It Happened to Jane
Friday August, 2 2013 at 06:00 PM
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It Happened to Jane (1959) stars Doris Day as small town lobstery owner Jane Osgood, who finds herself up against a big city railroad tycoon. This Capra-esque comedy is a quintessential Doris Day film with its sunny, nostalgic, and wholesome depiction of life in rural America. By the time of the film's release, Day had become one of the most popular and highest paid female stars in Hollywood. The virginal heroine in many of her films, she reflected an idealized version of the American woman during the late '50s and early '60s. And she doesn't depart from this persona in It Happened to Jane, where she plays the perky girl-next-door whose drive for personal success is sometimes greater than her desire to get married.
The film opens with Jane Osgood discovering that a shipment of her lobsters has been ruined due to the negligence of the railroad owned by Harry Foster Malone (Ernie Kovacs). More importantly, her reputation as a reliable businesswoman has been damaged so she and her lawyer, George (Jack Lemmon), decide to take Malone and the railroad to court. In her campaign against the greedy tycoon, Jane appears on several real television shows of the day such as Youth Wants to Know and I've Got a Secret. There are also cameos by such TV personalities as Bess Myerson, Jayne Meadows, Garry Moore, Henry Morgan, Betsy Palmer, and Gene Rayburn. Malone fights back of course, but before long the whole country is rallying behind Jane, despite Malone's attempts to block her. It was rumored that Harry Foster Malone's character was modeled after the Charles Foster Kane character in Citizen Kane (1941), which, of course, was based on newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst. Ernie Kovacs gained 40 lbs. for the role and plays Malone with a growling meanness that provides a playful contrast to Day's bubbling enthusiasm.
Lemmon described working with Day as "a pleasure" in his biography by Don Widener and recalled the film as "a charming picture, made when you could still do charming films." Lemmon, Kovacs, and director Richard Quine all roomed together in a 17th century house with oak-beamed ceilings during production. At 3 o'clock every afternoon, Quine would let everyone off for the day and many cast and crew members would go trout fishing in a nearby stream. Lemmon would go back to his room, however, for piano practice; he had an electric piano with headphones installed so that his playing would not bother his housemates.
It Happened to Jane had all the ingredients for a commercial hit but it was a box office disappointment. Its 1961 re-release as Twinkle and Shine didn't fare any better. In the biography Doris Day: Her Own Story by A.E. Hotchner, Day recalled "it was pert and funny, but whether it was the insipid title or something else, it just didn't make it. However, I'm grateful to the film, for Jack and I became friends and we saw each other socially over the ensuing years. Jack is a disarming and charming man, and a gut actor with a natural sense of comedy - very challenging to work with." Lemmon was equally impressed with his co-star maintaining that "It Happened to Jane was a good, funny movie....I felt Doris and I had very good chemistry together, and I regret that we never made another film."
Producer/Director: Richard Quine
Screenplay: Norman Katkov
Art Direction: Cary ODell
Cinematography: Charles Lawton, Jr
Editing: Charles Nelson
Music: George Duning
Cast: Doris Day (Jane Osgood), Jack Lemmon (George Denham), Ernie Kovacs (Harry Foster Malone), Steve Forrest (Larry Hall), Teddy Rooney (Billy Osgood),
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