Released in 1951. Written by Lamar Trotti. Directed by Harmon Jones. Starring Monty Woolley, Thelma Ritter, and Marilyn Monroe. Running time 1 hour 17 minutes.
John Hodges (Monty Woolley ) is a piccolo player in the orchestra for Acme Printing where he runs a printing press. He’s also just turned 65. Upon receiving his paycheck, he learns he has been “retired” due to parent company, Consolidated Motors, policy not to employ anyone over 65.
Mr. Hodges takes the matter up at the Personnel department at which time it is suggested he write a letter to the owner of Consolidated Motors. However, no one seems to know who the owner is. Mr. Hodges leaves and tracks down the information himself.
He decides instead of writing a letter to the owner, he writes a letter to the President of Acme Printing letting him know the owner, Mr. Cleveland will be doing a surprise inspection at the plant. Mr. McKinley (Albert Dekker) is beside himself with anxiety about his boss coming. His secretary Harriet (Marilyn Monroe) does her best to keep things running smoothly.
Meanwhile, at home, Della (Thelma Ritter), Alice (Jean Peters), & George (Allyn Joslyn) –Mr. Hodges family–try to deal with him being home and not bringing in income.
Mr. Hodges, with his hair and beard dyed darker, shows up at Acme for his tour of the plant and makes quite the impression with his speeches about the economy, workers value, and the future of industry. Joe (David Wayne) recognizes him as Mr. Hodges but no one believes him. Mr. Hodges / Mr. Cleveland agrees to speak at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon later at the request of Mr. McKinley and makes a grand speech which includes declaring the policy of retiring people at age 65 is no longer valid and that those people should be considered artisans and work as long as they are able. Everyone cheers.
Later, Mr. Hodges/ Mr. Cleveland has dinner at the McKinley home where he meets Lucille McKinley (Constance Bennett) who becomes enamored by his charm and attention. After dinner, they all go to the country club where Mr. Hodges/Mr. Cleveland dances with Lucille all night.
On the way home, Lucille confides in Mr. Hodges/Mr. Cleveland she is unhappy in her marriage because her husband doesn’t love her or pay attention to her. Once inside, Lucille tells her husband she wants a divorce because of this and thinks she might be in love with Mr.Hodges/Mr. Cleveland.
Word gets out about Mr. Cleveland’s speech in all the papers alerting the real Mr. Cleveland and his colleagues in New York. Their stock goes up and reviews of the company rise as well as union relationships. Mr. Cleveland and his team decide to keep quiet about the fake Mr. Cleveland as his speech has made them a lot of money. They send an investigation team to check out the impostor.
With the over 65 policy now revoked, Mr. Hodges washes out the hair dye and returns to work at his printing press. Frank Erickson (Clinton Sundberg) figures it out and tries to tell his boss Mr. Gallagher (Wally Brown) but gets threaten of being fired since no one wants the word out they were all duped.
Back at home, Mr. Hodges, Della, George, and Alice wait for the police to show up certain he’ll go to jail for posing as Mr. Cleveland. Joe shows up to celebrate his promotion at work and to tell Alice they can finally get married. Lucille shows up to tell Mr. Hodges she’s asked her husband for a divorce and that she thinks she’s in love with him. Mr. Hodges tells her he won’t come between anyone’s marriage and she should try to remind her husband of their love. The real Mr. Cleveland shows up to meet Mr. Hodges, get the story about why he did it, and to offer him a job in New York. Before he can answer, Mr. McKinley shows up to fight for his wife and she goes back to him happily. Mr. Hodges declines the job offer saying there’s more to life than corporate pressure.
What I Liked
This film moves right a long and has it’s funny moments mostly in the reactions of the actors after the fact. There’s a lot going on here in just over an hour but it all works, mostly.
Monty Woolley is great as Mr. Hodges and is believable as both Mr. Hodges and Mr. Cleveland. The thing that makes this concept work, is the time period and the fact NO ONE knows who the owner is or knows what he looks like. The whole premise work son the assumption he is who he says he is which he pulls off with enormous confidence. His family doesn’t even recognize him in pictures with the darker hair dye…
Albert Dekker as Mr. McKinley is a perfect version of a stressed corporate man who has lost all touch with his wife and relies solely on his secretary, Harriet, played by Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn is fantastic with her deep voice and moves about the scenes quite naturally. She has great personality and reactions blending in when necessary and stealing the scene – sticks her tongue out in frustration toward McKinley which made me laugh out loud–in others. Lots of range in this early picture of her career.
A solid turn for all the actors involved. Thelma Ritter is great and much more talented than this role provided her….which brings me to…
What I Wished Was Better
I think I would’ve liked to see Thelma Ritter in the Lucille McKinley role and Constance Bennett in the Della role. Just to see what the dynamic would’ve been like. I feel like Thelma would’ve been a bit more interesting to watch in those scenes.
The cast felt a bit older than their character age…maybe it’s just me.
A fun, quirky film with plenty to enjoy. I watched as part of my new Marilyn collection and was happy I did. She was great! The premise works in this time period because obviously no one pays attention to how people look, no one knows who’s in charge or what they look like, and by the time they figure it out–the damage is done. It couldn’t happen now…Available to stream. Watch the trailer below:
Fun Facts: Marilyn met her future husband Arthur Miller during this production. Clifton Webb was originally set to play Mr. Hodges until a conflict came up and Mr. Woolley was cast.