Sunday, April 29, 2012

Weekend Wonders: It Happened to Jane (1959)

"It Happened to Jane" (1959) is one of my all-time favorite Doris Day movies!  Day plays the recently widowed Jane Osgood, who takes over her husband's lobster business in Cape Ann, Maine, to support herself and her two young children.  When a shipment of lobsters bound for the Marshall Town Country Club perishes as a result of negligence by the railroad company and the country club cancels all future orders, Jane is outraged.  Representatives of the railroad company sent by its new owner, Harry Foster Malone (Ernie Kovacs), attempt to convince her to accept a settlement for the price of the lobsters only, but Jane refuses, since this amount will not compensate her for the lost business.  Her old friend and town lawyer, George Denham (Jack Lemmon), assures her that she can recover her losses by suing the Eastern & Portland Railroad Company.  Jane agrees to this, and wins the local lawsuit, but is dismayed to discover that the railroads lawyers intend to file an appeal and that she may have to wait a long time before she ever sees any of the money.

George suggests that they file a writ of execution to force payment, taking possession of the local train, Old 97, until payment is received.  The story makes national news, and in retaliation, Malone starts charging Jane rent for the railroad property on which the train is sitting.  Larry Hall (Steve Forrest), a New York City reporter who comes to Cape Ann for the story and ends up falling for Jane, suggests that the way to beat Malone is by raising public awareness about his underhanded tactics.

Heading for New York with Larry and leaving a jealous George in charge of her young family, Jane makes the rounds of various talk shows, proclaiming she is fighting "the meanest man in the world".  She is a hit, and public sympathy is aroused in her favor.  Malone concedes on the issue of rent and gives Jane the train, but promptly cancels all train service to her town and gives her 48 hours to remove her train from the tracks.  At first the townspeople are dismayed by this act and blame Jane for their troubles, but after George reprimands them with a stinging speech, they rally to her support.  Since Jane's new publicity brought in a flood of orders for lobsters, with the help of her fellow Cape Ann residents, she and George set off to make the deliveries in Old 97, along with her son and daughter and George's Uncle Otis (Russ Brown), a retired railroad engineer.  Will she succeed, or will Harry Foster Malone thwart her again?  And who gets the girl in the end?  The only way to find out is by watching the movie!

Doris Day gets to sing two of the three songs in this movie -- the title song, and a song called "Be Prepared" in a scene where she and George lead a Boy Scout troop lobster cookout (the delightful Jack Lemmon is hilarious in his scout leader outfit!).  You can watch this scene on YouTube.

Day is wonderful in this movie -- beautiful, funny, and spunky, the way in which she is best known for film roles.  Lemmon, another one of my favorite actors, is his usual superb self in a comedic role, and the rest of the cast lend fine support.  My favorite cast member, though, has to be Sam the Lobster, in what is probably the only starring role ever for one of these crustaceans ("Annie Hall" notwithstanding!).  It may sound trite, but this movie truly is wholesome and heartwarming, and as far as I am concerned there is nothing wrong with that!

Doris Day and Jack Lemmon with costar Sam the Lobster on the set of "It Happened to Jane" (from

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