The Major and the Minor (1942)

There is something serene and assuring for the entire duration of any movie as long as Ginger Rogers is in them. I have watched quite many of her films – excluding the famous musicals she appeared with Fred Astaire.

She comes across as a simpleton in many of her roles and usually plays the characters with vibrant expressions, making you fall in love with her. My wife was beside me, yet I could not stop admiring her beauty and telling my wife about it.

Susan Applegate, played by Ginger Rogers, is witty, homesick, short in cash – running out of excuses and patience at the train station until she sees a lady who is buying a half-ticket each for her two children.

One moment – Susan appears as a perfect young lady, someone with whom you always wished to dance at a ball. And in the next scene, she disguises herself as a 12-year old and manages to board the train with a half ticket. The newly found disguise and her antics would be short-lived as the conductors soon find out she isn’t a kid from the Swedish stock, which she claimed for her excessive height. Even Greta Garbo’s famous line ‘I want to be alone’ from Grand Hotel doesn’t impress them and is chased away when they catch her smoking while breathing in the fresh air.

Major Kirby, played by Ray Milland, comes across as a gentleman who offers refuge to the 12-year old Su-Su, her alias. He is on his way to his military institute and his fiancée, Pamela.

Despite these coincidences, twists, and turns to the plot -the movie retains the humour without a dull moment.

After being in the industry for close to 14 years and having written stories and screenplays for around 40 movies, Billy Wilder makes his debut as a director with this movie.

The other characters who play a significant part in the movie are Kirby’s devious fiancée Pamela played by Rita Johnson, Lucy – the science freak and the sister of Pamela played by Diana Lynn; the six cadets from the military school who take turns in impressing Su-Su and Lela Rogers as Mrs. Appleton.

It was remade in another version as You are Never Too Young in 1955 – which starred Jerry Lewis disguising as a 12-year old.

The 1955 movie’s plot also inspired the Hindi comedy movie Half Ticket, which had Kishore Kumar playing the kid supported by Madhubala and Pran.

When I remember The Major and the minor, I can think of Ginger Rogers and her different avatars in this movie.

A beautiful scalp treatment lady; a 12-year old kid; alone girl wanting care and affection in the train;  a confused love-struck belle who plays the centre of attraction to those hundreds of young cadets in the institute;

A doll resembling Judy Garland from The Wizard of Oz; a maiden of the prom night; a young woman hopelessly lost and in love; a matured and elderly Mrs. Appleton or the lovely lady Susan, waiting at the train station for Kirby towards the end.

Take your pick and rest assured, you will be left mesmerised with the ease in which she has portrayed all the roles mentioned above.

Once Upon a Honeymoon (1942)

During the time of WWII, many American reporters were deputed in Europe to narrate the war. This is a story of an American radio reporter Pat ‘O’ Toole, played by Cary Grant, his various adventures across Europe while covering the war. American burlesque Katie ‘O’ Hara marries an Austrian millionaire Baron Von Luber for her social climbing. Pat sees this marriage as an opportunity to expose the alleged, suspected ties of Baron with the Nazis.

Pat is after a story as he follows Katie and Baron on their honeymoon across many European countries. One can see country after country falling under the Nazi regime penned by Baron’s involvement.

Pat falls in love with Katie. Upon realising her husband’s role with Nazis, she escapes from the Baron by faking her death. When the Nazi regime had strengthened its hold in Europe, Katie, owing to her patriotic obligations, decides to don the role of a spy and goes back to Baron.

The final scene exposes the foolishness of Baron and the Nazi regime when Pat, upon agreement with Baron, delivers a radio speech to the public quite contrary to what was agreed upon.

This movie represents the typical Cary Grant, playing his comic – serious, eligible bachelor roles. Pretty looking, Ginger Rogers does justice to her role with her range of facial expressions and demonstrates her acting skills.

Look out for most actors’ comic timing as this film turned out to be just an entertainer. Keeping the mood of the early 1940s in America, this movie turns out to be another way of looking at WWII from an American perspective.

Released in 1942, Leo McCarey directs this comical adventure nominated for Best Oscar for sound recording.