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23 February 2014

The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947)

Directed by: Irving Reis
Starring: Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Shirley Temple, 
Ray Collins, Rudy Vallee, Johnny Sands, Harry Davenport
It was while watching Love in the Afternoon that it struck me how much I preferred Cary Grant to Gary Cooper. Since attraction is subjective, I always found Grant's a much more interesting face. Besides, I think he is a darn sight better actor than Gary Cooper ever was. And I personally believe that no one did the dry, deadpan humour as well as Cary Grant did. Again, a subjective opinion, so Gary Cooper fans can relax. :)

So I was thrilled when Netflix deposited The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer in my mailbox. I had been looking out for it ever since I read Dustedoff's wonderful review of the film. So it was with an air of delicious anticipation that I waited to watch the film. I must admit that I was prepared to be pleased and I was. Very. 

Of course, before I get to the movie itself, the preamble...
My husband (taking the DVD out of its sleeve): Your film has arrived. 
Me: Which film?  
Him: The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer. What the heck is a bobby-soxer?
Me (insouciantly): An adolescent girl, of course! (With an air of 'You don't know *that*? Of course, I didn't know it either, until last year, but am I going to tell him that? Actually, it stands for adolescent girls who turn down the tops of their socks - we did that in school all the time growing up; who knew there was a specific term for that?)
Him: Okay, but if it is boring, I'm going to fall asleep. (We were both exhausted from all the snow-shovelling that we did earlier that day.)
Me: (in anticipation of watching Cary Grant on screen) Uh-huh...

Well, he didn't fall asleep. If that is not a recommendation for a movie, you don't know my husband. 

The film opens with the aforementioned Bobby-Soxer. She is Susan Turner (Shirley Temple), all of seventeen years old, and a perpetual drama queen by the looks of it. (Must confess that she did not endear herself to me. At. All. Nor to my husband, who promptly said that Shirley Temple didn't know how to act. Having established that we were both agreed on Shirley Temple, we turned our attention back to the film.) She lives with her much older sister, Margaret (Myrna Loy) and a housekeeper, Bessie (Lillian Randolph), both of whom try to put some sense into Susan's rather silly head. 
We are soon witness to Susan's dramatic tendencies - she talks in hyperbole most of the time, is lost in her own delusions, and pretends to be much more grown-up than she actually is. Besides, she also has some very romantic fancies. The last case that her sister presided over (Margaret is a judge), she had sentenced a man who had run away with an underage girl to three years in prison. Susan is not very pleased. That was true love, or so she thinks. 

Margaret dismisses Susan's defence of the man, but her kid sister's strongly-expressed point of view makes her ask Bessie what she thinks of the sentence. She is reassured by Bessie's prompt response: she would have had the man put away for ten years!
Thus reassured, Margaret leaves for court. The day brings a case charged against a Mr Richard Nugent for public brawling. His 'victims' are in court and show various signs of the fight. But Mr Nugent is not. Judge Turner is not very pleased with his absence, though Nugent's attorney assures her that he will soon be there. Uh-huh, says Judge Turner, though she turns to the others to get the real story of what happened.
It soon transpires that there is no eyewitness to who actually started the fight except for the four 'victims'; and even they do not agree about the start of the fight. In fact, by the time Richard Nugent (Cary Grant) arrives, it is pretty much established that he only got into the fight after it began, and then, only to help save 'American Womanhood'.  
When Richard is questioned, he is pretty matter-of-fact: he had been at the club the previous night to visit a woman who had once modelled for him. She now works at the club. During their dinner, another co-worker, who incidentally also modelled for Richard, decided to join them and chat Richard up. Woman 1 takes offence at this, and harsh words pass between them. Then, the man who was being taken care of by Woman 2 (and is by way of being her boyfriend), gets annoyed at being neglected for another man, and decides to make his annoyance clear. Well, soon, words give way to fists, and a rather ghastly time is had, with everyone from the second man to the security guard who tried to stop the fight getting injured in the mêlée. Except Richard, who seems to be relatively unscathed, and rather cheerful.
Judge Turner dismisses the case for lack of verdict. She lets everyone off with a warning, with a stern reminder to Richard that if he were ever to come up in front of her again, she would not be so lenient. Richard is about to pass a cheery aside (so full of relief is he at being let off with just a warning) but his attorney advices him sotto voce not to push his luck. Richard agrees, and leaves to his next appointment...
… at Susan’s school, where he, as one of the foremost artists of the period, has been invited to give a lecture on art. The auditorium fills up with bored highschoolers, forced to sit through what they are sure will be a boring lecture. In fact, they are not even enthused to do anything more than desultorily applaud when he first stands up to take the mike.
Until, Richard forgoes the lectern and decides to lecture freestyle. That is when the students, especially the girls, get a good look at him. Pretty understandably, they are smitten, much to the disgust of their male classmates. The applause, now, is much warmer. Susan, who fancies herself too grownup and sophisticated for boys her age (except when it comes to making them pay for her treats), is of course, completely besotted. 
In fact, Richard Nugent is not just a good looking sophisticate; he is quite literally her knight in shining armour.

