Margie (Jeanne Crain) and her daughter (Ann E. Todd) are rummaging through an attic full of memories, when she starts reminiscing about her girlhood during the Roaring Twenties. Since Margie’s mother died a while ago, she was raised by her Grandma McSweeney (Esther Dale), a plain-spoken woman with admirable ideals. Her papa, Mr. Angus MacDuff (Hobart Cavanaugh) works as an undertaker, a job that causes Margie much embarrassment amongst her school friends. Though smart and articulate, Margie struggles through adolescence, being somewhat accident-prone and envious of her more vivacious friend Marybelle Tenor (Barbara Lawrence). Like every other girl in Central High, Margie has a crush on handsome French teacher Professor Ralph Fontayne (Glenn Langan), although he seemingly has eyes for fellow teacher Miss Isabel Palmer (Lynn Bari). Come prom night, our blossoming young heroine experience heartache, surprises and her first taste of romance.
Bizarrely enough, this charming nostalgic comedy was singled out by the House of Un-American Activities as an example of communism's perfidious influence in Hollywood. That was probably down to the high school debating scene, wherein Margie passionately argues against America’s military presence in Nicaragua. When viewed free from the hysteria surrounding the late Forties, it’s a rousing scene and as Margie maintains America should stand for something more besides capitalism, patriotic in a remarkably clear-thinking and progressive manner, liable to endear it’s heroine to a modern generation. Her speech actually awakens Angus’ political consciousness, which progresses into an amusing subplot capped by a delightful final scene.
Politics aside, Margie nestles comfortably amidst the spate of coming-of-age nostalgic comedies that followed the wonderful Meet Me in St. Louis (1944). Movies like On Moonlight Bay (1951) and Cheaper By The Dozen (1950) were very popular during the war and immediate post-war years, when people yearned after the simple joys of yesteryear, preferably in gorgeous Technicolor and featuring a song or two. Adapted from a trio of short stories: “La Scandal Internationale”, “The Ultimate Catastrophe” and “Take the Marines Out of Nicaragua” by author Ruth McKenney, the film pokes gentle fun at the fads and fashions of the Twenties (crooner Rudy Vallee rerecorded his hit song “My Time is Your Time” specifically for this movie), but delves beyond nostalgia. Its main intention being to reassure audiences that some things, like teenage hearts, stay the same regardless of the changing times.
It features a superb performance from Jeanne Crain, who excels as the preternaturally bright yet still painfully shy, awkward and self-conscious teenager. Her attempts to appear sophisticated in front of Marybelle are hilarious as is the reoccurring gag involving her missing bloomers. If you want a textbook definition of adorable watch Jeanne Crain in this movie. If you want a textbook definition of stunning, fast-forward to her prom night scenes. Equally impressive is Esther Dale as the politically forthright Grandma, while Glenn Langan’s charm and mellifluous voice goes some way towards eroding any queasiness about having a teacher romance an attractive student. Nevertheless, it’s all very chaste and innocent, and the script goes out of its way to underline Prof. Fontayne is younger than we first think. As in Meet Me in St. Louis and Cheaper By The Dozen, this climaxes with communal dance providing a rite of passage that can be seen as the forerunner for many contemporary high school movies.