Teacher’s Pet (1959)

Toronto Film Society presented Teacher’s Pet (1959) on Sunday, November 14, 1982 in a double bill with Lucy Gallant as part of the Season 35 Sunday Afternoon Film Buffs Series “A”, Programme 2.

Production Company: Paramount.  Producer: William Perlberg.  Director: George Seaton.  Screenplay: Fay and Michael Kanin.  Photography: Haskell Boggs, with process photography by Farciot Edouart.  Art Directors: Hal Pereira and Earl Hedrick.  Musical Score: Roy Webb.  Editor: Alma Macrorie.

Cast: Clark Gable (James Gannon), Doris Day (Erica Stone), Gig Young (Dr. Hugo Pine), Mamie Van Doren (Peggy De Fore), Nick Adams (Barey Kovac), Peter Baldwin (Harold Miller), Charles Lane (Roy), Harry Antrim (Lloyd Crowley), Florenz Ames (Colonel Ballentine), Vivian Nathan (Mrs. Kovac), Marion Ross (Katy Fuller), Jack Albertson (Guide).

Today two features are both stories of career women, and share the same art director at Paramount, Hal Pereira.  With that, the similarities cease.  For Teacher’s Pet is a wittily scripted comedy, whereas Lucy Gallant is an effective if somewhat hybrid romantic melodrama.

The career woman of Teacher’s Pet is journalism instructor Doris Day, confronted by a reluctant and critical student, the seasoned newspaperman Clark Gable.  Galbe looks as though he has aged a century since leaving his earlier newsroom in It Happened One Night.  As for Doris Day, her own personal career transition from musical star (Love Me or Leave Me) to professional virgin (Pillow Tak), is marked by the fact that her warbling is limited to the title song over the credits.  Mamie Van Doren, however, of the then fashionable Jayne Mansfield aura and proportions, does play a singer (Her virginity is not up for discussion).  Gig Young, whose hangover scene is memorable, deservedly won an Oscar nomination for his performance as “the other man,” but had to wait until 1969 for the award itself for his work in Sydney Pollack’s They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?  Along with these leads, central casting stacked the newsroom with honest-to-goodness newsfolk, in the interests of authenticity.

Pet‘s director, Geroge Seaton, had been a scriptwriter of films like The Song of Bernadette before taking up the megaphone.  He came to believe that the director who found himself directing his own original script was in an enviable position, in total control of artistic creation.  An article that Seaton wrote in 1947 on this subject pre-dates the famous auteur theory by a good six years, and thus places the director of such its as Miracle on 34th Street (1947), The Country Girl (1954) and Airport (1969) among the avant-garde thinkers on what he called the “film author.”  Pet‘s script was not by Seaton himself; nonetheless, a close viewing of the film discloses the respect with which he handled the excellent material he was filming.  In his lifetime, Seaton’s own career never quite reached the heights of other writer-directors like Joseph L. Mankiewicz or Billy Wilder, but films like Teacher’s Pet contribute to his honourable place in film history.

Notes by Cam Tolton

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