1950s · 1951 · birthday tribute · blogathon · classic film · Uncategorized

June Allyson is Too Young to Kiss

The fact that not one, but two classic Hollywood films exist about grown women impersonating 12 year olds is weird? Amazing? Decide for yourself.

The Major and the Minor (1942) starred Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland. Susan Applegate pretends to be a 12 year old so she can buy a discount train ticket. In the midst of her shenanigans, she meets Major Kirby, who takes an instant liking to her and is oblivious to her romantic feelings. She’s only 12 after all.

In Too Young to Kiss (1951), June Allyson plays Cynthia Potter, a pianist who’s been trying desperately to audition for concert impresario Eric Wainwright (Van Johnson). She’s out of luck and doesn’t get her chance, which she has been waiting for, for ages. But when she learns that Eric is auditioning a children’s concert tour, the wheels in her head begin to turn. She’ll just pass herself off as a child prodigy. She impresses Eric so much that he takes a very special interest in her.

Now the first thing you have to ignore in this film is June Allyson convincingly portraying a 12 year old. She had a baby face for sure, but this kind of role would’ve been believable in 1944. Here, not so much. I wonder if maybe that’s the whole point. You’re supposed to see this grown woman pretend to be a child. Maybe the audience doesn’t have to be fooled if everyone else is.

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Here’s Cynthia. She’s 22. (June was 34). Cynthia is a passionate piano player and also fiercely determined. She’s been angling to play for Eric Wainwright for weeks and refuses to give up. So when she does get the idea into her head to impersonate a child, it just makes sense from the little we know about her. She’s also so frustrated by Eric’s unailvablity that she comes off as somewhat brittle. Basically, the bubbly sun spot that was June’s trademark is noticeably absent in this film.

Here’s her attempt at pre-pubescent Molly Potter, Cynthia’s little sister:

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A 34 year old playing a 22 year old playing a 12 year old!

Cynthia’s disguise works. When she first shows up to audition for the children’s choir, she’s almost turned away because her name isn’t on the list. But there’s no way she’s admitting defeat.

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She lets out an ear splitting wail so they have no choice but to let her audition. Everyone is impressed by her skill, Eric Wainwright most of all.

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“Are you Mr. Wainwright?” Me too, girlie.

Now Cynthia wasn’t planning on masquerading as a child forever. She only wanted to get Eric’s attention so she could play for him as Cynthia. But he isn’t interested. Molly’s talent is remarkable for her age, whereas Cynthia’s is just to be expected. So, with a bit of vengeance on her mind, she decides to continue the charade.

Eric becomes so concerned about his latest prodigy that he takes it upon himself to care for Molly. Her older sister Cynthia is not a good influence at all, neither is Cynthia’s fiancee, John (Gig Young). John is also unhappy with her scheme but goes along with it so she can finally realize her dream of becoming a celebrated concert pianist.

Here we have the recipe for a wacky, absurd story where just about everything can go wrong.

A few notable things about this film:

  • Cynthia’s baby voice. I love that June was able to modulate that raspy voice of hers to resemble a child’s, but she’s twelve, not two.
  • The film’s portrayal of adults who look down on children. They hardly ever treat them as people with real thoughts and opinions.
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Here they are pinching her cheeks, without her permission, and cooing over how adorable she is.
  • This absolutely wonderful moment with Eric proudly presenting Molly with a doll.

 

Molly is rightfully unimpressed, as any 12 year old or someone pretending to be a 12 year old, would be.

Molly goes to live with Eric, where she can focus on the piano full time and be free of distraction. But she makes life as tough for him as she can imagine. She pours his alcohol into the swimming pool. Eric forbids her from smoking cigarettes (a bad habit she picked up), and she forces him to give up smoking too. But she sneaks cigarettes because of course she does.

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Eric’s patience begins to wear thin although he tries not to show it. His prodigy is a very difficult girl. When he catches her smoking again, he spanks her. Of course!

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This was June and Van’s fourth film together. The two would costar for the final time in Remains to Be Seen (1953), a very hard to find film that remains to be seen by me. The two were such good friends off camera, and their chemistry was genuine in front of it. June as a petulant child doing all she can to make Van’s life miserable works really well. Here their eventual love story takes time, as it did in The Bride Goes Wild (1948). They started off hating each other in that film too.

And maybe it’s because they were such a dynamic, charming duo that this story is only ever fun and not creepy. To me at least. Eric doesn’t fall for Molly, but Cynthia wants to give up her disguise because she’s in love with him.

