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Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Class Film Review: The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947)

The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer stars Cary Grant as Richard Nugent, an artist with a penchant for getting into trouble. The first time we encounter him, he's up in front of Judge Margaret Turner (Myrna Loy) after being involved in a fight. She lets him off but later, after giving a lecture at a school, he finds himself the unwitting victim of Margaret's younger sister, Susan (Shirley Temple). To combat the affection Susan has for Richard, it's decided that he will pretend to date her to make her realise how unsuitable he is. Unfortunately, Margaret also finds herself falling for him, thanks in part to the interference of her Uncle Matt (Ray Collins). The cast is rounded out by Harry Davenport as Thaddeus, Rudy Vallee as Tommy and Johnny Sands as Jerry.

I enjoyed this much more than I expected. The delight of having Myrna Loy in a position of authority and being a responsible sister is juggled neatly with her gradually falling for Richard in a more believable way than is usual in these films. Plus, the chemistry between the leads is brilliant. Richard and Margaret's verbal sparring matches just sizzle and the sisterly relationship between Margaret and Susan is well executed. As a lovesick teenager who thinks she's wise beyond her years, Temple is brilliant and this performance really makes me wish her film career had continued for longer. This film does laugh at teenagers and their devout attachments but not in a way that comes across as condescending. It's an odd line but The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer manages it very well.

The script is witty and the film put together with the right mix of hilarious dialogue and action scenes. Of the latter, the best is probably the extended race scenes where Richard competes with Susan's 'other' beau Jerry to win but gets very messy in the process. Cary Grant is at his best in this film, suave and yet bringing in a touch of the David Huxley, especially when he finds himself in prison through no fault of his own. Myrna Loy is brilliant from start to finish and Ray Collins, one of the best character actors around, frequently steals scenes with an expression.

Overall, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer is an enjoyable comedy that showcases the talents of all its cast without exception. Light-hearted, yes, but sometimes there's nothing wrong with light-hearted.

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