The Major and the Minor (1942)

Passed   |    |  Comedy, Romance


The Major and the Minor (1942) Poster

A frustrated city girl disguises herself as a youngster in order to get a cheaper train ticket home. But little "Sue Sue" finds herself in a whole heap of grown-up trouble when she hides out in a compartment with a handsome Major.


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  • Ginger Rogers in The Major and the Minor (1942)
  • Ray Milland and Ginger Rogers in The Major and the Minor (1942)
  • Ginger Rogers and Lela E. Rogers in The Major and the Minor (1942)
  • Ray Milland in The Major and the Minor (1942)
  • Ray Milland in The Major and the Minor (1942)
  • Ginger Rogers in The Major and the Minor (1942)

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Awards

3 wins.

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1 March 2008 | ackstasis
7
| "I'll try and be a better lightbulb, Uncle Phillip."
Billy Wilder began his career in Hollywood as a screenwriter. However, dissatisfied with how directors were treating his screenplays, he yearned to have greater creative control over his films. Though he had co-directed a single film in the past, the ultra-obscure French drama 'Mauvaise graine (1934),' it wasn't until 1942 that he was given a genuine opportunity to display his directorial talent, and a penchant for audacious comedy. On the surface, 'The Major and the Minor (1942)' might easily be mistaken for a silly, fluffy screwball comedy – and it works quite effectively when viewed as such – but closer inspection reveals an abundance of mature, and even slightly scandalous, themes coming into play. Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland co-star in Wilder's improbable but highly entertaining satire of inherent human sexuality, loaded with unsubtle innuendo ("Why don't you get out of that wet coat and into a dry martini?") and difficult romantic situations. It must have taken a bold director, indeed, to present a grown man falling in love with (what he believes to be) a twelve-year-old girl; a contentious subject even today.

Ginger Rogers plays Susan Applegate, a proud and independent woman living in the city. Wilder doesn't shy away from revealing the darker, even somewhat predatory, sexual nature of most men, and the camera shows countless male heads turning towards Susan as she passes through a hotel lobby, each pair of eyes eagerly passing over her attractive body. When a married scalp-massage client (Robert Benchley) mistakes their appointment for something more than a massage {the early stages of Wilder's preoccupation with marital infidelity}, Susan decides to return to her quaint, uncorrupted hometown, only to find that she lacks the money for an adult train ticket. In a burst of genius, she decides, in order to claim a half-fare ticket, to masquerade as a twelve-year-old, her appearance drastically altered by styling her hair into pigtails, wearing children's clothing and carrying a balloon. That any intelligent human being would actually be fooled by such a scheme is highly debatable, but if the viewer learns to suspend ample disbelief, then many laughs are due to follow.

Ray Milland plays Major Philip Kirby, a handsome and respectable military man, who meets Susan {now using the childish moniker "Su-Su"} on the train, and takes to her almost immediately. After intense flooding brings their train to a halt, Kirby agrees to bring Susan back to his residence at a boy's military school, where she is immediately the sensation of the college. As a young girl, Susan's experiences with male sexual desire change little: the hordes of gawking and opportunistic men give rise to equally-rapacious hordes of gawking and opportunistic boys, and even Major Kirby himself, to his horror, finds himself becoming attracted to Su-Su, as her "mature charm" begins to exhibit itself. In a particular sequence, one that the censors no doubt would have watched warily, Kirby attempts to explain to Susan the "birds and the bees," likening her female attraction to a light bulb surrounded by moths, and, one eye clamped firmly shut, suddenly declares her to be a "knock-out!" Billy Wilder's first feature film is audacious, well-written, brilliantly-acted, and, most importantly of all, very funny; it deserves to be seen alongside the director's other various classics.

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