April 23, 2004

Ronald Reagan and Shirley Temple. Today is Shirley Temple's birthday, and TMC is showing a lot of her movies. I love Shirley and have my TiVo programmed to capture her work. Today, it caught "That Hagen Girl," which is only a one-star movie, but it co-stars Ronald Reagan, so--what the hell!--I started watching and made it to the end. It's bad, but awesome. Ronald Reagan comes to town, hears people gossiping about him, and doesn't like it.

He's a lawyer, and he sets up in a law office that has a nice portrait of Lincoln on the wall:

When he mouths off to a pretty young teacher, he apologizes: "I'm sorry I sounded off on you. I'm an attorney and every once in a while I talk to people as if they just belted someone with a meathook." Here's how he looks, delivering that line:

The gossip is all about how Mary Hagen, played by Shirley Temple, is an illegitimate child and the father is Reagan. Shirley was the most adorable child ever, but here she is as a gorgeous teenager:

The small town in this movie is entirely designed for the purpose of torturing Shirley Temple. Here's how to insult people in the town: "Why don't you go somewhere and catch yourself, you foul ball?" What possible solution could there be for poor Shirley? Especially after Ronald Reagan offers to pay her "tuition fees" to go to a university that they'll choose for her after she graduates from junior college. But she hangs around and has conversations like:
I've never done anything wrong ... except getting born.

I know, it seems like an injustice, but...
We remain confused throughout the movie about whether Reagan really is Shirley Temple's father, until the point where he's about to call her on the phone and ask her to marry him. At exactly that point, the townsfolk read in the newsaper that Reagan has received a medal from the President of the United States for his contribution to "the successful launching of atomic warfare." Apparently, Reagan has dropped the atomic bomb on Japan! The townsfolk decide they love Ronald Reagan, and they burst in on him just as he's about to go to Shirley. He tries to leave. They say:
But we haven't accomplished our mission!

Like you boys in the airforce, we believe in Mission Accomplished.
(Hmmm.... there's a phrase!) They invite him to speak at graduation. He suggests the subject of his speech: Mary Hagen! But she's been expelled! For going to the "tavern"! He tells them off. They leave, and immediately an official of some sort arrives and hands him a suicide note from Mary! She's "picked the lagoon," according to the note. Thunder rolls. We see Mary walking in the rain, and, wet, Shirley is modern and fabulous:

It's our dear girl, Shirley, wet and suicidal! She's looking into the water and her whole life flashes in front of her, and her whole life is the mystery of whether Ronald Reagan is her father. I watch the flashback and think: 1. Shirley Temple was so beautiful (I seriously believe Marilyn Monroe derived her vision of female loveliness from Shirley), and 2. Mary Hagen really needs to go to college in some other town! Suddenly, Ronald Reagan runs up, his trenchcoat flapping in the storm: "Mary! Mary!" We see him desperately trying to take off that trenchcoat and then a wide shot of trenchcoat-removing Reagan and the flowing river. Mary has jumped! Reagan, in dress suit and shoes, but sans trenchcoat, dives into the river.

And our man Reagan, finally, after all these years, tells her that isn't important. "It's what you are, and where you're going that really matters."

He tells her she was an ordinary adopted orphan, no connection to him at all. Yay! Reagan can marry her!