Richard is slightly taken aback at the reception to his lecture, and to the wolf-whistles and comments (from the girls) that follow him when he leaves the auditorium. Much less is he prepared to be caught (literally) by a gushing Susan, who tells him that she is the editor of the school magazine and would he please give her an interview? 
She is too busy talking to listen to his protests, and he gives in unwillingly. So she takes him to a 'quiet room where we can talk in peace', and he is taken aback at her first questions. But he soon takes her measure, and when she asks him about how he began his career in art, feeds her a cock-and-bull story about being an orphan and having to lie and cheat and steal in order to paint.
All the while, she is making gooey eyes at him, and Richard is thoroughly uncomfortable. Wanting to finish this 'interview' off as quickly as possible, Richard pays scant attention to Susan's expressed wish to model for him. She has been talking and talking and talking at him the whole while, and the poor beleaguered man is not paying any attention at all when he mutters 'yes' to her question about whether he would paint her. He is not aware then, that he has painted himself into a corner.
A deliriously happy Susan informs her sister of her new-found fascination for art. Margaret, knowing of Susan's sudden and inexplicable enthusiasms for various fields, is not quite bothered. Until her sister tells her all about modelling for Richard Nugent. The sisters have a tiff because Margaret puts her foot down about any modelling for anybody. 
Susan is seemingly tractable. But that night, when Margaret has left on a date with Tommy Chamberlain (Rudy Vallee), the assistant district attorney, Susan decides to take Richard up on his 'offer'. Dressed with what she imagines is sophistication (hair up, hat, make-up), she presents herself at Richard's apartment. 
Only to be told by the bell boy that he is not at home. But upon hearing that she is going to pose for Richard, he lets her into Richard's apartment with the master key so she can wait for him. Susan does wait, practicing various sophisticated poses and conversational gambits while she waits. 
Unfortunately for her, Richard doesn't show up until much later, and she is fast asleep on the sofa when he does arrive. Without putting on the light, Richard goes up to his bedroom to change into something more comfortable. He comes back down, pours himself a drink, picks up a book, and sits down comfortably. With only a table lamp illuminating the room, he hasn't noticed Susan at all. When Susan wakes up and sees him sitting in front of her, she squeals 'Dickie', much to Richard's consternation. 
Simultaneously, there is an absolute pandemonium outside the apartment. People banging on the door, screaming for Susan...

Margaret had come home early from her date to find that Susan has been missing since dinner time. She's called up all of Susan's friends, checked the hospitals, Tommy even helpfully checks the morgue - they are at a standstill until Margaret remembers the reason for her squabble with Susan earlier that evening. She and Tommy have come to save Susan from a fate worse than death.

And so, Richard's back in jail again, this time on the charge of having punched the assistant district attorney. The next morning, Richard's long suffering attorney demands to hear the truth. As Richard tells him, even he doesn't know why Susan was in his apartment. But he definitely had not asked her to come. 
The problem was that no one was willing to listen to his explanations, or even Susan's. And the assistant DA had kept pulling on his sleeve, and so he had punched him. Of course, no one told him the man was the assistant DA. If he had known? Eh, he would still have hit him.
Margaret and Tommy are all for putting Richard away for a long, long time. But Matthew Beamish (Ray Collins), the court psychiatrist, and incidentally Susan's and Margaret's uncle, warns them against turning Richard into a martyr. After all, it is not his fault that Susan decided she was in love with him. 
Besides, left alone, the infatuation will run its course. Remove Richard, especially in such a manner, and it will be the love story of the century. (He, of course, has met Richard in prison and knowing he is innocent, has other plans up his sleeve.) Wiser counsel prevails and they - the judge, the Assistant DA, Margaret - all agree that they should handle it without a court case. So they bring Richard in and tell him the good news. A much relieved Richard is all set to leave when he is hit with the 'solution'. 
Uncle Matt believes that Susan is not going to forget Richard that easily. As it is, she has convinced herself that Richard loves her just as much as she does him. The only way to get her over this silliness, believes the good doctor, is for Richard to pretend to reciprocate her feelings. Richard is obviously very unhappy. All he wants to do is to get rid of Susan and get on with his life. But faced with assault charges if he refuses, Richard unhappily gives in to what he considers a cockamamie scheme. 

