© 1947 RKO Radio Pictures

The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947)

This film opens with one of the great cinematic reveals of the ’40s. Domestic servant Bessie (Lillian Randolph, who made a lasting impression with her small role as Annie in It’s a Wonderful Life), wakes up high school student Susan (Shirley Temple), who doesn’t want to get up as she feels “sklunklish.” When Bessie threatens to wake up “the judge,” Susan is up with a shot. Bessie goes to wake up the judge, the audience is allow to believe the judge is Susan’s father. But a slow dolly shot gradually shows Margert Turner (Myrna Loy). Margaret is a no-nonsense judge who is particular tough on playboys and philanderers, and there is not exception when  later that morning one shows up in her court room in the form of painter Richard Nuggent (Cary Grant.) Nuggent meets Susan later the same day, and she quickly develops a crush on the mysterious man. Misunderstandings, flared tempers, and mixed emotions follow.

The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer falls neatly into the paradigm of the screwball comedy, in which Grant honed his comedic skills a decade earlier, with films such as The Awful Truth (1937) and Bringing up Baby (1938).  By 1947, the heyday of the genre was more or less over, and while this film follows the overall structure of the the screwball comedy, it is distinctly more mature than earlier films crafted in the same mold. As Nuggent returns from his first court-appointed date with Susan, designed to make her schoolgirl’s crush on him wear away, he has a private talk with Judge Marget, telling her about his mother hiding a philosophy book inside the cover of a novel with a racy title, teaching him not to judge a book by its cover. While life lessons were always a part of screwball comedies, beginning with It Happened One Night (1934), these were normally slotted in to very brief breaks in spitfire dialogue, and never conversations stretching to a few minutes. Nevertheless, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer has lots of snappy lines, and ends with a happily-ever-after ending that slides into home base in the final seconds of screen time. This is a film that sits between the screwball comedies of the ’30s and the more substantial dramatic comedies of the ’50s, such as Harvey (1950) and How to Marry a Millionaire (1953).

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