The Major and the Minor 1942


Paramount Pictures

Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland star in Billy Wilder’s directing debut.

Fed up with life in New York City, 20-something Susan Applegate (played by Ginger Rogers), decides to head home to little Stevenson, Iowa.  Her journey begins at NYC’s Grand Central Station but she discovers she doesn’t have enough money for the fare home.  Undaunted, she transforms herself into “Sue-Sue”, an 11 year old, going on 12 — and supposedly eligible for the railroad’s half price ticket.  Hijinks ensue as she attempts to convince the skeptical conductors of her youth.


With Grand Central Station as a misty backdrop, Ginger Rogers heads downstairs to buy her ticket back to Stevenson, Iowa.

Interestingly, (maybe they won’t notice), while all the railroad personnel are in NYC Railroad uniforms, exteriors of the trains are either Pennsy streamlined K4 locomotives or SP Railroad passenger equipment.  Still, Ginger Rogers is fun to watch slipping in and out of character and this film has a good dose of life on a train, 1940’s style.  Let’s check it out.


Nice view of NYC coach tickets cage; Ticket clerk gives Ginger the bad news that she doesn’t have enough money.


Ginger sasses the clerk about the unforseen price increase to no avail.  Note the balloon-toting waif behind her.


Exit Susan, Enter Sue-Sue


Nice shot with New Haven ticket windows and newsstand.  Sue-Sue has her eye on that balloon;  Now balloon-equipped, she recruits a shyster to pose as her “Daddy” (played by Tom Dugan) to buy the half fare.


Sue-Sue’s “Daddy” buys her the ticket — then pockets the rest of her money;  As the NYC conductor checks her ticket, Sue-Sue says goodbye to “Daddy”….before kicking him in the shins.


Beautiful shot of a streamlined Pennsy K4 charging out of, what appears to be Chicago;  Sue-Sue nervously “squeeking” her balloon, singing a children’s song, and annoying the hell out of the chap in the next seat (who eventually pops her balloon).


Scowling NYC & Pullman conductors making their way down the aisle.  Sue-Sue trying to convince the brace of conductors that she really is 11.


Having successfully run the gauntlet, Sue-Sue enjoys browsing thru her sleeping seatmate’s copy of “Esquire” (a Men’s magazine); Another shot of a streamlined Pennsy K4 flashing under a position light signal bridge.


Sue-Sue steps out on the observation platform for a smoke, only to be caught by the conductors;  Tipping over cigarette stands (nice view of car interior), Sue-Sue makes a break for it.


Eluding the conductors by stepping into a sleeper bedroom, Sue-Sue tries to wave off her cigarette-breath as she meets Major Kirby (played by Ray Milland); Major Kirby believes Sue-Sue’s story and gallantly sets up an upper berth for himself.


Nice shot of an SP depot labeled “High Creek” along with a bell-equipped, candy striped crossbuck; long consist of mud-splattered Southern Pacific heavyweight equipment.  The train is stopped somewhere in Indiana due to a washout ahead.


Interior shot of Pullman bedroom; Close up of Pullman blanket labeled either “-S-17-” or “-8-17-“.

– most of movie left off here –


Detail shot of the Operator’s bay window of the brick “Stevenson, Iowa” depot;  Major Kirby and Susan Applegate at the depot – note the Train Schedule board on the wall.

Summary:  Billy Wilder’s first directing effort turned out to be a very enjoyable little screwball comedy.  With a decent amount of railroad action and a good story throughout, this obscure train movie is well worth an evening’s viewing.  Lindsay says, “Crack a beer, fire up the popcorn and give it a look-see!”

Here’s what IMDb has to say about The Major and the Minor:

If you have ANY information about this movie, please contact me at:



About Lindsay Korst

Webmaster, Blogmaster, Ferroequinologist - Lindsay Korst works for a nationwide home improvement center after a 20+ year career supporting computer users. A resident of the Seattle area since 1976, he has had a life-long interest in railroads, particularly those in the Pacific Northwest. He is an enthusiastic participant in the Great Northern Railway Historical Society. He and his wife reside in Redmond, Washington.
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1 Response to The Major and the Minor 1942

  1. Pingback: A Woman of Distinction 1950 | More Obscure Train Movies

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