Friday, 18 September 2015

I've Just Seen: The Major and the Minor (1942)

The Major and the Minor (1942)

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Director: Billy Wilder

I generally enjoy or love the films of Billy Wilder; Some Like It Hot shares top spot as my favourite movie. When I saw this listed in Wilder's filmography, and read the synopsis, I was certain I would like this. Clearly, I know myself very well. The Major and the Minor was Wilder's first American film as director, and shows how talented he was.

The humour is subversive, as it follows a young woman who disguises herself as a 12-year-old girl in order to get a cheaper train ticket. As with Some Like It Hot Wilder portrays male sexuality through a female perspective, though in this film many of the 'men' are actually boys. Ginger Rogers is great here, showing she was more than simply a brilliant dance partner. She gets to play three different roles: tough-minded Susan, a rather childish 'Sue-Sue' and even her own mother. While it is as difficult to accept Rogers as a 12-year-old as it was to see Curtis and Lemmon as women, the film plays with this fact (it is probably why all the young boys like her so much!). At first it seems that Ray Milland's role is only to be handsome (which he does well), but his Major Kirby is grappling with his growing attraction to Sue-Sue. The moments when he tries to justify or ignore these feelings are uncomfortably funny.

There are many great one-offs jokes, including one about Veronica Lake that I won't spoil. Though one could easily dismiss this film as light and frothy, and ultimately it is, The Major and the Minor plays with the boundaries of acceptable sexuality, adding a bit of spice to the froth. I loved it, and if you liked Some Like It Hot you will enjoy this too.

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