Saturday, August 04, 2007

Tonight's Movie: It Happened to Jane (1959)

IT HAPPENED TO JANE is the kind of bright, cheery family comedy that's rarely made anymore.

Jane Osgood (Doris Day) is a small-town Maine widow struggling to support her two children with a lobster business. Jane is loved in her hometown, particularly by her longtime friend and lawyer, George Denham (Jack Lemmon), who also serves as a father figure to Jane's children, even serving as Scoutmaster for little Billy Osgood's troop. George and Jane have never acted on their feelings for each other, perhaps stymied by their mutual memories of Jane's husband, or by George's cautious nature.

Enter Ernie Kovacs as Harry Foster Malone, the Scrooge-like new owner of the local railroad line, whose penny-pinching management results in the death of a large order of Jane's lobsters. When Jane refuses an inadequate settlement for the loss of her lobsters, Malone tries to crush her, in and out of court, and a David and Goliath battle ensues.

The movie is good fun, providing enjoyment for all ages. Day is charming, as always, and she and Lemmon are an appealing and believable team. It's a shame they didn't make more movies together.

One of the movie's strong points is its depiction of the small town of Cape Anne, Maine, with its characters, traditions, and history. (According to IMDb, it was filmed in New England, with Connecticut standing in for Maine.) The movie has a nice outdoorsy feel to it -- you can almost smell the crisp Maine air.

The TV series NEWHART and GILMORE GIRLS seem to have -- perhaps unknowingly -- each borrowed a page from JANE, as they also depict life in quirky New England towns. I just watched a first season NEWHART episode which also featured a once-a-year town meeting, and Cape Anne's store owner and perennial First Selectman Aaron Caldwell (John Cecil Holm) is reminiscent of Taylor Doose (Michael Winters) of GILMORE GIRLS' Stars Hollow, except that Caldwell would have frowned on Doose's continual "town improvements." :)

Steve Forrest, who plays the big city newspaper man who becomes Lemmon's romantic rival for Day, is the younger brother -- by 15 years -- of Dana Andrews. Forrest's birth name was William Forrest Andrews. Some fun trivia is that my father went to elementary school in Long Beach, California, with one of Dana Andrews' nephews, who was also named...Dana Andrews.

Teddy Rooney, who plays Day's son Billy, is the son of Mickey Rooney and Martha Vickers. Gina Gillespie, who plays Day's daughter Betty, is the sister of Mousketeer Darlene Gillespie. (Now that I think of it, my dad also went to school with a Mousketeer, Bobby Burgess. This is a night for trivia!)

The supporting cast also includes Mary Wickes, Russ Brown, and Gene Rayburn, in a funny turn as a TV news reporter.

The film was directed by Richard Quine, who started out as a young actor at MGM in the 1940s, where his roles included Judy Garland's brother in FOR ME AND MY GAL. Quine moved into directing in the late '40s and was chiefly known for comedies. He directed Jack Lemmon in at least two other pictures, the musical MY SISTER EILEEN (1955) and BELL BOOK AND CANDLE (1958). Quine's life, sadly, was different from the light movie fare he directed. His first wife, MGM actress Susan Peters, who was perhaps best-known for her Oscar-nominated role in RANDOM HARVEST (1943), was paralyzed in a hunting accident in 1945; the couple divorced in 1948 and she died in 1952. Quine eventually remarried in 1965, but tragically he committed suicide in 1989.

IT HAPPENED TO JANE is a color widescreen film. It runs 97 minutes (per the DVD box and IMDb); other sources say 98 or 100 minutes.

The trailer can be seen here. The title in the trailer is TWINKLE AND SHINE, which (unfortunately) was the film's title in Great Britain; according to the TCM website, the movie also had a 1961 U.S. reissue as TWINKLE AND SHINE. The movie has also been shown under the title JANE FROM MAINE.

This movie is available on DVD; a review of the DVD can be read at DVD Verdict. It can also be seen on cable on TCM.

A final note: earlier this year I briefly mentioned the book CONSIDERING DORIS DAY by Tom Santopietro. I just started reading it and am enjoying it very much. The author seems to make fair assessments of Day's movies, including sharing my lack of admiration for THE TUNNEL OF LOVE, reviewed here last May. Santopietro grades all of Day's films, ranking JANE in the "A" category.


Blogger Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

With other TV depictions of New England, including "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" and "Murder, She Wrote", both set in Maine, one might think a lot hauntings and murders occur in between the clambakes. Not so. (All right, forget about the Salem witch trials for just a minute.) There were only two murders at the last clambake I went to, and one of them was faking.

9:52 AM  
Blogger Pat Patterson said...

What I remember, as a ten year old, when seeing the film, in the old Fox West Coast in downtown Long Beach by the way, was Ernie Kovaks' character driving into town the first time in a gold(?) 1955 Cadillac El Dorado convertible and matching blond girl friend.

At that age what else was I supposed to notice first.

3:03 PM  
Blogger Al Quagliata said...

Hi. I enjoyed your post. I run The Ernie Kovacs Blog and mentioned it in my latest update.

You can always visit us at:
The Ernie Kovacs Blog
The Ernie Kovacs Tribute Site
and The Ernie Kovacs MySpace Page.


9:49 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks, Bill! I especially enjoyed Kovacs' last two scenes.

Best wishes,

9:52 AM  

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