Leo McCarey directed Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers in a war propaganda film made in 1942 called “Once Upon a Honeymoon.” Rogers plays a stripper named Kathie O’Hara who sails off to Austria to marry Baron Franz Von Luber (Walter Slezak). The problem: Von Luber is an undercover, high-ranking Nazi. Grant, a radio journalist named Pat O’Toole, gets wind of the marriage and attempts to warn Kathie about Von Luber’s secret life — but he immediately falls in love with her.
Grant and Rogers seem to be having a great time playing their scenes, smirking as they play off each other reading McCarey’s script. Rogers comes off as particularly brash in her reading, perhaps gearing up her performance to match the typically energetic Grant. Rogers plays a stripper, so I expected to see her perform a song and dance at some point during the movie; but her former life is only talked about and not shown. The plot says she stared in a Burlesque act “off Broadway.” Grant and Rogers do a particularly funny and sexy bit when O’Toole (Grant) masquerades as a dressmaker.
The film mixes a light romantic comedy with a very serious message about the monstrosities of the Nazis. Grant follows Rogers to the conquered lands of War World 2, including Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Holland. The film pays particular attention to the situation and destruction in Poland, which Germany invaded in 1939. The Polish story includes a plot point about Kathie helping a Jewish maid to escape capture.
Other plot twists in the movie include O’Toole giving coded radio messages and O’Hara making an espionage plan with an undercover photographer. Baron Von Luber, a powerful authority figure, gets done in by vanity, but his actual fate remains a mystery in a surprise ending. I’m sure, however, that Grant’s O’Toole and Rogers’ O’Hara live happily ever after.