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Margie and her daughter reminisce about Margie's girlhood in the roaring twenties. In flashback, Margie, a smarter, less popular girl at Central High, meets handsome new French teacher Ralph Fontayne; circumstances keep throwing them together and Margie, in company with every other girl in school, develops a crush on him. Then Margie's date for the prom gets sick, and what happens next surprises everyone.Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Mr. Cavanaugh had a long career, but rarely did he distinguish himself as in his role of the heroine's father in "Margie". His normal roles were of quiet little men, frequently henpecked or bossed about. Here he is a town businessman who rarely communicates with his daughter.
Most of the film deals with small town growing up in the roaring twenties (I notice that the writing credits state the original story is by Ruth McKinney, author of the stories that became "My Sister Eileen" which is about the misadventures of two small town girls trying to make it in New York City in the 1930s). Margie's main tribulations are which of three boy friends (one the school French teacher) she will end up with. That part of the film is justly considered charming, and Jeanne Peters, Alan Young, Conrad Janis, Frank Langan and the rest of the cast do very well here. But it is the part of Mr. Cavanaugh as the father that is the real treat.
Margie has to take part in a debate, and when she mentions this at home her father finally sees an opportunity to get closer to his daughter by helping her. So what is the subject? Should the Coolidge administration keep sending American marines to fight Sandino? Mr. Cavanaugh was expecting some simple topic, like are the old virtues the best. Instead he is forced to ask what Margie is talking about. It seems that in this film (set in 1926) President Coolidge is involved in one of a series of "police actions" that flared up between the Spanish-American War and (say) 1941 in Latin America. This one is in Nicaragua, and involves a popular local "bandit" leader Sandino who is trying to get rid of a corrupt government under a man named Somoza (the father of the Somoza most of us recall from the 1970s). Unfortunately, Somoza is close to American business interests in Nicaragua, so the Coolidge administration is sending Marines in to help catch Sandino.
Cavanaugh has no conception of the background of this, and is amazed to discover this police action is three years old. For the rest of the film whenever we see Cavanaugh he is studying old newspapers, and slowly learning the ugly side of the Monroe Doctrine. And it is riling him. Not only is this un-American imperialism (he's a bit naive there), but there have been injuries and fatalities in this illegal, undeclared war. He becomes a critic of the government policies...an outspoken critic. Finally a respected critic. At the end of the film we learn that Cavanaugh eventually became the Ambassador to Nicaragua.
Would that it could have been that simple, but I note this film is the only one I am aware of (except for the two versions of "Torrid Zone", first with Cagney and then with Reagan - and both are fictionalized versions) that tackle the story of Sandino. He was killed in a government ambush in the early 1930s, but (as we know) his cause survived him. Taken over by left wingers, who called themselves "Sandinistas", they ruled Nicaragua for a number of years in the 1980s, and even now are not out of that country's political system. This then is the only film that actually gets involved in the seed of the problem that helped lead to the "Iran Contra Affair". I cannot think of any other likable little comedy that manages to open up such a curious historical trail. And in doing so it gave Mr. Cavanaugh his big moment to shine on screen.
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