It Happened to Jane
Doris Day ... Jane Osgood
Jack Lemmon ... George Denham
Ernie Kovacs ... Harry Foster Malone
Steve Forrest ... Lawrence Clay 'Larry' Hall
Mary Wickes ... Matilda Runyon
Russ Brown ... Uncle Otis
Teddy Rooney ... Billy Osgood
Gina Gillespie ... Betty Osgood
In May 1959, in the town of Cape Anne, Maine, widow Jane Osgood is trying to support her two young children by running a lobster business. She has entrusted her shipment to the Eastern and Portland Railroad to deliver her live lobsters to nearby customers but hits a snag when the train is re-routed from its original destination and the lobsters are returned to Cape Ann, dead on arrival. Harry Foster Malone (Ernie Kovacs) has taken over the railroad and has new ideas of what to do with it. Delivering lobsters is not in his plan. He envisions making a lot more money by modernizing the freight train into a fancy commuter liner, forgetting the local people who depend on Old 97 to keep their businesses afloat. After her shipments is ruined by carelessness at the railroad station, Jane decides to take on Malone, the "meanest man in the world."
Enraged, Jane solicits the assistance of old friend, George Denham (Lemmon) who is a local lawyer running for public office. He assures Jane that her case is "open and shut" and that she will easily get her money for the ill-fated shipment. Meanwhile, in New York Malone's board of directors acknowledge liability on Jane's claim and decide to present her with a check, in person, on behalf of public relations. The check is for $700, the price of the dead lobsters. Jane refuses to sign a receipt for she feels that her chance for a successful season of selling has been ruined by this fiasco. Refusing to pay Jane more, the lawyers for E & P leave with a
"see you in court" and their check for $700.
In court, Jane wins her case, but Malone's lawyers warn that they will appeal the case in a higher court. Firstly, Jane gets a Writ of Execution against the railroad, and seizes Old 97. This starts a war between small-town businesswoman, Jane Osgood with her one lawyer and corporate executive, Harry Malone and his 25 lawyers. After local newspaper woman/switchboard operator, Matilda Runyon (Mary Wickes) tips off the New York papers that Jane has one of Malone's trains, the story goes national. One reporter, Larry Hall (Steve Forrest) decides to write a human-interest story on Jane, but begins to fall in love with her. As a result of the publicity, orders for lobsters pour in but the good news doesn't last long. Malone fights back by demanding rent for the tracks that Old 97 sits on, $1.00 per foot, or $230 by the next day. To pay Malone, Hall suggests that Jane accept the many offers to appear on TV, and at the same time, give Malone a dose of his own medicine, publicly, on national television.
In New York, Jane appears on the popular television shows, Youth Wants to Know, The Today Show, The Big Payoff and I've Got a Secret. During the last show, Malone calls in and offers to cancel the rent and to give Jane Old 97. That evening, after dinner, Hall proposes married to an astonished Jane who promises to "think" about the offer. At home, Jane is hit with a bombshell; Malone has cancelled all railroad service to and from Cape Ann, all but wiping the town off the map. In addition, Jane has 24 hours to get Old 97 off Malone's railroad tracks. Local businesses that depend on the railroad are now threatened with bankruptcy, proving that Jane is, indeed a small fish playing in a big pond.
After an impassioned plea to the townspeople to help Jane fight Malone's Eastern and Portland Railroad, George wins his public office. The town pitches in to get Jane's lobsters delivered,
on Old 97, as orders continue flowing in. Fighting back, Malone re-routes all trains, devastating Jane's valiant efforts by sending Old 97 on a wide goose chase. With public opinion against Malone mounting and his employees quitting in disgust, Malone's right hand man finally convinces him to stop this fight. Meanwhile, Hall pressures Jane for an answer to his proposal. Not in love
with him, but with George, who asked her to marry him 27 years ago when they were kids, Jane gives George an ultimatum. In a heartwarming scene on Old 97, Jane gets her answer, "Yes", George wants to marry her.
Out of coal and the train stalled, other trains cannot move either. Malone flies
in via helicopter to confront Jane in person. He succumbs and gives Jane the coal
the train needs and promises to re-route the train so that the lobsters can be
delivered on time. They take Malone along to assure that no additional "funny
business" occurs. He even shovels coal when George becomes too exhausted.
The film ends with a town celebration for George's election and a surprise gift
of a fire truck, courtesy of a now, more human, Harry Malone.
This is a charming film. Jack Lemmon is marvelous as the young lawyer who secretly loves
Doris Day. This was a magic pairing that warranted repeating with both stars saying they
would like to have worked together again. Lemmon had tremendous words of praise
for Day as an actress and she of him, calling Jack the "consummate actor". Lemmon described working with Day as "a pleasure" in his biography by Don Widener and recalled the film as "a charming picture, made when you could still do charming films."
Jack Lemon passed away from cancer on June 27, 2001.
Ernie Kovacs, in one of his rare film roles, was gruff and funny as Malone. He gained 40 lbs. for the role and plays Malone with a growling meanness that provides a playful contrast to Day's bubbling enthusiasm. He made the best of this role, but didn't get the opportunity to make many more films.
Kovacs was killed in a one-car auto crash on January 13, 1962.
This Capra-esque comedy is a quintessential Doris Day film with its sunny, nostalgic
and wholesome depiction of life in rural America. By the time of the film's release,
Day had become one of the most popular female stars in Hollywood. The virginal heroine
in many of her films, she reflected an idealized version of the American woman during
the late '50s and early '60s. And she doesn't depart from this persona in It Happened
to Jane, where she plays the perky girl-next-door whose drive for personal success is
sometimes greater than her desire to get married.
It Happened to Jane had all the ingredients for a commercial hit but it was a box
office disappointment. Its 1961 re-release as Twinkle and Shine didn't fare any better.
In the biography Doris Day: Her Own Story by A.E. Hotchner, Day recalled "it was pert
and funny, but whether it was the insipid title or something else, it just didn't make
it. However, I'm grateful to the film, for Jack and I became friends and we saw each
other socially over the ensuing years. Jack is a disarming and charming man, and a gut
actor with a natural sense of comedy - very challenging to work with." Lemmon was
equally impressed with his co-star maintaining that "It Happened to Jane was a good,
funny movie....I felt Doris and I had very good chemistry together, and I regret
that we never made another film."
Doris Day is alive and well and living in Carmel, California, with her household of pets.