With the recent passing of child star Shirley Temple, I decided that my classic movie pick would be one of her films, but one near the end of her acting career, not one from the beginning or the middle.
The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer is a romance/comedy, made in 1947 by RKO Studios. This delightful movie features an excellent cast: Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Shirley Temple, Rudy Vallee, Harry Davenport, Ray Collins, and Johnny Sands. It was directed by Irving Reis, produced by Dore Schary, and the original screenplay was written by Sidney Sheldon. Sheldon did win the Academy Award for best writing, original screenplay for this movie, in 1948.
The plot is basically a romantic triangle, but only two sides of the triangle are really interested in one another. The third side of the triangle can’t see that, and therein lies the comedic elements of the plot. Cary Grant is Dick Nugent, an artist and a playboy. The movie opens with he and 3 girlfriends in a courtroom facing Judge Margaret Turner, who is of course, played with steely-eyed seriousness by Myrna Loy. She is calm, yet is not in the mood to hear about all of the gory details as to why Mr. Nugent and his 3 friends were arrested for brawling in a Los Angeles nightclub. She issues them a stern warning and then dismisses the case.
As the day moves on, Dick has to appear at a high school and give a speech for a Career Day type of assembly. As he gives his speech, one of the teen girls in the audience, Susan Turner(Shirley Temple) suddenly imagines that Dick is a knight in shining armor and she is at that minute struck with “love” for him. She begins to plan a way to be with him and decides to corner him for an interview in the school newspaper. When Susan gets home she tells her sister, Judge Margaret, who is her legal guardian, that she is in love and it’s not with some juvenile youth like her current boyfriend, Jerry(Johnny Sands). Margaret scoffs at Susan’s “love” and tells her to go to bed. The wily Susan will not be deterred on her quest to find this new love so she dresses herself to look older and then sneaks out to find Dick’s apartment. She manages to get into his apartment but he’s not home, so as she waits for him to return, she falls asleep on his couch. Big sister Margaret, as the evening progresses, realizes that Susan isn’t in her bed sleeping so she and her boyfriend, the assistant District Attorney Tommy Chamberlain (Rudy Vallee) figure out where Susan has gone and burst into Dick’s apartment just as he is finishing up a conversation with Susan. He arrived home right before Margaret and Tommy ‘s arrival, and is confused by their entry. Margaret is distraught at finding Susan in a man’s apartment, Tommy accuses Dick of nefarious doings and gets socked in the jaw. This leads to Dick’s arrest and spending the rest of the night in a Los Angeles jail. In the morning, Dr. Beemish(Ray Collins), a court psychologist, visits with Dick in jail and gets his side of the story. He believes that Dick is innocent of trying to seduce a teenage girl and tells Margaret and Tommy that he has a plan that will cure Susan of her “love” for Dick. Dick must “date” Susan, probably only a couple of dates, but these dates will cause Susan to give up her “love” for an older man.
The dating scheme, only known by Dick, Margaret, Tommy, and Dr. Beemish(who is also Margaret and Susan’s Uncle Matt) is hilarious and it only adds to the screwball element of this comedy. During one of the dates at a neighborhood picnic complete with sack races and other silly sporting events, Judge Margaret suddenly sees Dick in a suit of shining armor as he receives a trophy for winning one of the contests. Enter the real love story of this romantic triangle! Now it is up to Dick and Margaret to find a way to begin their romance without hurting Susan or Tommy, and more laughs ensue. The climax of the film happens at a fancy restaurant where Dick and Margaret are trying to enjoy their date, only to have Susan and Jerry, the 2 Uncles, Tommy, and the lady brawlers all converging at the same restaurant! There is a happy ending, of course, how could there not be?
Cary Grant is his charming self, great at playing comedy with his facial expressions hinting at the confusion his character feels and also adept at the physical comedy, especially apparent at the picnic scenes. Myrna Loy is great as the cold, serious-minded judge who starts to soften and become human when she is around Grant’s character. Shirley Temple is also wonderful, as the 18 year old high school girl who thinks boys her age are so immature and that she knows what real love is. Rudy Vallee, Ray Collins, and Harry Davenport(as Judge Thaddeus Turner-another Uncle of Margaret and Susan’s), and Johnny Sands handle their supporting roles with skill and aplomb.
For a very funny movie, with that sweet touch of romance perfect for Valentine’s Day, seek out The Bachelor and The Bobby-Soxer. Turner Classics will be airing it on Sunday, March 9th at 12:45 EST/11:45 pm CST as part of their 8 film tribute to the movie career of Shirley Temple, who passed away recently on February 10th. Here is a link to TCM’s site about the planned tribute to Shirley Temple and the other films that will be shown.
The Bachelor and The Bobby-Soxer is available to buy at TCM, at Amazon(which also has it out for instant rent), and it’s available on Netflix. I’ll close this post out with some fun posed stills for the movie’s made by RKO’s publicity department.