Princess O’Rourke (1943): Norman Krasna’s Feature Debut, Romantic Comedy Starring Olivia De Havilland

Writer Norman Krasna made his directorial debut with Princess O’Rourke, a romantic comedy, starring Olivia de Havilland and Robert Cummings.

Princess O’Rourke

Krasna won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar.

Princess O’Rourke became a troubled project that led to the de Havilland Law, that changed the status of contracts in the film industry. Though shot in 1942, the release was held up for one year due to legal issues.

During World War II, Princess Maria and uncle Holman, exiles from unnamed European country, live in New York. Holman hopes his niece will marry and produce a male heir, but she is not interested in his choice for her, Count Peter de Chandome, or the other candidates.

While flying to California incognito as “Mary Williams”, the princess is accidentally given too many sleeping pills. When the Douglas DST airliner returns to New York due to bad weather, the crew cannot wake her.  Pilot Eddie O’Rourke takes care of her, unaware who she is. She wakes up the next morning in his apartment wearing his pajamas. (just like Audrey Hepburn would do in the 1953 romantic comedy, Roman Holiday).

She spends the day with Eddie, his friend and co-pilot Dave Campbell, and Dave’s wife Jean. “Mary” tells them she is war refugee traveling to California to work as maid. She and Eddie fall in love and he proposes to Mary. She accepts, but as princess, she cannot marry him.

In the end, it’s all about a note and Roosevelt’s dog Fala who delivers it to his master. The President summons a Supreme Court judge to marry Eddie and Maria, and the newlyweds sneak out of the White House.

On the way out, Eddie bumps into a man, who he mistakes for a guard, but it’s actually the President. Eddie then exclaims, “I tipped him a buck! And he took it!”

Olivia de Havilland as Princess Maria (aka “Mary Williams”)
Robert Cummings as Eddie O’Rourke
Charles Coburn as Holman
Jack Carson as Dave Campbell, Eddie’s friend and co-pilot
Jane Wyman as Jean Campbell, Dave’s wife
Harry Davenport as Supreme Court Judge
Gladys Cooper as Miss Haskell, the governess and secretary


Directed, written by Norman Krasna
Produced by Hal B. Wallis
Music by Friedrich Hollaender
Cinematography Ernest Haller
Edited by Warren Low

Production and distribution by Warner Bros.

Release date: October 23, 1943

Running time: 93 minutes
Budget $651,000
Box office $3,099,000


TCM showed it on Feb 17, 2021.