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The Major and the Minor

The Major and the Minor (1942) starring Ginger Rogers, Ray Milland, by Billy Wilder

Synopsis of The Major and the Minor

In The Major and the Minor, a frustrated city girl (Ginger Rogers) decides to disguise herself as a youngster in order to get a cheaper train ticket home. But little “Sue Sue” finds herself in a whole heap of grown-up trouble when she hides out in a compartment with handsome Major Kirby (Ray Milland). And he insists on taking her to his military academy after their train is stalled. And the inevitable romantic triangle with the Major’s girlfriend.

Review of The Major and the Minor

black and white photo of Ginger Rogers pretending to be twelve years old in The Major and the Minor

In short, The Major and the Minor is both a funny and sweet film – despite the ridiculous premise. The idea of the adult Ginger Rogers passing as a twelve year old is ludicrous. And, the movie points this out itself – the train conductor calls her bluff. Which is what causes her to run into Ray Milland’s compartment to hide.

Thankfully for her, he has a bad eye, and doesn’t catch onto the deception. But when he takes her to his home, a military academy, his fiancee’s younger sister catches on immediately. And his fiancee has her own doubts as well. But the young boys/men at the military academy don’t. They just look on the beautiful young girl as a gift from heaven.

Eventually, of course, things come to a head. And Ginger disguises herself one more time … this time as her elderly mother. And after a final conflict …

Ray Milland and the adult Ginger Rogers in The Major and the Minor

In short, The Major and the Minor is an enjoyable romantic comedy, two two excellent lead actors. Despite the silly premise, I enjoyed it … and I hope that you do as well.

Cast of characters

  • Susan Applegate (Ginger Rogers, Roxie Hart, Shall We Dance). The young lady who tries to get a cheaper fare by pretending to be 12 years old.
  • Major Philip Kirby (Ray Milland, The Lost Weekend, X:The Man with the X-Ray Eyes). The Major in The Major and the Minor. An officer who gallantly allows the “frightened child” to stay in his compartment. Although his fiancee misinterprets what’s happened the following morning. And, her father is Major Kirby’s commanding officer at the military academy where he teaches.
  • Pamela Hill (Rita Johnson, Here Comes Mr. Jordan). Major Kirby’s fiancee, who’s rightly suspicious of the “young” Susan. And when she finds out the truth, she blackmails Susan into leaving.
  • Lucy Hill (Diana Lynn, My Friend Irma). Pamela’s younger sister. She immediately sees through Susan’s disguise. However, she promises to keep her secret if Susan will help her sabotage Pamela’s efforts to keep Philip at the academy instead of allowing him to fulfill his wish to be assigned to active duty. A very likable character.

Editorial review of The Major and the Minor courtesy of Amazon.com

Susan Applegate, tired of New York after one year and 25 jobs, decides to return to Iowa. Trouble is, when she saved money for the train fare home, she didn’t allow for inflation. So the audacious Susan disguises herself as a 12-year-old (!) and travels for half fare. Found out by the conductors, she hides out in the compartment of Major Philip Kirby, a military school instructor. The growing attraction between Susan and Kirby is complicated by his conniving fiancee…and by the myopic Kirby continuing to think Su-Su is only 12!

Songs in The Major and the Minor

  • Isn’t It Romantic? (1932) music by Richard Rodgers
  • A-Tisket, A-Tasket
  • Blues in the Night (1941) music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by Johnny Mercer
  • Sweet Sue, Just You (1928) music by Victor Young, lyrics by Will J. Harris – Sung by chorus of cadets
  • Lover (1932) music by Richard Rodgers – Played at the dance
  • Dream Lover (1929) music by Victor Schertzinger – Played as the third waltz at the dance

Trivia

  • When Ginger Rogers was touring America with her vaudeville act and chauffeured by her mother, Lela E. Rogers, they could not afford to pay the full fare. Ginger had to pretend to be younger by rolling her stockings down and holding her old dolly to look like a young child in order to get a cheaper fare.
  • Billy Wilder was driving home from the studio one evening and pulled up at a red light next to Ray Milland. Impulsively, he called out, “I’m doing a picture. Would you like to be in it?,” and the actor responded, “Sure.” Wilder sent him the script, which Milland liked.
  • The part of Susan’s mother was played by Ginger Rogers’ real-world mother.
  • Diana Lynn appeared as Lucy, the science-obsessed teenage sister of Pamela. Thirteen years later, Lynn starred in that film’s remake, You’re Never Too Young (1955), this time as Nancy Collins, a female version of the role originally played by Ray Milland.