The Major And The Minor (1942)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB.  

USA, 1942.  .  Screenplay by , Billy Wilder, suggested by a play by , from a story by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by , Hans Dreier.  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .

Tired of working hard and getting nowhere in the big city, and even more sick and tired of the wolves with too many hands who are always trying to have their way with her, reaches into her purse for the return fare she has been saving and asks for a ticket back to her hometown.  Unfortunately, inflation has raised the price since she arrived and she’s short of funds, inspiring her to pretend to be a thirteen year-old and buy a child’s train ticket instead.  It would be a harmless gag except it has its consequences: she needs to keep the charade up for the conductor who is punching her ticket, which leads to her hiding in the cabin of a soldier () and maintaining the characterization for him too.  If you think this is the end of the line for her routine, think again, for Milland insists on bringing her to the military college where he is staying with his fiancee and future in-laws before escorting her back to her mother, which means that Rogers is now made to dance with teenage cadets despite the fact that she’s falling in love with Milland and can’t tell him.  Thankfully, she also befriends thirteen year-old (the best character in the film) who is immediately on to her game but keeps her secret, offering this grown woman a break from having to play the bobby-soxer.  This uproarious comedy by Billy Wilder, his first as director in Hollywood, is skillfully written and directed, one hilarious sequence following another while riding the fine line between crafty and creepy that the main couple’s romantic trajectory flirts with (you can see Milland trying not to find her attractive and it’s actually funny).  Rogers is superb in the lead, one of her sharpest performances, in a role that the star had plenty of knowledge about (she often pretended to be younger to score cheaper train tickets when travelling the vaudeville circuit with her mother, who appears in this film as Rogers’ mother).

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