P is for Princess O’Rourke, winner of Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards for Norman Krasna. The film was made in 1942, and patriotic references to World War II abound. I was smiling though, right from the start of this delightful black and white romantic comedy.
Princess Maria (Olivia de Havilland) is in New York City with her uncle Holman (Charles Coburn). The family wants to marry her off to someone with a title, but she is protesting these arrangements. Bored in the confining hotel room, Holman suggests she fly to San Francisco for a vacation of sorts. Not accustomed to flying, she is given a sleeping pill to take while on the overnight flight.
Assured these are harmless, she proceeds to ask several crewmembers for more sleeping pills, and is completely unaware that the plane has turned around due to weather and headed back to NYC. She is still half asleep upon landing, and her flight was booked under the alias of Mary Williams with no address, so co-pilot Eddie O’Rourke (Robert Cummings) takes her to his apartment and calls his friend Jean Campbell (Jane Wyman) to come and help her into bed.
The following day Maria is not in a hurry to leave this unexpected adventure, and meets Eddie’s friends, Jean and her pilot husband Dave (Jack Carson). Both men are soon to join the air force. She spends a day doing “normal” things with Jean, and going out for a night on the town with them for dinner and dancing.
Eddie and the Princess are attracted to each other, and she is enchanted by the story of how Jean and Dave met and their quick courtship of just ten days before they wed. Things get complicated when Eddie asks her to marry him.
When Holman hears from his secret service man who’s been trailing Maria all day that Eddie is an upstanding citizen among other traits, he encourages Maria to marry him.
At this point it gets a little far-fetched. They go to Washington, D. C. to meet with President Roosevelt, but we only get to see his little black dog. Can a marriage between European royalty and an American pilot really work? Who will back out first? Or will they marry against all odds?
This was a cute little film. Olivia de Havilland is simply radiant, and the handsome Robert Cummings makes a good romantic partner for her. The war propaganda is a bit strong, but then it was 1943 as I mentioned.
Reviewers have commented that Roman Holiday, released ten years later, has a similar story, an escaped royal mucking about with a commoner for a day and falling in love. There are only a limited number of story types that we recycle over and over to tell the same tale in a different way. I would say that Roman Holiday is the superior film of this genre. Have you seen Princess O’Rourke? Or Roman Holiday? What is your opinion of the two films?