Is This Movie Really Necessary?
A lot of people, when you point out exactly how dumb the basic premise behind this movie is, say, "Well, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon didn't much look like women in [i]Some Like It Hot[/i], either." This is of course true, but they still look a heck of a lot more like women than Ginger Rogers looked like a girl a week shy of twelve. It shouldn't take a biologist to work out that she's built like an adult. She was over thirty when this movie was made. I might have found it more plausible that she fooled, you know, anyone who talked to her for more than about fifteen seconds if the role had been played by an actress no more than about twenty, but no. It's also true that only one person notices that she doesn't much act a week shy of twelve, either. She acts about six, and everyone except that horde of cadets treats her that way. The fact is, it seems as though forgetting how various ages of children act is a film tradition.
Susan Applegate (Rogers) is going home to Iowa from New York. She's been there a year, and she's starting to think that's a year too long. Unfortunately, the train fare she set aside for herself when she got her first job is no longer enough; fares have gone up, probably because of the war. So she has the "clever" idea of disguising herself as someone young enough to ride for a child's fare, which is half price. Only the conductors (Stanley Andrews and Emory Parnell) are about the only not-morons in the piece, and they spend her entire time on the train trying to trap her into revealing that she's not a child. She ends up hiding in the cabin of one Major Kirby (Ray Milland), and she tells him that she's "Su-Su." For reasons that don't make sense, he takes her to the military academy where he's teaching. The only person who works out what's going on is Lucy Hill (Diana Lynn), the younger sister of his fiancée, Pamela (Rita Johnson).
The thing is, they seem to be basically whoring her out to the boys. The major tells Susan to be careful, but it's a joke when the boys are trying to kiss her. At least one of the boys is old enough to be engaged, too, and we know for a fact that at least one is sixteen. This is another place where it doesn't seem as though the screenwriter quite understood how age works. She's given an honour guard, and the boys are all fighting over her. Which works if she's supposed to be, you know, old enough to have gone through puberty. Lucy is sixteen (or anyway the actress was), and she's old enough to know that those boys have nothing good on their minds. However, the grown-ups all seem to think it's cute that the boys have seized every dance on her card and that they've parceled out hours of her day amongst them. While it's true that such a thing would probably thrill a lot of eleven-year-old girls, it's certainly not true that most boys at that school would have any interest in spending time with them.
I have to admit that I also found the whole subplot about the major's wanting to be transferred to active duty as unnecessary. The movie was, of course, released not even a year after Pearl Harbor, and it was very important that a story involving the military at that time involve the fact that soldiers all over the country were going off to war. I would also imagine that Pamela would find it desirable to have a husband who was, you know, on the same continent as she was. A selfish but popular desire, I'm sure. However, it didn't really seem to have much to do with anything. It might have been a reason for Lucy to keep Susan's secret, but I'm not sure Lucy really needed one. In fact, I think Susan could have been honest with Lucy. Come to that, I think Susan could have been honest with Major Kirby, and I think he would have been more likely to be creeped out than charmed when he eventually found out the truth. Though I suppose she didn't ever think he had to. Because, you know, war.
Practically everyone involved in this would go on to better things. Among them, the director and the two stars had eight Oscars. The wisecracking, crafty younger sister would go on to be the wisecracking, crafty younger sister two years later in [i]The Miracle of Morgan's Creek[/i]. Honestly, I don't understand the love this movie has. It flatly doesn't make sense most of the way through. It's got such broad, burlesque performances that you'd think the people who gave them would be ashamed in later years. I mean, I don't exactly think Ray Milland should have declined his Oscar for [i]The Lost Weekend[/i] over it (Ginger Rogers already had hers), but I do think this movie has some defenders it doesn't deserve. The implications are brushed over because "it's just a comedy," but that doesn't mean they aren't there. I mean, doesn't it even strike people as a little weird that Major Kirby ignores everything Susan tries to tell him about herself because he knows what little girls are really like?