The result is that he is given a schedule of where he is supposed to take her, and how he is supposed to act. Their first 'date' is the high school basketball game. Richard, who has absolutely no interest at all in high school sport, has to pretend an enthusiasm he does not feel. Susan, however, is thrilled with all the attention she is getting for being with a much-older man, especially from Jerry (Johnny), her kinda-sorta-ex-boyfriend. Nothing exposes Susan's youth as much as her snuggling up to Richard every time she catches Jerry's eye.
Poor Jerry is obviously very unhappy. It affects his game, and he is soon pulled out by an irritated coach. But Richard has noticed this little by-play, and hopes to make use of it so he can free himself of squiring Susan around. He asks to be introduced to Jerry, and makes a great deal of him, both as a player and as a 'man'. Jerry, who, until then, had been good and mad at Richard for 'stealing his girl away' warms to him, and is quick to 'sacrifice' his love for Susan, thereby earning himself several brownie points with her. Check and mate against Richard.
How on earth will Richard untangle himself from this mess without hurting Susan's feelings? In the meantime, he is also discovering an attraction for Susan's older sister, Margaret. But there is so much more to this. Because Jerry is in love with Susan who loves Richard, and Tommy is in love with Margaret, who is also thawing under Richard's charm.  In the middle is Uncle Matt who has a puckish sense of humour and a penchant for playing Deus ex machina. 

Sidney Sheldon's screenplay (yes, he wrote both story and screenplay) is in the nature of a farce, and employs pretty much all its tropes. It is rather firmly knit, keeping a tight focus on Richard and Susan, and is pretty much airtight while it does so. The dialogues were witty and sparkling, and both Cary Grant and Myrna Loy used them to great effect. Grant deadpans, and Myrna Loy has a fantastically dry way of saying the most humorous statements. 

For example, in the court scene, when Richard says, Thank you, your honour, may I leave? Margaret's response is, But you've just got here; don't you like our court?  

Or when, Matt Beamish tells Nugent in jail that he is the court psychiatrist and will come back after he confers with the judge and the assistant DA, Richard deadpans, Come back in an hour, I'll be crazy by then.

Sheldon also manages to draw a fairly accurate picture of a teenage drama queen. Susan's immaturity is highlighted very naturally in several scenes, not least the one where she pines for someone who is 'not as callow'. Or when she comes to visit Richard in prison claiming she is his mother, and Judge Turner's sister. 
Or when, coming to the restaurant to berate her sister and Richard for their 'treachery', sits down and promptly orders a lemonade and a cupcake.  It is clear that Sheldon knows his teenagers well.

Where the script falters is when it comes to the 'romance' between Richard and Margaret, because there is not much interaction between the two characters for them to actually feel anything for each other than a mild affection, if that. The focus is too much on the comic element and not enough on the romantic to really qualify this as a romantic comedy. In fact, I wish they had let the relationship between them develop after  the whole fiasco with Susan ends, and both Richard and Margaret end up on the same flight. I really think Myrna Loy was given short shrift by the script.

Also, the climax, while it was relatively satisfying from the clever lines the cast got to utter and the sheer fun element when everyone who ever appeared in a major or minor role in the film (and several others) interrupt Richard and Margaret, was let down by the scenes that immediately follow. If it were so easy to cure Susan of her infatuation, then what was the need for such an elaborate drama? 

That said, the leads more than made up for any lack in story telling. I'm not a great fan of Shirley Temple, but not much was required of her in the acting department anyway. As a teenage girl whose life is rife with melodrama, she turned in a decent enough performance.
Myrna Loy, as I said, was handicapped by a script that did not give her much to do, but what she did have, she performed with elan. She was Judge Turner to the hilt, more attuned to fact than emotions, and it is utterly believable that under her stern demeanour, she has a caring, loving side. Her being attracted to Richard is also totally believable (after all, who can resist Grant?), and her chemistry with him is amazing. (She had a better role in Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House,  though.)
Cary Grant was at his roguish best as the charming artist who is always in trouble for things that are not his fault. He stands out from the moment he appears on screen, throwing himself physically into the character of Richard. He is never uncomfortable onscreen, even when he is making a total fool of himself, and his character becomes the most three-dimensional of all of them. 
His charm is boundless, and he makes mincemeat of what is demanded of him. His myriad expressions are a joy to watch, and he says as much, if not more, with a mere look, as he does with the delightful dialogue that is handed to him. Is this his best screwball comedy? Not really, but if you want to spend a pleasant afternoon with some delightful one-liners and a couple of beautiful people, do watch. It's good old-fashioned, clean fun. You will not be disappointed.


