The Major and the Minor (1942)

The Major and the Minor (1942), directed by Billy Wilder.

Ginger Rogers has had enough of New York City: all her jobs seem to be pushing her towards sex work. So it's back to Iowa. Problem: she doesn't have enough money for the train. Her cunning plan: dress like a child and pretend to be 12 so she can ride for half fare.

Pause for monumental suspension of disbelief. Yes, it is ridiculous now and was so at the time. That's the point.

Not everyone is deceived. The naturally suspicious train conductors: "She looks kind of filled out for 12". And the wiz-kid sister: "Talking like you're 6 doesn't make you 12".

But most importantly, Army officer Ray Milland is fooled and protectively takes charge of her. He has bad eyesight; I'm not sure about everyone else.

It is hard to see how this plot could work today with everything so heavily sexualized. The implications of pedophilia would just sink the project. Although: I note that Hollywood is supposed to be aware of the exploitation of children but continues to do it anyway.

The 1942 film is innocent of such concerns, although:

Ginger's mother Lela plays her Iowa mother, and Ginger herself also plays her own mother, so she is both younger and older in the same film, which is clever.

This is Wilder's first American film as director, co-written with his partner Charles Brackett. He wanted to direct partly so others wouldn't ruin his screenplays. The plot is quite snappy, with good hooks to get us from scene to scene.

Edith Head costumes.

The comedy of military academies is a little film genre. See The Private War of Major Benson (1955).

Available on Blu-ray from Arrow. Video quality is just fair, perhaps limited by the source. Good natured, informative commentary track by Adrian Martin. He says: