Government Girl (1943) – Movie Review

Hello, everybody! And welcome to my newest series. As I outlined in a previous post, I will be posting a movie review once a week (more or less) on some of my absolute favourite movies. I chose this one to be my first because it is one that I love most. Olivia de Havilland gives an amazing performance, particularly my favourite of all her performances. We loved her alongside Errol Flynn, she played the excellent supporting role, but this movie gives her a chance to branch out of that “supporting role” and show us a whole new side.

What I love most about her character is her quick speaking and school-girl attitude. She shows a lot of emotion and you can’t help feeling it with her.

Sonny Tufts does a swell job as well. The only other movie I can think of having seen with him is So Proudly We Hail! but I’m sure there are more that I just haven’t noticed. He plays the clueless mechanic who just wants to build planes and has no idea of how to work within the government.

This is a war-time comedy, like so many of the movies made during World War II, and I’d give it a 5 star rating.


Ed Browne, former automotive mechanic from Detroit, is an independent businessman given a job supervising the building of bomber planes on the War Construction Board, even though his real wish is to join the Marines.

His arrival in Washington is harried. Not being able to find a hotel room, he eventually gets noticed from the newspaper article and given a room formerly reserved for a wedding.

Elizabeth Allard, fondly known as Smokey, is an employee of the War Construction Board and just happens to be the friend of the woman getting married. Smokey is very angered at the change of luck for her friend, May, and tells Mr. Browne so, who mistakenly thinks that she is the bride instead of her friend.

The next morning she is stuck with May’s husbands’ motorcycle and desperately trying to find someone to drive it for her. The only man willing turns out to be Ed Browne, and since she has no other choice, she accepts. Unfortunately, Ed’s skill at driving the motorcycle is a little rusty and Smokey gets a ride she’ll never forget.

Finally arriving at her destination after a grand “tour” of Washington, Smokey leaves the hazardous Mr. Browne and enters the building, not too steady on her feet.

As a secretary, she is assigned a new boss. She enters the office only to find Ed already there. Not knowing who he is, she tells him to leave before “Mr. Browne” gets there, and soon finds out her mistake.

Ed informs Smokey of what he hopes to accomplish and, being her new boss, how she is going to help him accomplish it. 

They get down to business and Smokey realizes Ed knows nothing about proper government procedure. She is appalled and takes him to a board where she informs him of all the branches of the government and their usefulness.

Ed doesn’t care a wit for that kind of procedure and shows Smokey his way of handling it by throwing darts at a caricature of their enemies. Though not at all in agreement with him, and obviously perturbed at his methods, she takes the darts handed her and hits a good target.

They eventually come to terms with each other and the past is put behind them. Smokey pledges to help him reach his goals.

On the side, he offers her his class ring, still believing her to be newly married and without a proper wedding ring, in order to protect her from other men’s advances. She quickly clarifies the situation and leaves Ed surprisingly relieved.

In an effort to point him in the right direction, Smokey gets Ed invited to a major social event where everyone who is everyone is present. Since there is no “Mrs. Browne” to accompany him, he tells Smokey to. Before entering, she instructs him on a few social necessities to remember.

Meeting Mrs. Right, their socialite hostess and powerful mover in Washington, Ed is in no way impressed or intimidated by her show of influence and leaves the woman somewhat flabbergasted.

Meanwhile, Smokey runs into her boyfriend, Dana McGuire, the counsel to Senator MacVickers, who, in his eagerness to gain favorability, is seen everywhere with the Senator and his “available” daughter, making Smokey feel she has competition. He reassures her of his affections, hoping she’ll understand why he needs to do this, and Smokey, who is hopelessly in love with him, doesn’t say a word.

Although Smokey has come to terms with Ed’s way of conducting business, his former partner warns him that not everyone will understand. He advises him to take it easy and watch his back but Ed waves him off, remembering all they managed to get away with in the old days. His friend strengthens his admonishments and really tells Ed that this job is going to take some doing.

Realizing that his friend is right, Ed returns to the office downcast and planning to resign. Thankfully, Smokey catches him and gives him the encouragement he needs. She tells him that, though its obvious she’d marry McGuire at the drop of a hat, she won’t leave him until their work is done. Pleased at this, Ed tears up his resignation and gets down to business.

The trouble they have all predicted Ed to run into arrives when C. L. Harvester, another production supervisor, accuses him of stealing his materials. He warns Ed that he will advise a Senate investigation but most of all, he believes Ed is making himself rich in airplane production. Ed says, “I take orders from the Army and the Navy”, and sends Harvester on his way.

True to his word, Harvester pulls records from Ed’s former activities and goes over the facts with Mrs. Right and McGuire, hoping McGuire will bring the point up to Senator MacVickers. McGuire, seeing this as his chance to make a name for himself, latches on to the idea and goes into action.

After six months, Ed and Smokey have accomplished their goals and heartily congratulate each other. Having worked with her for so long, he begins to hope he might have a chance with her after all.

Shortly after though, Smokey receives a surprise, and hasty, visit from McGuire who immediately proposes. Ed sees the two together and realizes he never had a chance.

Too much in love to say no, or ask why this is so suddent, Smokey accepts and that night she returns to work to type a letter to her boss requesting time off.

She hears voices in Ed’s office and enters to see him and reporter, Branch Owens, an old friend of hers, having it out. Branch, ever blunt, informs them of the investigation already underway, and blames Smokey for spilling information to McGuire.

Heartbroken, Smokey admits that she told her boyfriend some things, mostly funny things that her boss had done, but she never knew he’d use it against them. Branch coldly leaves her to weep while Ed tries to reassure Smokey that its alright and he doesn’t blame her for anything.

Its all over the news and Smokey, knowing what the government would say in light of her boss’s unorthodox methods, finds the most condemning records and takes them to the apartment she shares with May to burn.

While there, she and May are requested to go undercover for an evening to reveal a spy and when its a success, May and her new husband are finally rewarded the hotel room they had reserved before.

(Spoilers ahead!)

At the inquiry, McGuire lays the facts down hard and Ed doesn’t stand a chance. Unfortunately, he is interrupted by Smokey herself who has brought the records for Senator MacVickers to examine.

She takes the moment to tell them just what Ed has achieved, and the sound of a squadron of bombers overhead reinforces her words. So he might have went about it different, he still “got it done!” she says. Having said all she had to say, she leaves in tears and returns to her apartment where she throws herself on her bed, hopeless for her boss that she now realizes she loves.

A few moments later, Branch appears and tells Smokey not to take it so hard. But Smokey won’t listen and balls all the more. Ed appears in the doorway and Branch takes his exit. He tells her that they let him off. But more importantly to them both, he asks her to marry him, to which she says yes. And for the first time in the whole movie, she calls him “Ed” instead of “Mr. Browne”.

The End

I guess in a way I enjoy writing these reviews a little too much. Its a great story, and I suppose I can’t help putting it in my own words. Its just that I’m a writer and I love words!

Old movies have been a part of my life since I can remember. I knew more about the actors of the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s than modern actors. Today, even though we see the modern movies that come out (with ClearPlay, if necessary) I always return to the old ones. They’ll always be my favourite.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my review. Be sure to tell me what you think! And don’t forget to come back sometime next week for the next review on Wallflower (1948), with Robert Hutton and Joyce Reynolds.

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