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The Major And The Minor

02 Jul

The Major And The Minor – Directed by Billy Wilder — Comedy. A military man meets a hometown girl posing, unbeknownst to him, as a twelve-year old, and takes her to the boys school where he teaches. 100 minutes Black and White 1942.

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Delightful improbability. Why do we accept it? Why don’t we just say, ‘Oh, it’s too improbable,” and turn it off? Why doesn’t delightful improbability turn us off? We accept Ginger Rogers at the railway station at the end, even though it would have taken her too long to get out of the previous rig, pack, make up, secure that hat on her head, and get to the platform. Because? Because delight sheds a smile’s light around the matter, and in that light the improbability is enjoyed as such. And that smile? It does not come from belly laughs. In this film there are none of them. Or from wit or from jokes. In this film there are few of them. It comes from the sense of humor of the director, and maybe one of the actors. In this case Billy Wilder, whose first Hollywood direction this was, and from Ray Milland, whose happy innocence spreads forgiveness for any possible flaw. He’s so lively and good and good looking. He has such a sunny smile. And he is completely convinced of the script as offered. Which is that he recognizes that Rogers is  11 years old. Rogers was at the peak of her powers at this time, and took Wilder aside for an hour to see if she believed he could direct this. She loved his and Charles Brackett’s script, and she was one of the few big stars in Hollywood who would agree to looking quite foolish on screen, so she is in Dorothy pigtails for a lot of it. And she’s an ace actress. She plays opposite Rita Johnson, so watch how Johnson throws a bucket of acid when she speaks when all she need do is flick a drop, while, in their confrontation scene after the ball, with Rogers a drop devastates. And take in the lighting and filming of that scene by Leo Tover. Beautiful. Take a look also at Rogers’ trim figure, so like those of the women actresses of her day, Barbara Stanwyck, Jane Wyman, Dorothy McGuire, Claudette Colbert. Joan Crawford, all narrow hipped and slender. The film endures its longeurs when our Ginger has to endure the dating of the cadets, but it comes alive whenever Diana Lynn is on screen with her, and also when that famous stage mother, Lela Rogers appears in this her first film, as Rogers’ mother. Built just like her daughter and looks like her too. A delightful improbability in a picture of delightful improbabilities.

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
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