Father Goose

Released: 1964
Director: Ralph Nelson

Starring: Cary Grant, Leslie Caron, Trevor Howard

An amusing WWII romp with Cary Grant unconvincing as an uncouth slob



Whenever Cary Grant is mentioned the automatic image is smooth, suave, sophisticated.  A real gentleman.  Walter Christopher Eckland, his character in the Oscar winning Father Goose, his 73rd and penultimate film, is as far from sophisticated as it is possible to get.  But can Grant really put aside almost 40 years of habit and pull off the unshaven, drunken beachbum role?

Set during the Second World War, Father Goose is the story of Walter Eckland, an American beachcomber who is forced by a Royal Australian Navy Commander (an old friend who definitely has the measure of Eckland) to act as a coast-watcher for the Allies.  For his (independently verified) reports on Japanese planes and shops Eckland, now codenamed Mother Goose much to his disgust, is rewarded with bottles of whisky which are hidden around the small island on which he is based.  Walter’s quiet life is disturbed by the arrival of Catherine Freneau, played by Leslie Caron, and seven schoolgirls who have been abandoned while attempting to reach safety in Australia.  The clash between the sophisticated Mademoiselle Freneau and her charges and the boorish Eckland takes place against the backdrop of increasing danger from the ever-present Japanese.

I’ve always enjoyed Father Goose.  It’s a silly, funny romantic comedy.  It is however almost impossible to imagine Cary Grant as anything other than a handsome, suave hero and he doesn’t really convince as a slob.  The beautifully clean white socks he wears in one scene doesn’t help either – why would he have such clean clothes?  He’s just Cary Grant.  That’s ok though.  Father Goose isn’t a serious drama, it’s a bit of fun.  And we Cary Grant fans know and love our man whatever – we know his character isn’t really a hobo, underneath he’s the gentleman we expect him to be.  Even if he’s attempting to escape the confines of a necktie.

Leslie Caron and Trevor Howard provide great support and some of the young girls are very good – particularly Sharyl Locke as Jenny, who becomes something of a favourite of Eckland.  I was a bit disturbed to read recently though that Stephanie Berrington who played the 15 year old with an unsuitable crush on Eckland was in fact only 11 at the time.  Just a little bit too young given Grant was pushing 60 when Father Goose was made. Of course, those were much more innocent times, nowadays moral panic would doubtless ensue.  For me, however, the best support is offered by Jack Good as Lieutenant Stebbings (codename Bo-Peep); the overly serious young naval officer constantly frustrated by Eckland, his irresponsible attitude and lack of willingness to be a war hero.

By no stretch of the imagination is Father Goose Cary Grant’s best film, nor is it even his best World War II naval comedy (that’s Operation Petticoat) but it is fun, it is enjoyable and it’s definitely worth a couple of hours of anyone’s time.  And Grant is as suave and charming as ever, just a bit unshaven about it.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.


  1. this sounds like fun!! I am not very good at watching films from before I was born (luckily that was 1973 so I have a good amount to get through). But Cary Grant as a slob? I am in!!

    Great review Louise. Thanks for sharing!

  2. It’s definitely worth a watch. But Cary Grant as a slob is still more suave and sophisticated than the rest of us at our smartest….

Speak Your Mind