“That over-21 business is a lie, like the one about you can't teach an old dog new tricks. The fellas who spout lies like that don't think the world ought to change either. It's too old a dog.”
I wonder if that saying is true if you are over twenty-one then it is harder to retain information. I like to believe that by the time we are twenty-one our brains have had enough of retaining information. I noticed my brain just shut off and is still like “you’re making me read more and I have to remember this crap? Oh hell no!!”… or maybe it is just me not wanting to retain information it could be either one haha. I love to read and I love to learn but I will definitely back up the fact that we remember things we like. Stick me in front of a Sargent or David painting and I can tell you all kinds of information. If you really want to get me started ask me about classic films or just movies in general and I can go on all day. The 1945 Irene Dunne film Over 21 deals with the saying about being over twenty-one and it being hard to remember information.
Max Wharton (Alexander Knox) is a successful newspaper editor for The Bulletin in New York City. One day he springs on his obnoxious boss Robert Drexel Gow (Charles Coburn) that he is leaving the paper to go into the army. Gow is furious and does all he can to persuade his editor to stay but Max is not having any of it. Max’s wife Paula “Polly” Wharton (Dunne) is a novelist currently in California working on the script for a film version of one of her books. She is very supportive of Max. Polly tells him she is signing up to go down to Florida (where the base is located) with him because she will miss him too much. The only problem is that Polly is not very domestic.
When Polly gets to the small bungalow a young girl is there. She and her husband are moving out since he made second lieutenant and he has gotten a transfer. The girl informs Polly that almost nothing in the bungalow works: the light to the rooms are outside of them, there is no bathroom, the kitchen does not have a sink the sink is in the bathroom, the refrigerator makes a god awful noise but the noise means it is working, the window goes down only if you jump on the floor near it. Polly is feeling a bit overwhelmed but she takes it in stride.
As Polly and the girl talk the girl remarks that Max might have a hard time taking his tests and remembering things because apparently after someone turns twenty-one it becomes harder to retain information. This worries Polly for a bit because if this is true Max is pushing thirty-nine and he is going to have a hard time passing his tests. Later that night the girl and her husband come back because their train has been delayed until morning. Polly sleeps on the couch. She brushes her teeth but she cannot get to the sink since it is in the bedroom so she takes a swig of something awful nearly spitting the whole thing out. She tries to open the window but it does not work so she runs out to the porch. It is so windy out the door slams shut and Polly is locked out of the bungalow in her nightgown! Three soldiers come by and harass her a bit but then a colonel named Foley comes to her aid.
As time goes on Polly learns how to be a domestic... sort of. She still cannot cook well so she enlists the help of the wives in the court to help her out. One night Max brings home the highest ranked soldier in his division to dinner. Polly has the other wives help and one of them makes an apple pie. At dinner Max and the soldier ask her how she made it and she completely goes around the question as best she can until the wife comes back for her tin the pie was and the secret is out.
Max is asked to write a piece for the camp newspaper. He writes one and Col. Foley sends it off to Washington because it was so good. Meanwhile Polly has been in a battle with Robert Gow. He keeps bothering Polly to put Max on the phone because the paper is in some trouble. Max does not want to be bothered he has so many other troubling things going on with having to remember information for his tests. Polly threatens Robert not to come down but he does anyway. Polly is furious but there is nothing she can do in the meantime because Col. Foley, his wife, and the wife’s mother come for dinner that night (Polly had met the mother in the grocery store that day and the mother recognized her from her book). To get Robert off their backs she tells him she will talk Max into writing some editorials for the paper. She does not let Max know and write the editorials herself.
Max eventually sweats out his test and passes ranking at two hundred and seventy one out of three hundred. Since Col. Foley liked his article so much he asks Max to make the keynote speech at graduation. The entire time Polly has been telling Max that the producer of her film has been calling her whenever Robert calls. The producer actually comes down and Max talks to him first. The producer tells Max that he has not talked to Polly since she left California. Max figures out the truth that Polly has been writing articles with his name on them. At graduation Max reads Polly’s first article “The World and Apple Pie”. Robert shows up at graduation extremely furious at him and almost walks out until she hears Max reading her article.
Of course there is a happy ending. Max is not mad at her for what she did. Unfortunately he gets transferred to a place where the wives cannot stay with their husbands. But this turns out well for Robert, he asks Polly to come to New York to write the editorials for the paper while Max is away and since she cannot go she agrees to work for the paper.
Irene Dunne was completely on top of her game. Dunne as Polly Wharton is probably one of my favorite characters she has played. I do not even know where to begin to explain how fantastic she was. One of my favorite scenes in the film is when Polly first gets to the bungalow. The girl tells her that she does not want Max to be transferred to a base called Crockerfield since the wives are not allowed to go. Polly looks up and says “please don’t send Max to Crockerfield.” I loved the way Dunne that played that. Just the look on her face and how she said it made me love the scene. I cracked up when Max comes to the bungalow really quick when she first gets there. He gives her a good kiss, she turns around after Max leaves seeing the girl and her husband looking at her and says with a huge adorable grin and scrunched nose “He should come back again.” If you have seen any of Irene Dunne’s other films you will love this scene just because it is a scene you never really saw her do until this point. It was just cute and really funny. Dunne was in plenty of comedy films before this one but it seems with this story she let go with her character a little more and she handled it perfectly. I dare you not to just completely adore Irene Dunne after this she was wonderful.
There was a great shout out to some of her earlier films: when the colonel comes over his wife and her mother are asking Polly about Hollywood and the people she has met. They ask her if Charles Boyer is nice since they both love him. Polly replies that yes Boyer is very nice. Dunne acted with Boyer in Love Affair and Together Again. You can kind of see her smirk at that part because she does really know that he is nice.
Charles Coburn was a damn bastard!! I have seen the man in plenty of other films where his characters were so nice but here you want to punch the crap outta him!! Seriously the character was annoying from the moment the film started. I give the guy credit because he did a great job of being the antagonist.
I really did not think anything of Alexander Knox. He was alright. Irene Dunne was the far superior actor of the whole film so she definitely out shone him by a million in their scenes together. But at the same time they had very good chemistry… I think Dunne could have had chemistry with a pole she was that good, though.
Over 21 was a very cute film. It made me nervous though because now when I go back to school for my graduate degree I am going to be thinking that now I am over twenty-one I will not be able to retain as much information easily!! Hopefully I will not put that into my head it is bad enough I have studying and test taking issues. Over 21 is an enjoyable comedy and an Irene Dunne film not to be missed.