“THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR”
A Billy Wilder First (from 1942)
Susan Applegate (Ginger Rogers) became tired of trying to make a living and avoiding advances of creeps like Albert Osborne (Robert Benchley), so she decides to go home to Iowa using money she’s set aside for just such a rainy day. However the fare has gone up $5 causing her to be stranded in Grand Central Station. She decides to disguise herself as Su-Su Applegate, a tall-for-her-age eleven year-old. This works until some suspicious conductors spot her smoking a cigarette on the observation car and she ducks into the first open compartment where she finds Major Philip Kirby (Ray Milland), the commandant of the Wallace military school. He is returning from a failed attempt to secure a transfer to active duty. He buys Su-Su’s adolescent act and Susan is convinced she’s met the man of her dreams under the worst conditions ever. Several complications later, Su-Su is spending a weekend at the military school, fighting off the advances of a number of aggressive cadets.
Philip’s fiancée Pamela Hill (Rita Johnson) also accepts Susan as Su-Su, but her little sister Lucy (Diana Lynn) isn’t fooled. Lucy doesn’t want Susan arrested and she needs an ally to show Philip that Pamela is two-faced. Pamela has been pulling strings to wrongly convince Washington that the academy cannot do without Kirby. Meanwhile, Su-Su holds off the cadet wolves and goes to war against her female competition.
Ginger Rogers has fun playing ‘Su-Su’ but it all backfires s when she meets Major Kirby. She’s encouraged when ‘Uncle’ Philip begins to see her as attractive, a development that Billy Wilder with his first Hollywood film exploits for all it’s worth. Major Kirby is clearly being turned on by what he thinks is an adolescent child, but since we’re perfectly aware that Susan is a mature 25, the naughtiness is censor-proof.
Everything comes to a head when Kirby tries to lecture Su-Su on the birds and the bees, comparing girls to light bulbs and boys to curious. Su-Su at first tells Philip that her family uses screen doors to keep the moths away, but when she sees that he’s having difficulty with the analogy, she lets him off the hook. When America’s young military cadets prove to be budding lovers. The irony is that Susan ditched the Big Apple to be free of unwanted advances, only to have it happen again.
Wilder’s personal brand of comedy is everywhere and wonderful. Running gags are core constituent with Wilder style. back in New York. He loves topical jokes but they are certainly dated. Screenwriters Brackett and Wilder allow Susan Applegate to impersonate her own mother, thereby letting Ginger Rogers play Susan at three distinct ages.
Ray Milland is a fine foil for her as Major Philip Kirby, the officer who believes she is a frightened child, agrees to help her let her stay with him until they reach his stop, and eventually takes her home to the military academy where he teaches, pretending to be her father.
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation transferred from original film elements
- Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM audio soundtrack
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- New audio commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin
- Half Fare Please!, a newly filmed video appreciation by film critic Neil Sinyard
- Archival interview with Ray Milland
- Rare hour-long radio adaptation from 1943 starring Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland
- Image gallery
- Original trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork
- FIRST PRESSING ONLY: COLLECTOR’S BOOKLET WITH ESSAY BY RONALD BERGAN