Friday, July 5, 2019

Twelve of her men

Continuing to get movies off the DVR to make space for new movies I haven't blogged about for, one of my recent movie watches was Her Twelve Men.

Greer Garson plays Jan Stewart, who at the start of the movie is taking a plane to go to her new job, as a teacher at the all-boys Oaks boarding school. It turns out that one of the students is on the plane with her, and he's aghast at the thought of a woman teacher. (Really?)

Anyhow, Jan gets to the school, and finds that she'll be teaching a dozen boys. They live upstairs in a dormitory, and she gets an efficiency on the ground floor. So she's going to be spending a lot of time with them. At first, as seems to be a standard trope with a new teacher, they test her a lot.

One of the other teachers, Joe Hargrave (Robert Ryan), isn't so sure Jan is going to be up to the job, but he gives her some pointers along the way. The Oaks has strict rules, but part of being a good teacher is knowing when to bend those rules. These boys need a stable adult presence in their lives, since many of the wealthy parents are boarding them just to make their own lives easier.

Some of the boys need her more than others, such as the one whose parents are vacationing in Europe and can't even be bothered to send him letters. Jan writes fake letters, which should have been obvious fakes to the boy with the lack of foreign stamps and the photos cut out of magazines. Then there's the kid (Tim Considine, later of My Three Sons) who gets injured. When Jan takes him back home for convalescence, she begins to fall in love with the boy's father (Barry Sullivan).

But the other boys back at the Oaks need Jan too, and as we'll learn by the end of the movie, they'll even grow to love her. Her Twelve Men is a sentimental, episodic movie, reminiscent of The Trouble With Angels but not nearly as good. I think that's down in no small part to this being an MGM movie, with some of the same issues that brought to some other movies I've mentioned. MGM certainly had a professional gloss, but sometimes they needed to tone it down, and this is one of the movies.

It personally didn't help either that for some reason I thought this was a comedy, and was looking forward to seeing Robert Ryan do comedy. Although there are humorous scenes as befits an episodic movie, it's certainly not a straight-up comedy. But that's my fault for having a mistaken impression of the movie, not the filmmakers'.

Her Twelve Men is available on DVD courtesy of the Warner Archive.

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