thatcow

Rogers and Wilder, Hurrah

Ah, Ginger Rogers. For those who don't already know, she did more than dance with Fred Astaire in movies like Top Hat. She's a bonafide actress, who had a lot more experience in film when they did their first movie together. By 1942, Ginger is a 33 year old veteran of about fifty films.

This time around, there's no dancing, but rather a lot of pretending to be a twelve year old. Her character, Susan Applegate, discovers she does not have enough train fare for the ride from New York City to her hometown. To get around this, she dresses and adopts the childish behavior of a kid, in order to qualify for the half price ticket. And, as movie lies have such a tendency, that leads to plenty of trouble.

As personnel on the train begin to see through her facade, she hides in the cabin of Major Phillip Kirby (Ray Milland). She talks her way into staying there, and when the train has to stop because the tracks have been flooded, he takes the unaccompanied apparent-minor to the military boarding school where he is stationed. There, she is romantically accosted by the youth of the place, and becomes involved in trying to foil the Major's fiance's plans to keep him unhappily at the boarding school.

The scenes are often cute, with many imaginative touches. This was, in fact, Billy Wilder's American directorial debut (after writing for quite a number of films in Hollywood, as well as this one). Obviously, Wilder made enough of an impression here to fuel his subsequent risky, but successful, directing career. It's no surprise, for we see many of the same touches from his later films, from his fascination with character, to avoiding the too-easy plot choices. While not among the best of Wilder's films, this one is placed solidly in the middle of the pack (from among those I've seen to date). While the Major and the Minor is not exactly required viewing, it ought to be on the list for those interested in this great writer/director.

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