  1. Grant and Loy were really the best part of this film, though I do agree with you about the development of their romance being none too convincing. And somehow that entire suggestion about playing along with Susan and squiring her about to break her out of her in-love-with-an-older-man reverie was... well, it made me roll my eyes. Not one of the best screwball comedies out there, and I probably won't see it again. But a one-time watch, because of Cary Grant: yes, I think so. :-)

  2. It is thanks to you that I even watched it. :) Yes, it is definitely worth a one-time watch. Like you, I'm not very sure I will watch it again. I thought Grant was amazing - he does the droll, deadpan comedy very, very well.

  3. Anu,
    This is a wonderful review. Read Madhu's too. Too good, both.

    Even though both of you are very lukewarm about its ending, this has joined my list of must watch. Whether it was the best screwball comedy or not, I find from screenshots and your descriptions, Cary Grant must have been at his best. 'Had I known he was the DA, I would have still hit him' - the film seems to be full of such gems.

    An aside regrading comparison with Gary Cooper. Even though he was about the same age as Cary Grant, Cooper's face showed visible signs of ageing quite early. But the actor that comes to my mind in similar league - vulnerable, romantic, likeable - is James Stewart (at times I got put off by his accent).


  4. Oh, definitely, AK. You should watch it. The script is really scintillating, and both Grant and Loy deadpan so successfully that you're bound to laugh. Yeah, it was a bit hurried in my opinion, and I didn't quite stomach the resolution of Susan's infatuation, but it is a perfect Sunday-evening watch.

    I love Jimmy Stewart. Absolutely adore him. Along with Grant and Peck, he completes the triad of Hollywood men of that period whom I will watch anytime, anywhere.

  5. i will never watch it.I have no time.

  6. "I preferred Cary Grant to Gary Cooper. Since attraction is subjective, I always found Grant's a much more interesting face. Besides, I think he is a darn sight better actor than Gary Cooper ever was. And I personally believe that no one did the dry, deadpan humour as well as Cary Grant did."
    Agree, agree, agree! Agree whole-heartedly!

    "Well, he didn't fall asleep. If that is not a recommendation for a movie, you don't know my husband."
    Maybe you served him a strong cuppa Kaapi.

    "Susan Turner (Shirley Temple), all of seventeen years old, and a perpetual drama queen by the looks of it."
    Well, most teenagers do tend to do that.

    "We are soon witness to Susan's dramatic tendencies..."
    Teenagers do that!

    "But Mr Nugent is not."
    What? Showing signs of the fight?

    "Well, soon, words give way to fists..."
    Typical screw-ball comedy isn't it?

    "...with a stern reminder to Richard that if he were ever to come up in front of her again, she would not be so lenient."
    What will she charge him with?

    "Richard is slightly taken aback at... the wolf-whistles and comments"
    tchi, tchi, kya zamana aa gaya!
    arre baap re, but this is a film from the beeta huwa zamana!

    "...feeds her a cock-and-bull story about being an orphan and having to lie and cheat and steal in order to paint."
    That endears him to me. I have done that a few times.

    "...that he has painted himself into a corner."
    Oh yeah, that has happened to me quite often as well, but thank god, not with painting and not with you know which sort. But mostly with lectures and workshops and what not.

    " and she is fast asleep on the sofa when he does arrive."

    "Simultaneously, there is an absolute pandemonium outside the apartment. People banging on the door, screaming for Susan... "

    "The only way to get her over this silliness, believes the good doctor, is for Richard to pretend to reciprocate her feelings."
    This one is not better than his borther in the Hindi cinema!

    "Richard, who has absolutely no interest at all in high school sport"
    That endears him to me more.

    "... is quick to 'sacrifice' his love for Susan"
    What is this? A Sangam in making?

    "Sidney Sheldon's screenplay"
    The same one, who wrote those paper-backs?

    " But you've just got here; don't you like our court?"
    Not the propah way for a judge, and a female one at that, to behave! ;)

    "Myrna Loy was given short shrift by the script."
    What is that?

