What a wonderful coincidence that I watch You’re Never Too Young, and then find out the next day that the film it remade is on Turner Classic.

Robert Osbourne introduced as a screwball comedy, but the only thing screwball here is the premise. Movie is played as a straight, semi-romantic comedy. Same story as the Lewis flick but minus the jewel thief and with a sex reversal (and predictably there’s no equivalent to the Dean Martin character). So Ginger Rogers is the scalp-massager lured to an apartment under a false premise which gets her to leave town and have to pose as a kid to afford a ticket. She hides out in Ray Milland’s room, same thunderstorm and morning discovery scene, then has to keep up the ruse so Ray won’t get in trouble and kicked out of the military. Again, a happy ending with Ray getting his wish to be sent on active duty (makes more sense in the nationalistic war-ragin’ 40’s than in the 1955 remake) and happening to meet a finally-acting-her-own-age Ginger on the train platform (where she gives him a Katy-disapproved line about how all some girls want is a letter from their husbands-abroad every couple weeks).

Cute movie, with some major Creepiness Issues (Ginger cuddling up to Ray, wanting him while pretending to be a little girl and calling him “uncle”). Not the madcap funhouse of the remake, though… no Dean songs (they’re not missed) or speedboat chases, choral performances or marching band shenanigans. Turning the all-girls school into a military academy surprisingly doesn’t change much. Some scenes are very similar, like the long-distance call at the phone switchboard (though Jerry ups the humor with his nutty dancing and a voice-dubbing stunt). I’m sure there’s some auteurist reason why I should prefer the original to the remake, but sorry, I sorta don’t.

This came out a full decade before Ginger Rogers had a lot more fun playing a little girl in Monkey Business (another movie comparison which does this film no favors), and TWO decades before Ray Milland acquired his X-RAY EYES. Back in the 40’s he was cast not for the x-ray eyes but because he is an effective leading man, and an exact cross between Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant. Wilder sez: “I wrote the part of the major for Cary Grant. I always wanted him in one of my pictures, but it never worked out.”

15-year-old little Lucy would grow up to play the love interest in the remake. Ray’s meddling fiancee (and Lucy’s big sister) was Rita Johnson (The Big Clock, Here Comes Mr. Jordan). The strict colonel (Lucy’s father) was Edward Fielding, who managed to portray military men, doctors, ministers and shopkeepers in over 70 films in the 1940’s despite a fatal heart attack halfway through the decade. Ginger Rogers’ mom, in her only screen appearance, played Ginger Rogers’ mom. Guy who gets a scalp massage at the beginning was Robert Benchley, the Jaws author’s grandfather. The young high-school age kids were actually 22, 21 and 16 (x2). That’s more accurate casting than the remake managed to get. The one familiar-looking boy had played Rudy in Shop Around The Corner, the kid the shop owner takes out for Christmas dinner in the final scene.

And what do I know about Billy Wilder? Not very much! Just enough to see plot parallels between this and Some Like It Hot. Saw none of the cynicism for which he’s known, but Wilder explains: “I was very careful. I set out to make a commercial picture I wouldn’t be ashamed of, so my first picture as a director wouldn’t be my last.”

Internet says the screenwriter invented the bad pickup line “Why don’t you get out of that wet coat and into a dry martini?”.

Billy Wilder: “My delight… is ’cause everyone has been looking down on movies as something kind of third-rate until, thank god, the invention of television. Now we have something to look down on.”

Not quite a film noir, I don’t think, but close. Continues the string of 50’s movies I’ve watched lately, but this one’s from back in the year of Day the Earth Stood Still / Thing From Another World and Fixed Bayonets / The Steel Helmet.

It’s a damn well-made movie, as the commentary track helpfully illustrates, but Katy didn’t like it because of unlikeable characters (which is why when she asks if she’ll like “there will be blood” I tell her no) and Jimmy fell asleep since we started it at midnight. It’s about a desperate newspaper man whom Sam Fuller would have despised, making the news himself and conspiring to suppress other reporters while building up a sensationalistic story to glorify his own reporting and get himself back on top. At least when it fails, he recognizes what he has done and owns up to his own role in the trapped miner’s death, though by Code rules, the reporter dies too, stabbed by an equally hot-tempered and strong-willed woman.

A deeply-dimpled Kirk Douglas stars (shortly before doing Big Sky and Bad and the Beautiful) alongside Jan Sterling (who did High and the Mighty with John Wayne before retreating to television) as the miner’s wife who wants out but plays her part as a concerned wife out of greed for tourist cash. Professional villain and Preston Sturges actor Porter Hall is Douglas’s very straight-laced, belt-and-suspenders small-town newsman boss. Corrupt sheriff Ray Teal ended up famous for playing sheriffs, and his unhelpful deputy is Gene Evans, the newspaper man in Park Row. Porter Hall was dead in two years, and the guy who played the miner’s dad (John Berkes) died one week after the film’s release.

Our heroes:

Evans and Berkes:

Porter Hall:

I’d pay to see some great S&M amusement:

Kirk Douglas addresses his “fans” from the mount:

A sad father surveys the aftermath:

“Real diamonds! They must be worth their weight in gold!”

Tony “Joe(sephine)” Curtis and Jack “Jerry/Daphne” Lemmon are musicians on the run from Spats Colombo after witnessing a hit on one Toothpick Charlie, so they dress as women to hide out on tour with an all-girls band in need. Hilarity ensues.

Considering this is One Of The Most Excellent Films In The History Of Film, I found it disturbingly non-excellent.

I mean, great dialogue, and funny jokes, and Marilyn Monroe and all… but really, one of the best movies ever made? It’s on the AFI list, but not on Rosenbaum’s list so I guess not everyone agrees.

I’m sure the sexual jokes and situations were ahead of their time and paved the way for the 20-some cross-dressing comedies that play the Landmark every year.

Really a fine movie… don’t know why I’m so grumpy about it. Gonna leave it alone now.