Father Goose

Father Goose is a 1964 American Technicolor romantic comedy film set in World War II, starring Cary Grant, Leslie Caron and Trevor Howard. The title derives from “Mother Goose”, the codename assigned to Grant’s character. The film won an Academy Award for its screenplay.

While the Royal Australian Navy evacuates Salamaua in February 1942 ahead of a Japanese invasion, Commander Frank Houghton (Trevor Howard) coerces an old friend, American beachcomber Walter Eckland (Cary Grant), into becoming a coast-watcher for the Allies. Houghton escorts Eckland to deserted Matalava Island to watch for Japanese airplanes. To ensure Eckland stays put, Houghton sees to it that his ship “accidentally” knocks a hole in Ecklund’s launch while departing. Houghton rewards Eckland’s sightings (once they are confirmed) with directions to one of the whisky bottles hidden around the island.

Houghton finds a replacement watcher, but Eckland has to retrieve him from nearby Bundy Island. He unexpectedly finds Frenchwoman Catherine Freneau (Leslie Caron) and seven young schoolgirls under her care stranded there. She informs him that the man he came for was killed in an air raid. Eckland reluctantly takes them back to Matalava with him.

There is no way to evacuate them safely. At first, Houghton promises them a parachute drop with more supplies, but there is too much enemy activity in the area to accomplish it safely. The fastidious Freneau and the slovenly and uncouth Eckland’s personalities clash; they call each other “Miss Goody Two Shoes” and “a rude, foul-mouthed, drunken, filthy beast”, respectively. He adjusts to her and her girls, however, and cares for her through what they mistakenly believe is a deadly snakebite. Freneau learns that Eckland had been a history professor before he fled civilization to the South Pacific.

The couple fall in love and arrange to be married by a military chaplain over the radio. Strafing by a Japanese airplane interrupts the wedding. Since they have been detected, Houghton sends an American submarine to pick them up, but an enemy patrol boat shows up first. While leaving Catherine and the schoolgirls with his dinghy to make their way to the submarine, Eckland takes his boat out to lure the Japanese vessel beyond a reef so the submarine can torpedo it. The Japanese sink his boat, but Eckland survives, and the submarine sinks the patrol boat.

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