Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, June 29, 2017


THAT HAGEN GIRL (1947). Director: Peter Godfrey.

"Well, what are we going to talk about now?"

A middle-aged couple, Minta and Jim Hagen (Dorothy Peterson and Charles Kemper), come back to town carrying a baby about the same time as a scandal erupts over a disturbed young lady, Grace Gateley (Kyle [sic] MacDonnell) and her boyfriend Tom Bates (Ronald Reagan). Somehow the whole town gets it into its head that the Hagen baby is actually the child of Grace and Tom, with the result that that child, Mary Hagen (Shirley Temple), has had to put up with odd looks, remarks, and a discriminatory attitude towards her all of her life. When Tom comes back to town, Mary decides to find out if he actually is her father or not. Meanwhile, Mary discovers that while her boyfriend, Ken (Rory Calhoun) wants to marry her, his disapproving old bitch of a mother (Nella Walker) has other ideas. That Hagen Girl is a study of small-town narrow-minded attitudes and is very good at getting across the astute point that men gossip just as much as women do. The problem with the movie is that the two leads, Temple and Reagan, while competent, are so weak that the picture never recovers from the miscasting. Temple plays the entire movie in the key of "pout," while Reagan is simply mediocre, as he was in Kings Row. Calhoun [Night of the Lepus] is handsome, if a little odd-looking; Penny Edwards [Feudin; Fussin', and A'Fightin'is effective as another gal interested in Calhoun; Lois Maxwell [yes, "Miss Moneypenny" of James Bond fame, but without her British accent] is nice as the sympathetic teacher, Julia Kane; and Kathryn Card, Lucy's mother on I Love Lucy, is fun as the termagant school board member who catches Mary being bussed by horny Dewey Koons (Conrad Janis). Franz Waxman's opening theme is lovely, but the movie that follows the credits is quite disappointing.

Verdict: Excellent premise but this never amounts to what it could have. **.


angelman66 said...

I feel the same way about this one that you do, Bill, it's a shame because it is a mature and interesting premise. And though I am a BIG Shirley Temple fan, I must admit that once she grew up, she could no longer carry a movie. She is a perfect supporting actor in films like Since You Went Away, I'll Be Seeing You, Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer, playing a typical WWII teenager, but does not have the dramatic chops to headline a film. And Ronnie was not going to hold the picture together...

William said...

Well said! And it's odd that Lois Maxwell's career, although there were many more performances, seemed to fade away to "Miss Moneypenny" in the Bond films. She just wasn't given a chance in American pictures.