Once Upon a Honeymoon (Leo McCarey / U.S., 1942):

Leo McCarey at war, so the alarming Langian image (a swastika-clock spinning over a calendar) is also a sight gag. Newsreel footage covers the Nazi path, Vienna is an early stop and America is there as the socialite with the bogus accent and the posterior surname (Ginger Rogers). The message from the subconscious is a long-distance phone call from Brooklyn, the ex-burlesque queen is now the bride of the Baron (Walter Slezak) who's nothing less than "Hitler’s personal finger man," a snooping news commentator (Cary Grant) is on the case. Off to Prague and Warsaw and Paris, the dawn of awareness and the progression of commitment, one bit of comic dissonance at a time. "Promise me you won’t save any more countries, dear." McCarey consciously takes over from where Hitchcock ends Foreign Correspondent, the radio broadcast in the middle of a bombing raid gives way to exploding glass (Polanski remembers this in The Pianist), and there’s Albert Bassermann bloodily sprawled following an assassination attempt. Lubricated with vodka, Grant and Rogers debate Schopenhauer's philosophy ("too cynical") versus Irving Berlin’s castles in the sky; mistaken for Jewish fugitives, they get an eyeful of Nacht und Nebel. (The sad-eyed Polish maid is given a passport and told to go some place safe. "Where?") The great epiphany lies in an exchange of democratic jokes and accents with the double agent (Albert Dekker), afterwards the heroine is Lady Liberty and Mata Hari while the Baron is a hapless Oliver Hardy. "I'd like to know what man was ever hero enough to say I have but one wife to give to my country!" Gags and horrors in continuous and breathtaking sway, the only way to make sense of war: The priapic measuring tape snapping around Rogers, unspeakable things just behind a closed door at the concentration camp, Grant's off-key sax, the luxurious hotel lobby as a flimsy façade for the rubble of Europe. The coda is a foul ideology literally thrown overboard, a sublime punchline rivaled only by Freleng's Daffy–The Commando. With Ferike Boros, Harry Shannon, John Banner, Natasha Lytess, and Hans Conried. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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