The Major and the Minor (1942)

Susan Applegate (Ginger Rogers) has spent one year living in New York, and she’s absolutely tired of it. The big city isn’t a good fit for everyone, and apparently not for Susan, so she decides to buy a ticket home with the money she’s saved.

Susan is in for a shock when she heads to the train station and discovers that the price of tickets has skyrocketed since her last trip. Desperate to get home, and after seeing a child get a ticket at half-price, Susan cooks up a scheme to pose as a 12-year-old and get a cheaper ticket.

(Image via Canal Blog)

(Image via Canal Blog)

Off comes the make-up and in go the pigtails as Susan successfully buys a half-price ticket. But can she keep up the charade throughout her journey on the train — even after she meets Major Philip Kirby (Ray Milland)?

Billy Wilder directs 1942’s The Major and the Minor, his first Hollywood movie according to Ben Mankiewicz’s TCM introduction. Wilder also co-wrote the script with Charles Brackett.

Though this was Wilder’s first Hollywood feature, his knack for comedy is already apparent. There are plenty of laughs to be had, the script peppered with great one-liners, delivered with pitch-perfect timing by Ginger Rogers and the gang.

Speaking of Ginger, her character of Susan is super sassy in the opening, when we see her as a “working girl” offering spa services to rich folks. “The customer is always right” is certainly not her motto. I love it! And her 12-year-old baby act following her exodus from New York… very funny.

(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Ms. Rogers carries the film quite well, even if some of the antics of her “young girl” persona are slightly obnoxious. They’re meant to be that way, and Ginger pulls off every facet of the character, making the film a lot of fun to watch. Such a talented lady.

A few of my favorite scenes are those shared by Ginger and Diana Lynn, playing the wannabe-adult, super-sneaky 12-year-old sister of Kirby’s fiance, Pam. Pam introduces the two thinking that since they’re the same age, they’ll get along swimmingly. But Pam’s sister Lucy quickly declares herself a child-genius scientist… and realizes the secret of Su-su’s true age immediately. Luckily for Susan, Lucy is more than willing to scheme against Pam, the sister she seems to have little tolerance for.

Also a delightful little part of the film, Ginger’s real-life mom, Lela Rogers, makes an appearance as Susan’s mother. It’s a fun little cameo which served as Lela’s only on-screen appearance. It wasn’t her only Hollywood moment, though — she racked up several credits in the movies as a writer.

I wouldn’t add The Major and the Minor to the top of my favorites list — it feels a tad slow, and I could in no way root for the Rogers/Milland pairing when he spent the majority of the film treating her like a child. But it is otherwise a very enjoyable film, worth watching especially if you’re a fan of Billy Wilder and want to see an early example of his writing/directing talents. Ginger Rogers fans will greatly enjoy it, too. The score: 3.5/5

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