Friday, March 25, 2011
The Major and the Minor (4 stars)
The Major and the Minor, starring Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland, is a fun little 1942 comedy directed by the fabulous Billy Wilder. Wilder, who is one of my very favorite directors, is known for such great works as Sunset Boulevard, Stalag 17, The Lost Weekend, and Double Indemnity (plus many more). The Major and the Minor, with Ginger Rogers as "the minor" and Ray Milland as the "major," was one of Wilder's earliest works.
Ginger, who, as I always stress, was FAR more than just a dancer, is Susan Applegate, a young woman who has grown weary of the leacherous lifestyle of New York City and intends to return to her home in Iowa. From the time of her arrival in New York, she had held aside just enough money for the train trip home in the event things didn't work out. Only problem...fares have gone up since her arrival, and now she doesn't have enough money for the ticket home. But after discovering that she DOES have the money for a children's ticket, she quickly transforms herself into a twelve year old and is soon on the train bound for Iowa. (Okay, yes, it's a little unrealistic to think that a 31 year old woman would try to pass for a 12 year old, but, hey, it's only a movie...and it made for alot of fun.)
On the train, Susan meets Major Phillip Kirby (Ray Milland), an instructor at a boys' military academy. Phillip, who is a bit near-sighted, thinks Susan is exactly what she claims to be...a little girl all alone and frightened. So, he takes her under his wing, even having her call him Uncle Phillip. The relationship is all very above board, but when Phillip's fiance happens by the train, she sees a woman...not a little girl...in Phillip's compartment and becomes totally furious. In order to put out the fire in his fiance, Phillip convinces Susan (who has told him her name is Sue Sue) to stop off for a few days at the military academy.
At the military academy, Susan must keep up the charade. Although she is falling in love with "Uncle" Phillip, she must continue to be 12 year old Sue Sue and even finds herself having to fight off the advances of all the boys at the academy. So how long can Susan keep up the act? How long can she fool people into thinking she's a 12 year old girl when she's really a full-grown woman? Will Uncle Phillip find out that it wasn't a little girl he took under his wing after all, but a woman who is very much in love with him? And what about Phillip's fiance?
Well, to find out the answers to these questions, you will have to watch The Major and The Minor for yourself. It's out on DVD and should be readily available and quite easy to track down. Yes, it's very unrealistic to think of Ginger, who was 31 at the time, posing as a 12 year old. And, yes, the movie is VERY dated by today's standards...I mean, we would automatically be screaming "pedophile" if a grown man met a 12 year old girl on a train and shared his compartment with her. But the times then were more innocent, so if we look at it through the lens of the 1940's, it was simply a man taking it upon himself to look out for a child alone. Ray Milland's character was never inappropriate towards Sue Sue. So, even if the movie seems outlandish by today's standards, I still highly recommend it. It's loads of fun and very cute. And for Ginger fans (like my husband), it's a definite must-see!