What’s so shocking about The Shocking Miss Pilgrim? Well, she’s a 19th century female who wants to work in an office. And she also wants the vote for women. In terms of the film, it’s somewhat shocking to find Betty Grable working in a profession other than as a showgirl in a film that allows for only the briefest glimpse of her famous legs. And the film boasts a new score by George Gershwin even though the composer had been dead for almost ten years before the film’s release.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 480I/MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English 2.0 DD
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 24 Min.
Package Includes: DVDAmray
Disc Type: DVD-R
Release Date: 02/01/2013
Newly graduated from a New York business college as a secretarial specialist known as a type-writer (named for the newly manufactured Remington machine which a few students had mastered), Cynthia Pilgrim (Betty Grable) is assigned to work for the Pritchard Shipping Company in Boston, an all-male establishment. Company president John Pritchard (Dick Haymes) isn’t keen about having a woman in the office, but his starchy Aunt Alice Pritchard (Anne Revere) demands that he give the young graduate a trial. She charms the office with her skill and efficiency, and she’s eventually hired full-time. Alice is so impressed with Cynthia that she takes her along to her suffrage meeting and introduces her to the members as an example of a woman blazing a new trail in the business world. Cynthia becomes a leader in the movement which makes life with John a bit difficult since he’s fallen in love with her but can’t adjust his old-fashioned ways of thinking about women’s places in business and politics.
The Production Rating: 3.5/5
Though the basic story is sound (by Ernest and Frederica Maas; screenplay by director George Seaton), the movie is fluffier in nature than it is a serious look at women’s changing roles told in a musical idiom. To its credit, this movie is something rare for Betty Grable, a book musical with numbers which reflect and extend dramatic scenes, but musical comedy tropes like a tedious final reel spat to separate the lovebirds are firmly in place and take away a bit from its original qualities. The George and Ira Gershwin score was allegedly culled from trunk songs and scraps of music left behind after George’s death, reworked by brother Ira and Kay Swift into a workmanlike score for the film. It didn’t produce any standards, but there are a couple of nifty items: the jaunty “But Not in Boston” sung by Cynthia’s fellow Boston-hating roomers, a charming duet for Cynthia and John “Aren’t You Kind of Glad We Did?’ (sung in a hansom cab), and the sweet love song “For You, For Me, For Evermore.” George Seaton’s direction is nothing special apart from a stylish moment after the lovers quarrel where Cynthia sees John’s reflection in a mirror singing to her followed by the remainder of the scene filmed and reflected into the same mirror.
Betty Grable is in marvelously warm voice for the movie making 1947 a highlight year for her (her other film that year, Mother Wore Tights, was much more popular than this one and is probably her best film), and seems tailor-made for the 1874 fashions she sports throughout the movie. Dick Haymes, never a strong actor but with a mellow baritone voice which melds beautifully with Grable’s, is acceptable as the set-in-his-ways uptight Bostonian though the script doesn’t do him any favors explaining his turnaround in his belief system by film’s end. Anne Revere gives her usual no-nonsense performance as the crusty aunt, and Gene Lockhart is similarly crusty as the office manager whose opinion of Miss Pilgrim changes over time. Elizabeth Patterson is her delightfully scatty self as Cynthia’s landlady, and Allyn Joslyn gets some fun moments as the most vocal of the anti-Boston roomers.
The film is presented in its original theatrical 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Though the transfer isn’t as unnaturally dark as the one for Wabash Avenue, it does have some issues with darkness in scenes from time to time. Color isn’t as always over-saturated either as in that other film, and sometimes it’s quite striking and appealingly lush, though occasionally hues can get too hot and unnaturally bright. There is also some color fringing in a couple of scenes. Black levels can be good but in the darker scenes can verge on crushing. The element used for the transfer is much cleaner than the one used for Wabash Avenue, though there are specks here and there but thankfully no reel change markers as in the other transfer. The film has been divided into chapters every ten minutes so this film has 9 chapters.
Video Rating: 3.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The Dolby Digital 2.0 encode is decoded by Dolby Prologic into the center channel. Fidelity is surprisingly good once the volume level is turned down to prevent distortion. There is some low level hiss that can be heard during the quieter scenes, but it’s not overly distracting. Otherwise, this is a strong mono sound mix typical of its era.
Audio Rating: 3.5/5
There are no special features on this made-on-demand disc.
Special Features Rating: 0/5
The Shocking Miss Pilgrim offers a welcome change of pace from too many Betty Grable/showgirl musicals, and while the Gershwin songs might not be ones that the team is the most well known for, on their own they’re tuneful and in some cases quite lovely.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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