The enjoyable World War II service comedy OVER 21 provides an excellent showcase for the comedic talents of Irene Dunne.
Dunne plays Paula "Polly" Wharton, a best-selling novelist whose newspaper editor husband Max (Alexander Knox) enlists in the Army with the hope of graduating from officers candidate school. Polly moves into a rundown little bungalow to be near Max, making friends with the other wives and adapting cheerfully to a lifestyle that is just one step above camping.
As Max struggles through officer candidate school, his publisher boss, Robert Gow (Charles Coburn), is none too happy to lose his star employee and pressures him to resign. Fearing that Gow will sell the paper while Max is in the service, Polly placates the publisher by writing a series of editorials under Max's name. The two big questions hanging over Polly are whether Max will graduate as an officer and whether Gow -- and Max! -- will discover her deception.
OVER 21, based on a play by Ruth Gordon, reunited Dunne, Coburn, and director Charles Vidor, who had all worked on TOGETHER AGAIN the previous year. The lead role gives Dunne the chance to shine, whether it's her never-ending font of one-liners or some funny physical comedy, such as her attempt to turn out the living room light. It's a good part which includes a couple touching dramatic scenes as well. Dunne is always a pleasure to watch, and this film is no exception.
Knox is well cast as the older-than-typical officer candidate, a "four eyes" who is book smart but struggles through the physical training and engineering classes. He and Dunne are believable as a married pair of writers.
The film has a good supporting cast, starting with Jeff Donnell and Loren Tindall as the young couple moving out of Dunne's bungalow at the start of the film. Phil Brown (later known as Uncle Owen in STAR WARS) plays the star student in Max's class. Lee Patrick, Cora Witherspoon, and Charles Evans also appear in the film. There are a number of attractive young players cast as Dunne's fellow army wives, including Ann Loos.
OVER 21 was filmed in black and white by Rudolph Mate, who later became a director of films such as SALLY AND SAINT ANNE (1952). It runs 102 minutes.
This film has not had a VHS or DVD release. It's a Columbia film which has been shown on Turner Classic Movies. Click here for a page at TCM where viewers can indicate interest in a DVD release.
Update: This movie is now available on DVD-R from Columbia Classics.