All the men in town were killed, along with 100 Nazis. Now her ne’er-do-well son is all she has left in the world … but of course he is dead. Cary resolves not to steal the money from the do-gooders, but to actually use it and his ship to send relief, but some of his old associates have different ideas. The ending is as wonderfully sappy as I could ever hope for. I mean, did I really want to see Cary Grant die at the end?