The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947)

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“Susan’s growing pains are rapidly becoming a major disease.”Myrna Loy as Judge Margaret Turner

While Shirley Temple charmed audiences as a little girl, she also grew up on screen and carried her fine acting skills with her well into her teen roles. Though she did not remain in the industry very long as an adult and went on to explore other passions, she offered a wonderful performance in The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947) along with co-stars Cary Grant and Myrna Loy.

The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer tells the story of two sisters–Margaret and Susan Turner–who live together. Susan is an impressionable high school student whose interest are typically influenced by the guest lecturers who visit her high school. Her older sister, Margaret, is a judge and her guardian.

One day, a handsome artist named Richard Nugent is a defendant in Margaret’s courtroom, charged by Assistant District Attorney Tommy Chamberlain for starting a nightclub brawl. Margaret releases Richard with a warning when it is evident that the two women were fighting over him.

As fate would have it, Richard ventures to Susan’s school where he happens to be the guest lecturer for the day. Soon enough, Susan becomes infatuated with him and suggests that she be a model for him. While he refuses her advances, she puts on a dress and sneaks away from home to surprise him at his apartment.

Once Richard discovers Susan in the apartment, Tommy and Margaret have already noticed her absence and head for Richard’s apartment. Back in court, the court psychiatrist decides that Susan be allowed to date Richard until her infatuation with him subsides. All the while, Susan’s previous boyfriend works to regain her attention, while Margaret begins to develop feelings for Richard.

A critical success, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer was directed by Irving Reis and produced by Dore Schary, with a screenplay by Sidney Sheldon. The film was distributed by RKO Radio pictures and featured the following cast:

  • Cary Grant as Richard Nugent, a sophisticated bachelor
  • Myrna Loy as Margaret Turner, a judge
  • Shirley Temple as Susan Turner, her teenage sister
  • Rudy Vallee as Tommy Chamberlain, an assistant district attorney
  • Ray Collins as Dr. Matt Beemish, a psychiatrist and Margaret and Susan’s uncle
  • Harry Davenport as Judge Thaddeus Turner, Margaret and Susan’s great uncle
  • Johnny Sands as Jerry White, Susan’s teenage boyfriend
  • Don Beddoe as Joey
  • Lillian Randolph as Bessie
  • Veda Ann Borg as Agnes Prescott
  • Dan Tobin as Walters
  • Ransom M. Sherman as Judge Treadwell
  • William Bakewell as Winters
  • Irving Bacon as Melvin
  • Ian Bernard as Perry
  • Carol Hughes as Florence
  • William Hall as Anthony Herman
  • Gregory Gaye as Maitre d’Hotel

Overall, the film received high praise for the performances, direction, and screenplay. In fact, it was the screenplay that won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Sydney Sheldon.

As Temple took on roles that put her in more adult situations, audiences did not always respond favorably to the child star being placed in these scenarios. When Temple’s character was required to take her first on-screen drink (and spit it out), the Women’s Christian Temperance Union protested that teenagers might do the same. Clearly, Temple was assumed to have a continued influence among fans and there were fears that individuals would model themselves after her. Thankfully, Temple remained professional throughout her career and was quite the role model even beyond her time in the entertainment industry.

During the production of the film, Loy was 23 years older than her on-screen sibling. This film would actually be the second of three films that she completed with Cary Grant, with the other films being Wings in the Dark (1935) and Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948). Temple, Loy, and Grant would reunite for the Screen Guild Theater adaptation of the film. Later, Grant and Temple appeared in the Lux Radio Theater adaptation of the film in 1949.

Today, the dialogue is as witty as ever and the chemistry among the actors continues to be phenomenal. While a film like this would not be made in today’s day and age and was certainly shocking in its day, as well, the film pokes fun at various generations and offers us well-developed comedic characters.

About Annette Bochenek

Annette Bochenek of Chicago, Illinois, is a Ph.D. student and scholar of Hollywood’s Golden Age. She manages the Hometowns to Hollywood blog, in which she writes about her trips exploring the legacies and hometowns of Golden Age stars. Annette also hosts the “Hometowns to Hollywood” film series throughout the Chicago area. She has been featured on Turner Classic Movies and is the president of TCM Backlot’s Chicago chapter. In addition to writing for TCM Backlot, she also writes for Classic Movie Hub, Silent Film Quarterly, Nostalgia Digest, and Chicago Art Deco Society Magazine.
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