Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Major and the Minor

Billy Wilder, 1942, bw (7.6*)

This pleasant pastry is master director Billy Wilder's first as a director after several successful screenplays, with Ninotchka probably the best known. In the screwball tradition pioneered by Ernst Lubitsch, whom Wilder knew and admired, Hawks, Capra and others, this preposterous story has a thirty-something Ginger Rogers try to pass as 12-yr old Susan "Susu" Applegate in order to get a half-fare train ticket back home to Iowa from New York. On the train, she hides from the conductor in the sleeper berth of military major Ray Milland, who is not really a comic actor, on his way to a military academy though he'd rather be somewhere close to the impending war.

This plot is the perfect sitcom idea, even though it borders on tipping the prurience scale as Milland lets what he thinks is a 12 year old girl sleep in his cabin and hang out with him for several days, in spite of his fiance's suspicions that all is not as it seems. Of course, everyone falls for Ginger, including the 400 cadets at the academy, and of course Ginger slowly falls for Milland and is of course jealous of his fiance.

Not Wilder's best, and perhaps squeaky-voiced and petite Jean Arthur would have been a better choice for this role, but still a classic screwball comedy and one worth seeing. It's obvious that Wilder wanted to please the studio and audiences in his first film as director. He would, of course, soon shock the film world with the radical classics Double Idemnity, Sunset Boulevard, and Stalag 17 - and would make better comedies in Sabrina and Some Like It Hot, but this film is still a must for Wilder, Rogers, and screwball comedy fans alike.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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