The LOLITA of the 1940s, and just as sexy. A sparkling farce that marked Wilder's American directorial debut after years of writing witty screenplays for other directors, THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR sails along breezily from its very first scenes until its romantic ending. The scintillating
dialogue is very risque and punches out the laughs in rapid-fire succession. Ginger Rogers plays Susan, a working girl who has had it with New York and is eager to return home to the Midwest. When she finds that prices have gone up at the train station, the budget-conscious Susan dresses up as a
child and manages to get on for half-fare. ("She looks kind of filled out for twelve," notes one of the lunkheaded conductors.) Caught smoking on board, Susan takes refuge with Maj. Kirby (Milland), en route to a military academy. The major and his cadets are soon at a loss to understand their
attraction to such a young girl.
Algonquin Round Table member Robert Benchley is his terrifically wry self in the early scenes. Rogers gives him a hilarious egg shampoo and he also gets the film's most famous line, "Why don't you step out of that wet coat and into a dry martini?" Milland, too, is excellent in a successful
invasion of Cary Grant territory. The film, though, really belongs to Rogers, giving one of her greatest performances in a role you can't imagine any other actress pulling off. She seemed to have inherited Mary Pickford's gift for playing children without seeming too ridiculous or coy--except here
Wilder takes it one better. Relying on Rogers's formidable talent for mimicry, he has her playing someone who plays someone. Almost as wonderful is Lynn, her pert wisecracking almost an adolescent version of Rogers's style. Featuring the famous "Maginot Line" sequence, THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR
retains its sharpness even amidst today's rather more heavy-handed approaches to sex farce. Wilder was a great director from the start, and Ginger proves that she'd have her place in the pantheon even if she'd never even heard of Fred Astaire. Dully remade as YOU'RE NEVER TOO YOUNG.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: The LOLITA of the 1940s, and just as sexy. A sparkling farce that marked Wilder's American directorial debut after years of writing witty screenplays for other directors, THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR sails along breezily from its very first scenes until its rom… (more)