    "Cary Grant was at his roguish best as the charming artist who is always in trouble for things that are not his fault."
    I can identify with that. Not with the charming part, but getting in trouble, yes, even though I try to live a life as boring as a stick in the mud. But on the other hand the trouble in which I get is as boring as well. But trouble nevertheless! ;)

    Wonderful review! Had fun reading it!

  7. Wonderful comment, Harvey. Had fun reading it. :) You have me in splits, and I am so thrilled you take the time to make such a detailed comment.

  8. Going through your review, I had the feeling that I had probably seen the film long ago perhaps, or may have seen it partially. Cary Grant is a favourite, along with Gregory Peck and Paul Newman, so even if some of their films are not so good I usually watch them partially just to feast my eyes on them. I think that is what may have happened with this one, I may have got busy with something and was not able to see the entire film. You are absolutely right Grant's charm is absolutely boundless, it was very much evident even in Charade when he had aged quite a bit.

  9. No doubt I'm easily amused, but the whole "There was man. What man?" bit cracked me up everytime it came on. :-D Agree with the review - Grant and Loy make this silly movie a fun watch.

  10. Any keep the good work up (Y)

  11. Yup. You never spoke a truer word, Shilpi. He was amazingly charming. And I don't think anyone quite did the dedpan humour like he did.

  12. Oh, yes, There was a man. What man?" had me laughing out loud every time they said it.

    Laughing at the film gods smiling on me - but I honestly couldn't resist! He was dishy! I'm glad you enjoyed both the review and the screen shots. Specific ones. :) :)

  13. A great human document

  14. the last hindi movie i saw was tare zamin par.I wept.thereafter i stopped seeing movies.

  15. I saw my mother weeping when we together saw ADHAYAPIKA in a theatre.

  16. Umpteen number of ppl hav written abt this movie.what is new u hav brought out?

  17. You seem to have stopped watching movies many times. Didn't you say you stopped watching films after watching Underground?

  18. Yup. There were many tearjerkers made; in any language those days.

  19. Nothing, perhaps. Except to share a movie that I watched and liked. Incidentally, why do you waste time reading and commenting on films in which you have no interest? You don't want to watch this film, you don't think my post has anything new to offer - may I remind you I'm not writing for a magazine or a newspaper? This is my *blog*- where I have the freedom to write about what I want, when I want, in the way I want. I'm not constrained by editorial decisions. For that, I have my job. It is your choice whether you feel it worthwhile to read and/or comment.

    For that matter, what do you get out of making these rather sarcastic and contemptuous remarks on my blog? Isn't that a waste of your time as well?

  20. ya.I stopped watching after I saw a wonderful movie,MIRACLE IN ROME.

  21. Anu, may I barge in?

    I went to see The Monuments Men the other day, and (as is usual with me), came back after the movie and had a look at the IMDB page for it. On the discussion boards somebody (who obviously didn't like the film) had said "Can they please stop making WWII movies?!" And someone else provided the perfect answer: "Is someone forcing you to watch them?"

    So, Rama Chandran, I'd really suggest you make life easier for everybody - Anu, the rest of us readers, and - most importantly, yourself, so that you won't have to inflict stuff on yourself that you obviously have no respect for - to stop reading. Here and now.

  22. You mean you stopped watching movies, until you watched another one. Perfect. And I'm interested, why?

  23. Thank you, Madhu. You said it much more eloquently than I did.

  24. maybe i stopped watching the same movie!

  25. Atleast two ppl got provoked.

  26. Rama Chandran,
    "At least two ppl got provoked." I don't think it is funny. If this is what you can come up with after this conversation, you are completely missing the point. I don't think anybody is provoked. At least I am not provoked. I am curious and puzzled, as I guess other readers are, to know more about you and what is it that is driving you to engage here so much if you find it wasteful.


  27. Thanks, AK. I don't think it is funny either. I think it is juvenile. Most people outgrow such 'provocations' in their teens. Some people, I guess, don't.

    I guess Rama Chandran thinks it is fun to 'provoke' people. And at the very least, I wager that he likes the attention, even if it is negative.

  28. Those who can, do. Those who can't, .... provoke?

    Frankly, though, I'm not provoked. I think it's a little disgusting - and rather sad, that somebody gets a high out of putting other people down. Thoroughly juvenile, as Anu remarked.

  29. Madhu, I think he just needles for the sake of the attention. That is what internet trolls do. They have nothing to contribute to the discussion, but seem to think that it is necessary to give their gyan on everything. As you said, it is disgusting. And sad.


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