Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Major and the Minor

1942, US, directed by Billy Wilder

I wonder what 1942 audiences made of Billy Wilder's first American film, in which Ginger Rogers plays a woman dressed as a (very) young girl in order to save money on train fare, with inevitable complications ensuing, particularly when Ray Milland takes an apparently avuncular interest in the young woman's welfare. Wilder and fellow writer Charles Brackett mine the potential for discomfort for all its worth, although it's a discomfort projected onto the audience, with virtually all of the characters, Rogers excepted, apparently blithely unaware of any suggestion of impropriety.

Of course, this makes the notion of a romantic union at the end either completely implausible or truly uncomfortable, but let's not get in the way of happy endings just yet. The opening scene is a gem, with Rogers expressing her rapid-fire disgust, once and for all, with the men of New York, and I occasionally missed that sass later in the film; the character is forced to tamp down her natural spark to avoid drawing attention to herself, so it's welcome when Wilder and Brackett find an outlet in which she can be her natural self, in the company of the one character who sees through her act (or, perhaps more to the point, the one character who's prepared to call her out on it).

Image from: Spellbound Cinema

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States