It happened to Jane

Sixty-two years ago, the film It Happened To Jane premiered. I love the styling of mid-century movies and including Doris Day and Jack Lemmon (as well as a surprisingly large list of cameos), it only improves the whole viewing experience. It was reissued and renamed in 1961 as Twinkle and Shine.

Title: It Happened To Jane
Directed by: Richard Quine
Screenplay by: Norman Katkov
Story by: Norman Katkov and Max Wilk
Produced by: Martin Melcher and Richard Quine
Starring: Doris Day, Jack Lemmon, Ernie Kovacs
Cinematography: Charles Lawton Jr.
Edited by: Charles Nelson
Music by: George Duning
Color process: Eastmancolor
Production Company: Arwin Productions
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures
Release date: August 5, 1959
Running time: 97 minutes
Country: United States
Language: English
Box office: $1.7 million

In May 1959, in the town of Cape Anne, Maine, a foul-up by the Eastern & Portland Railroad (E&P) results in the death of 300 lobsters shipped by Jane Osgood, an attractive, widowed businesswoman with two children. She gets her lawyer and friend, George Denham, to go after the E&P to pay damages after her customer, the Marshalltown Country Club, refuses all future orders.

In the E&P office in New York City, railroad executive Harry Foster Malone learns about the Osgood lawsuit. Due to the budget cuts Malone had instituted, there had been no station agent at Marshalltown to receive Jane’s lobsters. Malone sends employees Crawford Sloan and Selwyn Harris to Cape Anne to deal with the situation. The two attorneys offer Jane $700 in compensation, but Jane turns it down because the loss to her business reputation is more than that.

Jane wins in court, but E&P appeals the case to the state Supreme Court in Augusta, Maine. George files a writ of execution to force payment and take possession of the train, Old 97, in lieu of payment.

Jane is interviewed by local newspaper reporter Matilda Runyon, who then calls the Daily Mirror in New York. Top reporter Larry Hall is sent to Cape Anne for the story. Television stations also want to interview Jane. Malone retaliates by charging Jane rent for the siding on which the train is sitting. In a charming scene, Jane and George are shown singing an original song, “Be Prepared”, to a pack of local cub scouts at a forested picnic.

Jane travels to New York to appear on ABC, NBC, and CBS, including the show I’ve Got a Secret. Fearful of bad publicity, Malone finally gives in and cancels the rent, but gives Jane the train. Meanwhile, George becomes increasingly jealous when he learns that Larry in New York is attracted to Jane and has proposed marriage to her. Jane receives telegrams of support from the American public, and the Marshalltown club, which had earlier reneged, now promises to continue business with her.

Back in Cape Anne, during a packed town meeting, Jane learns that Malone has ordered all his trains to bypass the town and has also given Jane 48 hours to remove Old 97 from the track. With service ended, local merchants will find it difficult to get their merchandise. Jane runs away and George, in an impassioned speech, scolds the townspeople for turning against her.

Realizing that Old 97 is just the way to deliver the lobsters, Jane and George persuade everybody to fill up the train’s tender with coal from their homes. George recruits his uncle Otis, a retired E&P engineer, to engineer the train.

Old 97 sets off with Jane, her children, and George (who shovels coal to the engine), to deliver lobsters on board to customers in several distant towns. Malone does everything possible to delay them, even as several of his office staff resign, seeing him as a villain. Jane becomes upset at the roundabout route Malone is forcing them to take. Eventually, the coal runs out, stopping Old 97 and blocking traffic.

Just then, Malone arrives by helicopter, after hearing that the train is stalled. Jane scolds him for his underhanded actions. He had won, but found victory bittersweet. Malone finally agrees to Jane’s demands. Jane and George tell him to come along so he cannot cause any more trouble. He finally shows his good side by helping shovel coal. Larry and a photographer are in Marshall Town when the train arrives. George kisses Jane in front of Larry, and she agrees to marry George and remain in Cape Anne.

After the wedding, as George is being sworn in as the new first selectman, a badly needed fire engine pulls into town, a present from Malone.

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