MAJOR AND THE MINOR, THE
(director: Billy Wilder; screenwriters: Charles Brackett/from the play Connie Goes Home by Edward Childs/from the Saturday Evening Post story Sunny Goes Home by Fannie Kilbourne; cinematographer: Leo Tover; editor: Doane Harrison; music: Robert Emmett Dolan; cast: Cast: Ginger Rogers (Susan Applegate), Ray Milland (Major Philip Kirby), Rita Johnson (Pamela Hill), Robert Benchley (Mr. Osborne), Frankie Thomas (Cadet Osborne), Diana Lynn (Lucy Hill), Edward Fielding (Col. Hill), Frankie Thomas (Cadet Osborne), Raymond Roe (Cadet Wigton), Lela Rogers (Mrs. Applegate); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Arthur Hornblow Jr.; Paramount; 1942)
“The effervescent farce proved to be a classic comedy.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
German emigre Billy Wilder (“The Apartment”/”Some Like it Hot”/”Stalag 17”) shoots his first film as director in Hollywood. The film turned out to be a critical and box-office hit. It was remade in 1955 as ‘You’re Never Too Young.’ Star Ginger Roger’s real mom plays her mom in the film. It’s suggested from the play Connie Goes Home by Edward Childs and from the Saturday Evening Post story Sunny Goes Home by Fannie Kilbourne. Wilder and Charles Brackett wrote the screenplay as a fluffy comedy and to be a commercial film. The effervescent farce proved to be a classic comedy.
The twentysomething Susan Applegate (Ginger Rogers) worked at many jobs unsuccessfully in NY and her latest work is at a job where she makes house calls to give scalp massages. One lecherous customer too many, in a Mr. Osborne (Robert Benchley), has the upset Susan leaving the big city for good. On the train home to Iowa, she discovers she doesn’t have enough money for the fare and thereby masquerades as a 12-year-old to pay the reduced child fare. On the train she meets the protective Major Philip Kirby (Ray Milland) and retreats to his sleeping compartment when caught smoking by the conductor. When the train is stalled by a flood, Philip’s selfish fiancée Pamela (Rita Johnson) and future father-in-law, Colonel Hill (Edward Fielding), arrive to give him a lift to the school. Pamela is suspicious of the fare-beater now named Su-Su; and Kirby, an instructor at the all boys’ academy, brings Susan to the school to prove she’s a minor. Easily clearing up that Susan is a 12-year-old, Kirby insists the minor stay at the Hill home until an adult member of her family escorts her home. Susan becomes a love target of the cadets and befriends Pam’s aspiring scientist sister Lucy (Diana Lynn), and learns that Kirby wants active war-time duty but Pam pulls strings with her father’s friends to keep him at the school.
The farce carries on with Susan using her smarts to get Kirby active duty by tricking her way to run the school switchboard for a few minutes and contacting the Pentagon in Washington. When Pam finds out, she orders Susan to leave the campus. At home in Iowa, Kirby visits Mrs. Applegate, not knowing Susan is disguised as her mother, as he’s en route to active duty in California. When the truth is finally revealed Kirby and Susan realize they love each other and plan to wed in California, as she joins him on the train.
REVIEWED ON 6/24/2011 GRADE: B-