Government Girl (1944): Dudley Nichols’ Romantic Comedy, Starring Olivia De Havilland

Produced and directed by Dudley Nichols, the romantic comedy Government Girl, stars Olivia de Havilland and Sonny Tufts.

Based on story by Adela Rogers St. Johns, and written by Nichols and Budd Schulberg, the film revolves around a secretary working in a factory during World War II, who helps her boss navigate politics in order to build bomber aircraft for the war effort.

The Premise:

Engineer Ed Browne (Sonny Tufts) comes to Washington to meet the War Construction Board, tasked with supervising the building of bomber aircraft for the war.

But when he arrives at the crowded hotel, there are no rooms available, and a friendly clerk recognizes him from the paper and offers him room 2A. Ed is unaware that the same room is reserved by Elizabeth “Smokey” Allard (Olivia de Havilland), for her friend May (Anne Shirley), about to marry army sergeant Joe Bates (James Dunn) that night.

Sharply uneven, the movie, burdened with verbose text, was poorly directed by Nichols, resulting in an impersonal, mildly amusing picture, inferior to other WWII comedies.

No doubt, the first choices for the female lead, Stanwyck and Ginger Rogers (both of whom turned it down), would have given a lighter, more charming interpretation than De Havilland, whose forte was in melodramas.

Despite mixed reviews, Government Girl was a moderate success, making a profit of $700,000.

Cast
Olivia de Havilland as Elizabeth “Smokey” Allard
Sonny Tufts as E.H. “Ed” Browne
Anne Shirley as May Harness Blake
Jess Barker as Dana McGuire
James Dunn as Sergeant Joe Bates
Paul Stewart as Branch Owens
Agnes Moorehead as Adele, Mrs. Delancey Wright
Harry Davenport as Senator MacVickers
Una O’Connor as Mrs. Harris
Sig Ruman as Ambassador
Paul Stanton as C.L. Harvester
George Givot as Count Bodinsky

 

Note:

TCM showed the movie on March 8, 2021.