Studios in the 1930s seemed to have a thing for making films set around the newspaper business. The most famous of the newspaper business- set films is His Girl Friday which was made in 1940. I have written about a few newspaper themed films including Headline Shooter, Picture Snatcher, and Love is a Racket, Meet John Doe, and I am sure plenty more that I am not thinking of. My Dear Miss Aldrich is a nice light comedy based around a young woman inheriting a newspaper and trying to prove she can be a reporter.
A newspaper publisher named Thomas Hanson has died. His only relative is an old maid step-sister called Aunt Lu (Edna May Oliver) and a young niece named Martha Aldrich (Maureen O’Sullivan) who is a school teacher in Nebraska. The publisher has left his newspaper to Martha. She does not know the first thing about running a newspaper but she is excited to see how the business works and especially because she gets to move to New York City.
Ken Morley (Walter Pidgeon) is the newspaper’s top reporter. He is not at all happy about Martha taking over the paper. When Martha and Aunt Lu walk Thomas Hanson’s office Ken thinks Aunt Lu is Martha. He gets very nervous until he sees Martha and is relieved. Martha, Aunt Lu, and Ken are invited to dinner at the governor’s house. All through dinner Ken cannot keep his eyes off of Martha. The governor tells her how Ken does not have a modern view of women. Ken is not crazy about them especially one running his newspaper. Ken tries to tell Martha haw the male readers would not like to read a newspaper run by a woman.
Ken has been trying to find out if a queen of a foreign country is expecting a baby. It is only a rumor and every paper in the city has been trying to get the real story. No matter his tactics Ken cannot get any information. Martha asks him why he did not just call the queen at the hotel she is staying at. He thinks it is a stupid idea the queen will not answer the phone and just talk to someone she does not know, she probably will not even be the one to pick up the phone. Martha picks up the phone, calls the queen, the queen confirms the story, and she even has Martha send over a reporter to speak with her. Since this task was so easy Martha begs Ken to make her a reporter.
Martha goes to a wedding of her friend’s. A rival newspaper happens to get the story before her paper and even mentions her name. Ken is furious with her and yells at her. Martha is so upset she goes out and buys a new hat. While at the store she sees a woman, Mrs. Sinclair, whose husband is part of a large strike that happening. Ken is chasing that story. Mrs. Sinclair tells the salesgirl that she must have the hat by six o’clock that night. Martha pretends to be a salesgirl to speak to Mrs. Sinclair. Unfortunately Mrs. Sinclair knows who Martha is.
Martha was following a lead that took her to a building. In her snooping she gets hit on the head and faints. When she wakes up she sees the Sinclairs leaving through the backdoor into a car to leave town. She gets a car and a driver and follows the Sinclairs. Aunt Lu and Ken go looking for Martha. They track her down to the building. Aunt Lu has a maid take her downstairs to look for a trunk. She finds a piece of her puzzle there where Martha had thrown it.
Martha follows the Sinclairs down to a hotel. She hears people talking about the strike. Mrs. Sinclair hears Martha is around and invites her in. Martha sees Mr. Sinclair and Mr. Talbot, who is also part of the strike, talking over terms. All three tie Martha up so they can get away. Ken and Aunt Lu find out that Martha is at the hotel. Ken finds Martha but him and another reporter get knocked out.
Now Ken, the reporter, and Aunt Lu have been tied up. Aunt Lu and Martha manage to get untied. Martha planned to leave Ken and the reporter behind until they work out a plan. They send a call to the hospital that a case of smallpox is at the hotel. They even cute the wires to the hotel so that no one makes outgoing calls. The “doctors” Ken called are two guys from the newspaper.
Needless to say Ken has a change of heart and does not mind having Martha around at his paper.
Maureen O’Sullivan and Walter Pidgeon seemed a little miss matched but in a way they worked very well together. Both O’Sullivan and Pidgeon were very good actors that do not get enough credit. Neither really had tremendous talent to be the leads in large films but they did a good job as leads in smaller films such as this. O’Sullivan, in the films I have seen of hers, adds some light to the films she was never really too over dramatic she was just right for her parts. Edna May Oliver gets top billing even though she is not really the focus. She was hysterical in every one of her scenes. She was quiet then all the sudden she would come out with a witty line and say it quickly. Pidgeon really did not do anything for me. He is not bad I have seen several of his films but he just does not really leave an impression on me.
My Dear Miss Aldrich is a very funny and entertaining film. The story is good but at times it moves a little slow. The dialogue, like most 1930s newspaper film and just 1930s films in general, is sharp and quick. My Dear Miss Aldrich is not available on DVD nor is it available on Youtube. I caught the film on TCM. If the channel ever airs it again definitely watch it.