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USA 1940
Directed by
Billy Wilder
96 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

The Major And The Minor

This mildly diverting romantic comedy was the unremarkable opener for Billy Wilder's American career. Ginger Rogers plays a 20-something working girl from Stevenson, Iowa in New York to seek her fame and fortune. After 25 jobs she decides to return home to marry her bumpkin sweetheart but because of lack of funds has to pretend to be a 12 year old in order to get a half-fare train ticket. In the process she meets Major Philip Kirby (Ray Milland) who takes her under his wing and she ends up sojourning at a boy's military academy where hi-jinks transpire.

Originally inspired by a 1921 Saturday Evening Post story it was transformed into a Broadway play (which flopped) before Wilder and Charles Brackett adapted it for Paramount. A post-Astaire Rogers, who had surprisingly won an Oscar as a working girl for Kitty Foyle in 1940 is engaging as she switches between her personae, even briefly getting to play her own mother. One suspects, however, that the studio had little hope for the film as contract player Milland is mis-cast, lacking in comedic verve and generally being unconvincing as a young girl's fancy in a role of which Cary Grant would have made a tasty meal.

Whilst Wilder's direction is unobtrusively efficient, the script, perhaps constrained by the morally contentious implication of the subject matter fails to make much of its "mistaken identity" concept either situationally or in its dialogue which only occasionally breaks out into the popular screwball mode, the film being a no-more-than-adequate example of the genre.

DVD Extras: A first rate newly restored print; original theatrical trailer; insert essay by Karli Lucas, a freelance writer, along with Hollywood Remembers profiles on Milland and Rogers.

Available from: Madman




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