Today is Tuesday, December 29, so we are now in the final week of 2020 and 100 New Code Films! We’ve been keeping track of this year’s week with this series, posting two of these articles in most weeks this year to equal 100 films! All these movies are American Breen Era (1934-1954) films which I watched for the first time during or shortly before the week in question. Then, I reviewed these films to report my opinions and findings on them to my readers. Now that we are at the end of the series, I hope that you, my readers, have enjoyed this journey. I also hope that you have discovered new movies you would and will enjoy watching along with me!
Today’s topic is The Major and the Minor from 1942. I learned about this film after watching Too Young to Kiss (1951), which was compared to this earlier film as having a similar premise. I was fascinated by the idea of a comedy in which Ginger Rogers impersonates a little girl. When I decided to join this year’s Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers blogathon, I decided that one of my entries needed to be a review of this film. I watched this movie on ok.ru this morning.
After a client of her hair rejuvenation services makes one pass too many, a working girl in New York City decides to go back to her hometown in Iowa to marry her simple, honest fiancé. She has saved just enough for the train fare. However, when she tries to buy a ticket, she is dismayed to learn that the price has been raised. She gets an idea when she overhears a woman buying half-fare tickets for her children under twelve. She goes into the ladies’ room and wipes off her makeup, adjusts her clothing, etc. to come out transformed as a twelve-year-old girl. She pays a man to pose as her father and buy her a railroad ticket. On the train, the conductor is reluctant to believe that she is going on twelve. When he catches her smoking, he chases her through the train, and she hides in a compartment occupied by a young army major. The officer is returning from Washington, where he was applying for more active duty despite a weak eye, to the military academy where he teaches. He takes a fatherly interest in the lost little girl and offers to let her spend the night in his compartment. She is obviously nervous that he has lecherous intentions, but he is a perfect “uncle.” The next morning, his fiancée is furious when she discovers the girl in there, not realizing how young she is. When he brings the fake youngster to the academy to prove her youth, everything is happy, and she is invited to stay for three days. She becomes the sweetheart of all the cadets, who are junior Romeos. Meanwhile, the major is rather disturbed to find himself wishing that the “little girl” were more than a little older. Her secret is discovered by the vicious fiancée’s twelve-year-old sister, who becomes her best friend. They plot to foil her sister’s plans.
This movie stars Ginger Rogers, Ray Milland, and Rita Johnson. Supporting actors include Diana Lynn, Robert Benchley, Edward Fielding, Frankie Thomas, and Raymond Roe.
This movie was directed by Billy Wilder. It was produced by Arthur Hornblow Jr. The production company was Paramount Pictures. The screenplay was written by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder. It was suggested by a play written by Edward Childs Carpenter, which comes from a story by Fanny Kilbourne. This film won three National Board of Review awards, including Top Ten Films, Best Acting for Diana Lynn, and Best Acting for Ginger Rogers.
This is a good Code film. I love seeing totally wholesome and decent movies from the Breen Era directed by Billy Wilder, since his later films were so controversial and dirty. His early works were either cleanly hilarious, like The Major and the Minor, or intelligent and deep, like The Lost Weekend and Sunset Boulevard. Like Too Young to Kiss, this film handles the age farce with delicacy and taste. There is no Lolita message or inappropriate flavor. The situation may seem odd to modern eyes, who are warped by modern entertainment and news, but it is perfectly clean. The only passes made at the young Su-Su are by the surprisingly mature adolescent cadets! The humor is delightfully entertaining while clean enough for all ages.
I highly recommend this film. It is hilarious, cute, and heartwarming. The acting is great. Ray Milland gives a great and very likeable performance as Major Philip Kirby. He is tender and kind to young Su-Su, yet he doesn’t talk down to her as Van Johnson’s character does to June Allyson’s. Instead, he treats her with respect, consideration, and kindness. A real twelve-year-old girl would appreciate his endearing behavior toward her, although she might be bothered by how frequently he calls her “child.” Rita Johnson plays Pamela Hill, his snippy fiancée, to perfection. As in many of her roles, it is easy to hate this selfish, insincere character. Sixteen-year-old Diana Lynn is funny and adorable as Lucy Hill, Pamela’s twelve-year-old sister. She is very amusing as the prodigious scientist who discovers Susan’s secret but befriends her. The young boys who play cadets of various ages are all hilarious and perfect for their respective parts. Those who watch a lot of classic movies will recognize these lads from their other juvenile roles at Paramount and other studios. Interestingly, this film marks the directorial debut of Billy Wilder. As a great screenplay writer, he was already a professional when he worked on this film, so there is no air of inexperience. His brilliance is already at its height. Another interesting note is that Susan’s mother, Mrs. Applegate, is played by Lela Rogers, Ginger Rogers’s real mother. This is the only film appearance of the lady, who looks a lot like her famous daughter as well as bearing a resemblance to Spring Byington, who was originally slated for this part. This movie is full of hilarious moments, quotable lines, and palpable emotions. It’s one of Billy Wilder’s finest!
For the Blogathon
This is my second entry in The Third Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Blogathon, which is being hosted by Michaela of Love Letters to Old Hollywood in honor of Crystal Kalyana of In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood, who is still in a coma. While we are very sad that Crystal is so sick right now, I think it’s wonderful that Michaela is hosting this blogathon in her honor. We know she wouldn’t want this festive event to be cancelled. I know she’ll enjoy reading all the wonderful contributions I’ve seen once she regains consciousness. If she hasn’t seen it, I know she will enjoy this wonderful Ginger Rogers comedy!
Ginger Rogers is really convincing, funny, and youthful as twelve-year-old Su-Su. At five foot four and a half, she didn’t have the petite stature which made June Allyson so convincing as a little girl. However, her voice and mannerisms are so perfect that they make up for it. She looks so much younger because she is wearing less makeup, so her face is shiny. She delivers some really hilarious lines as a little girl. She also is spunky and admirable as her grown-up self. She completes the age-disguise by playing her own mother near the end of the film. I loved the scene where she made scrambled eggs on the goofily licentious Mr. Osborne’s (Robert Benchley) head! Then, as a final touch, she cracks her second egg on the elevator operator’s head! That is classic, classy Billy Wilder humor, perfectly executed by Ginger. I highly recommend this movie to Ginger Rogers fans!
Please join our three upcoming holiday blogathons!
Follow us to bring back the Code and save the arts in America!