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Discussion after

In his next-to-last film, Cary Grant played wildly against type as a grizzled South Seas beachcomber reporting to the Allies on enemy ship movements during World War II. His mission is complicated when he’s forced to take in a prim French schoolteacher (Leslie Caron) and her seven female students. Surprisingly, the star would later say the role of Walter Eckland came closer to his off-screen personality than any other. He always called this one of his favorite films and kept in touch with the young actresses who played the schoolgirls for years afterwards. Ironically, Grant’s decision to do this film rather than My Fair Lady (1964) cost him his first choice leading lady. Without Grant, Warner Bros. cast Rex Harrison as Henry Higgins and needed Audrey Hepburn as Eliza for her star power, making her unavailable for this film. Fortunately, Caron proved an equally good match for Grant, and the teaming scored well at the box office. He did get his first choice for writer when he convinced Universal to hire Peter Stone, who had written Charade (1964) to re-write Frank Tarloff’s screenplay. The film’s two credited scriptwriters finally met the night they won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. (d. Ralph Nelson, 118m, DCP)

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