15 June 2000 | etherealtb
One of the Best High School Movies Ever
Can a movie made in 1946 still move teenagers today? Well, all I can say is when I first saw this movie in 1983 I was still in high school and this film totally touched and inspired me!
At first, it just seems like your typical nostalgic sentimental high school film. We have, Margie the geeky girl who's so far from being in the 'in' crowd it's pathetic. Then we have the popular girl, Mirabelle, living next door to Margie as a constant reminder of how 'out of it' she is. Then Margie has the typical school girl crush on her gorgeous French teacher and also has the typical pathetic loser/ boyfriend following her around.
But wait! Then Henry King takes a simple movie to a another level and it soon becomes clear we are watching the emergence of a strong and unusual woman. Our first clue that this movie is something different are the sly hints about Margie's emerging sexuality. (I mean, she literally keeps losing her knickers at the most in-opportune occasions, how did this get past the censors?) Then there is Margie's feminist grandmother, who wants Margie to be the first woman president of the United States. But just in case we still don't get it, it all becomes clear when we hear Margie's winning debate speech on why the U.S. should take the Marines out of Nicaragua. (Ironically, when I saw this film in 1983, this issue was as hotly debated as it apparently was in 1929!) Margie, in spite of her awkward gestures and amateur delivery, gives one of the most amazing speeches ever given by a teenager in a film. It is truly amazing. We see unsuspected depths in this young woman and from that point on we (along with the men in her life) are fascinated with how this young ladies life will turn out (to give any more away would spoil the film for you!)
This film also has an unusual look for the time period, since it was one of those rare films in the 40's where exteriors were filmed on location. Henry King is one of the great studio directors who is constantly forgotten and overlooked. But take one look at the skating sequence in this film, where the camera follows skaters beautifully, as they circle around the camera, and you will see a master craftsman in league with Hitchcock or any of the other Hollywood greats. (And as a former ice skater, I can tell you Jeanne Crain is a pretty good skater!)
But the moment that got me most, and still gets me, is the way Margie handles her disappointment about who she has to go to the prom with and the dignity in which she carries herself. This movie shows the amazing and difficult journey of Margie McDuff from a little girl who is on the road to being an amazing woman! (Well, we hope!) So by the end of the film, we believe, along with her grandmother and the others in her life, that Margie is indeed a unique and unusual person and really could have been the first woman president of the United States!