Woman Hater (1948)
Long before he directed the first James Bond film Dr. No in 1962, Terence Young, turned out this British entry in the screwball comedy genre and it’s a thoroughly enjoyable effort thanks to it’s leading players, Stewart Granger and Edwige Feuillere.
Granger stars as Lord Terence Datchett. He’s a confirmed bachelor and dead set against marriage and that includes saving a friend from the altar as the movie begins in slapstick fashion. When a French movie star (Edwige) invades his hometown, the press coverage she receives isn’t sitting well with Granger down at the men’s club he frequents. The press hangs on her every word and she claims that men bore her. She’d like nothing better than peace and solitude away from the lime light.
On a dare, Granger wires the French actress an invite to his country estate to take up residence in his absence. The goal is to win her over proving English men are far from being a bore and have a good laugh with the old boys down at the club. Granger himself will turn up at the estate but under the alias of the Lord’s agent who looks after his Lordship’s estate and business affairs. In order to do this he’ll enlist his butler, Ronald Squire, to play along in the deceit.
Edwige will arrive with her own assistant in tow played by Jeanne De Casalis. With the four characters taking up the majority of the film, one could easily see this as a stage play. The goal for Granger is to impress Edwige at every turn and this includes horseback riding. It’s the first disappointment along the way as she proves to be far more adept at the sport than Granger’s Lord Terry. If not the ponies than perhaps the wine cellar might offer an opportunity to prove his prowess at holding his liquor? No, that’s not going to work either.
All the while this is going on, could her maid be flirting with his butler?
Since these manly tactics don’t seem to be working, perhaps if he captures her sympathies while dressed in a tux playing the piano and lamenting about the loneliness one feels when celebrating their birthday quietly all alone. Could the eventual Scaramouche be getting to her? Not if she discovers that was a player piano he was playing Chopin on so impressively.
When the always flighty Miles Malleson turns up at the door as the local vicar looking for Granger’s Lord Terry, Edwige begins to have her doubts concerning Granger the agent. Could the gig be up? All’s fair in love and war and she sets out to turn the tables on Granger with a plan to make this woman hater fall in love with her so she can drop him good and proper when the time comes that he’s on his knee asking for her hand in marriage.
This is a romantic comedy so don’t be surprised if she gets caught in her own web before the final curtain of this 1940’s romcom that begins with the familiar guy banging a large cymbal for the J. Arthur Rank Organization. Always wondered if this is where they got the idea for The Gong Show when I was a kid.
Lighthearted, easy to watch with a dash of slapstick and those screwball sequences that make the genre a fun one to partake in, Granger and Miss Edwige make this a delightful entry that came early in the careers of it’s director Young and star Granger who would soon travel overseas to star in a succession of adventures for MGM in Hollywood. Truthfully I know very little of the leading lady which proves again that one can always be discovering something new when it comes to the history of movies. According to the IMDB she began her career on film in 1931 and continued to act on screen up until 1995 mainly in French film and television.
Woman Hater was a new title to me and one I picked up mainly because I’m a fan of Granger’s work over the course of his nearly fifty years on camera. It’s a title I could easily see myself revisiting should the mood strike me. It’s available on DVD from the folks at VCI should you be hoping to score a copy here in North America.