This is an oddity not only for the casting of future politicos Reagan and Temple in the same film, but due to its rotten script and nearly incomprehensible resolution. Reagan himself despised the experience and did all he could to get out of doing the film, this being one time he knew the
movie was going to be an embarrassment before the cameras rolled. Supposedly a condemnation of rumor-mongering in small-town America, THAT HAGEN GIRL stars Temple (in her first role as a "young lady") as the adopted daughter of Peterson and Kemper. She has had to grow up as the suspected
illegitimate daughter of successful young lawyer Reagan, who fled town soon after she was born. Temple has become accustomed to the cold stares and whispers, but when she becomes a teenager, the rumors prove too much for her boy friend, Calhoun, and he dumps her. Enter Reagan, who has returned to
town from Washington. A ladies' man, he strikes up a romance with Maxwell, Temple's teacher and only true friend. The rumor mill is soon out of control, with the townsfolk remarking about what a nice "family" Reagan, Maxwell, and Temple make when they go on outings together. Temple has had enough
of this dirty talk and tries to commit suicide by throwing herself in a lake. Reagan happens by and saves her life, and this incident proves to Maxwell that it is really Temple Reagan is in love with and not her. In an embarrassing exchange of dialog, Maxwell points out Reagan's pedophilic
obsession with Temple (it's all very wholesome of course--almost cute), and darned if all the parties involved don't agree. Bearing in mind that the film was produced in the 1940s, the potentially incestuous nature of this relationship is dealt with rather swiftly and it is soon discovered that
Temple came from an orphanage in Illinois (why someone didn't bother trying to discover this little tidbit when Temple was a child is anybody's guess), once and for all proving that she's not Reagan's illegitimate daughter (whew!). The film concludes with Reagan and Temple boarding a train and
waving good-bye to the snotty little town. Did they marry? Did Reagan adopt her? Not even the former President of the United States knows for sure.
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