Sunday, October 06, 2019

Tonight's Movie: The Major and the Minor (1942) - An Arrow Academy Blu-ray Review

The delightful Billy Wilder comedy THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR (1942) has just been released on Blu-ray by Arrow Academy.

I reviewed THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR here a decade ago, and I thoroughly enjoyed returning to it thanks to Arrow's beautiful new Blu-ray release.

Ginger Rogers is at her best as Susan Applegate, who wants to take the train home from New York City to Iowa but discovers she doesn't have enough money for a ticket due to a fare increase.

In desperation she poses as "Su-Su," a child of 12, in order to qualify for a half-price fare. When she's on the verge of being kicked off the train by suspicious conductors, she's aided by a kind -- and nearsighted! -- major, Philip Kirby (Ray Milland). Philip buys Su-Su's deception hook, line, and sinker.

When the train tracks flood before Susan reaches Iowa, Philip takes the "child" under his protective wing and brings her to the military academy where he works. Susan must continue the masquerade in front of everyone at the academy, including Philip's suspicious fiancee Pamela (Rita Johnson). Pamela's sister Lucy (Diana Lynn) immediately sees through Susan's act, perhaps because she's a young girl herself, but she keeps Susan's secret and teams with her to torpedo Philip's romance with nasty Lucy.

It's a certainty this film with its tricky plot couldn't be made today; part of what's remarkable about the film is how carefully it walks a tightrope maintaining good taste, never losing balance and becoming crass or tacky. A great deal of the credit for this goes to the lead actors; Milland plays his part with a charming innocence, while Rogers is utterly hilarious. They're a very appealing team, and in fact reunited a couple years later for LADY IN THE DARK (1944).

Side note: In her "adult" scenes Rogers has some of the best "movie hair" ever. It's simply perfection.

Johnson, who would later work with Milland in THE BIG CLOCK (1948), is always good as snooty types, never more so than here.

Diana Lynn has become a real favorite since I last saw this film, with a unique screen presence. Two years later she was a marvelous costar in another risque comedy classic, THE MIRACLE OF MORGAN'S CREEK (1944).

The cast also includes Robert Benchley, Norma Varden, Frankie Thomas, Edward Fielding, Mary Field, and Will Wright, with Rogers' own mother Lela charmingly playing Susan's mother in the film's final scenes set at home in Iowa.

THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR runs 100 minutes. It was directed by Billy Wilder from a script by Wilder and Charles Brackett, based in turn on a play by Edward Childs Carpenter. The play itself was inspired by a story by Fanny Kilbourne.

The movie was shot in black and white by Leo Tover, and the picture is shown off to perfection on the Arrow Blu-ray.

The impressive assortment of Blu-ray extras include the trailer, a commentary track by Adrian Martin, the 1943 Lux Radio Theater broadcast, a "video appreciation" by Neil Sinyard, and an archival interview with Ray Milland.

The first pressing from Arrow will also include a collector's booklet with an essay by Ronald Bergan which was not included in the advance promotional copy I reviewed. Reversible cover art will also be available on the final retail edition.

THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR joins a slate of other very fine 2019 Arrow Academy releases, including MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS (1945), THE BIG CLOCK (1948), and HOLD BACK THE DAWN (1941). This quartet of Blu-rays are all impressive releases which I consider essential additions to a classic film library.

Thanks to Arrow Academy for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Laura,

A great comedy, due in part to the adept Wilder direction and the chemistry of the leads. Like you, I'm a big Ray Milland fan, so just a quick note to let you know that my next filmography project, celebrating the film career of the actor will be published by McFarland early in the new year, entitled - Ray Milland: The Films 1929-1984.

Best Wishes

Jim McKay

2:08 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Jim, thank you so much for sharing that information, I'm very excited to learn this and will definitely want to read your book once it's out! I'm sure many of my readers feel the same way. Congrats on its upcoming publication!

Great to hear from you!

Best wishes,

12:36 PM  

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