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June Allyson won the 1951 Golden Globe for Best Actress, her only acting award. She wasn’t nominated for an Oscar. It’s one of my favorite performances, showing just how silly and iron willed she could be.

I recommend it for fans of June and Van, and anyone who likes this specific genre of grown women pretending to be 12 years old!

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This is my first entry for my June Allyson blogathon, celebrating her 100th birthday. Click on the banner for more posts!

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11 thoughts on “June Allyson is Too Young to Kiss

  1. The movie drags a bit by the end, but the silly premise worked for me because of the appeal of those fabulous leads. Your screen caps truly indicate just how wonderful it is to watch the team of June Allyson (congrats on that Golden Globe) and Van Johnson.

    Thanks for hosting the centenary salute!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have to admit, that I’m in the “this is too creepy” category when it comes to this film and “Major and the Minor” because on the one hand I think it offers excellent social commentary on ‘lolita’ by showing us just how absolutely absurd it is for grown men to be even remotely aroused when a grown woman dresses as child, no matter how beautiful the grown woman is, but at the same time dives a little too deep into subtle daddy kink for it to actually be taken as serious commentary (e.g. the spanking scene is pretty deliberate, imo). I do think this movie does do better than The Major and The Minor in that it’s clearer that Van’s character isn’t actually attracted to a child.

    That all said, and I know I’ve mentioned this on Twitter, I probably wouldn’t be so averse to movies like this that play around with age gaps or even the psychology of daddy kink if it weren’t almost always exclusively older-male/younger-female. We are pretty much groomed from birth to think huge age gaps are still fairly normal, that it’s normal for men to like super young/barely legal girls even if we think they shouldn’t act on it, and Hollywood has not really changed in its pairing of young actresses with old actors because actresses still have shelf lives that their male counterparts don’t. Meanwhile, everyone flocks to protect innocent boys who get paired with older women (there was some uproar recently about that Reese Witherspoon movie Home Again; followed by a whole lot of reporting in the real world of female teachers and older women taking advantage of teen boys in the past couple of weeks). And while obviously this isn’t happening in main stream media, you can imagine that if it were an older-man/younger-man pairing a lot of people who don’t bat an eye at older-man/younger-woman would go “See see! Gay men are all pedos who like little boys!”

    Now I’ll see myself out to go watch some Lego Ninjago where my favorite pairing is extremely problematic and hypocritical after I’ve just said all this… (And I’ll also get started on writing my entry!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. *adjusts spectacles* you always make me think much more critically about “harmless” movies!

      That said, I do agree! Plus, young girls nowadays are so much more ~mature, in appearance, kinda playing into that older male attraction thing. It /is/ gross. The babydoll shtick is disturbing point blank. And there was that recent twitter thing between Armie Hammer and James Woods about the “perverted” relationship between a grown man and a younger man in Call Me By Your Name. But a friend did point out that he is still a grown man having a relationship with a teenager.

      But, yes. Adult attraction to kids and teens is never good. I think that’s why I like how much of a brat Molly was. Even if the film tried to make her attractive to an older man (thank God it doesn’t), it’s very clear that this is how actual children behave, and they lack the maturity to engage with adults in any way that’s not strictly platonic.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a very interesting article. This sounds like a very enjoyable movie. I would love to see it. You described it very well. Thank you so much for letting me participate in this blogathon!

    By the way, I would like to invite you to join my blogathon, “The Great Breening Blogathon:” https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2017/09/07/extra-the-great-breening-blogathon/. It is celebrating the life and work of Joseph Breen, the enforcer of the Motion Picture Production Code between 1934 and 1954. As we honor his birthday, which is on October 14, we will be discussing and analyzing the Code era, breening films from other eras, and writing about our own ideas for classic movies. One doesn’t have to agree with the Code and Mr. Breen to enjoy that! I hope you will do me the honor of joining. We could really use your talent!

    Yours Hopefully,

    Tiffany Brannan

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I remember enjoying this film a lot when I first saw it last year. It walks a really fine line without getting too weird. Your screenshots, by the way, are terrific! *catches herself drooling over Van*

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Her expression when he gives her the doll is hilarious! It is funny how in these movies people always treat twelve-year-olds as if they are four. 🙂

    I’d never heard of this film before, but it sounds totally zany…in a good way. And June Allyson looks like she’s having a ball! Thanks for introducing me to a knew June Allyson film!

    Liked by 1 person

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