Monday, March 26, 2012

Pair it with Under 18

I don't think I've ever mentioned the movie Over 21 before. It's airing tomorrow afternoon at 1:00 PM and is worth a viewing.

First, about the title. There's nothing risqué or even particularly adult about it; it's just a reference to a line one of the characters has about the humban brain not being able to absorb new knowledge when you're "over 21". That new knowledge comes in the form of the US Army's Officer Training School. Over 21, you see, is a World War II movie. The officer-in-training is Max Wharton, played by Alexander Knox. His day job is as a newspaper editor, but he realizes that his editorials about the war will be meaningless unless he can actually experience some of the real thing, he is why he enrolls in OTS. This presents problems for a couple of people. One is his wife Polly (Irene Dunne). She's got a day job as a novelist-turned-screenwriter, but she loves her husband and plans to follow him to the base if at all possible. The other person with a big problem is Max's boss, publisher Robert Gow (Charles Coburn). Max is the one person who can edit the paper well, and if Max is going to leave, well, he'd better sell the paper.

Polly gets a brilliant idea. She wants her husband to be able to dedicate all his time and energy to passing the officer's exams, but also wants him to be able to keep his job. So she decides to write his editorials for him, using his name as the byline and not telling either Max or Mr. Gow. They say honesty is the best policy, so you know that Polly's keeping this a secret is going to cause a problem eventually. But she's got other problems of her own. As a famous novelist in the big city, she was used to a much more glamorous life than that of an army officer's wife. To make matters worse, her accommodations are a crappy bungalow where the appliances doesn't work. And, like Barbara Stanwyck's character in Christmas in Connecticut, Polly isn't much use around the house.

Over 21 is based on a play written by Ruth Gordon, who is responsible for several screenplays to classic films, including Adam's Rib. She based the play on her own experience from when her husband Garson Kanin entered the military during World War II. I don't know quite how accurate the movie is, since I wasn't around for World War II. That having been said, it's intelligent at times, as well as entertaining. Like Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious, I would think of it as the sort of movie that doesn't exactly contain material objectionable for children, but one which isn't suitable for children just because I think they'd find it boring. The movie is also available on DVD.

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