Retro: The Unquiet American


Howard Hawks
USA 1952
97 min

Although technically a fantasy, this characteristically grim Howard Hawks comedy about the fear of aging and the worship of youth is arguably one of his most honest and realistic, therefore among the most frightening. A chimpanzee in a chemistry lab ­manages to create a youth potion accidentally ingested by the middle-aged scientist-hero (Cary Grant), who regresses first to his teens and then, after a second dose, to his attitudes and behavior in ­grammar school, which also happens eventually to his wife (Ginger Rogers) and boss (Charles Coburn), thereby debunking a good many myths about youth and happiness (such as those involving carefree ­innocence) in the process. Broadly speaking, this movie does for (and with) ageism what <![CDATA[<i>]]>Gentlemen Prefer Blondes<![CDATA[</i>]]>, shot half a year later (with some of the same cast members, including Marilyn Monroe, Coburn, and George Winslow), does for (and with) capitalism, albeit with less celebratory cynicism and more visible despair. This doesn’t mean, of course, that it isn’t funny; at least four Hollywood pros (Ben Hecht, Charles Lederer, I.A.L. Diamond, and the lesser-known Harry Segall) worked on the screenplay. Note: in the opening, precredits sequence, the offscreen voice addressing Grant is that of Hawks.

  • Cary Grant - David Huxley
  • Harry Carey Jr.
  • Kathleen Freeman
  • Marilyn Monroe
  • Charles Coburn - «Colonel» Harrington
  • Ginger Rogers
Sol C. Siegel
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