Cast & Crew
In 1874, at the Packard Business College in New York, Cynthia Pilgrim is the top student of the first graduating class of "typewriters." The Remington Co., maker of the new typewriting machines, has promised each graduate a job, and lots are drawn for the positions. Cynthia lands a job in Boston with the Pritchard Shipping Co. Upon arriving there, she encounters an office filled with men, tobacco smoke and a particularly unwelcoming office manager, Mr. Saxon. When Cynthia introduces herself to the young co-owner of the company, John Pritchard, he tells her that he was under the impression that all expert "type writers" were men and it is his policy to hire only men. Cynthia tells him that he is very old-fashioned, and that she wants an opportunity to prove that women are just as efficient as men. John is unwavering in his resolve and offers Cynthia her return fare to New York. As Cynthia complains to Mr. Saxon, Alice, John's aunt, arrives in the office and becomes involved in the situation. An ardent suffragette, Alice has controlling interest in the company and insists to John that Cynthia be given a chance. Cynthia starts work and soon charms the male clerks. After being rebuffed by two snobbish landladies, Cynthia finally finds lodging at Catherine Dennison's house, where she joins an eclectic group of "outcasts" who despise Boston and its mores. Her companions include Leander Woolsey, a poet; Michael Michael, a painter; Herbert Jothan, a musician; and Viola Simmons, a lady who is rewriting the dictionary to assign new meanings to words. Aunt Alice invites Cynthia to attend a suffragette meeting, but Cynthia considers that the wrong approach; she became a typist to show that women can do men's work, and believes that if equality can be achieved in various fields, suffrage will be a natural conclusion. Alice feels that Cynthia is just what the movement needs. John, on the other hand, still thinks that a woman's place is at home. John invites Cynthia to dinner but, remembering her business college training, she declines to socialize with her employer. John does, however, escort her to one of Alice's rallies, where she is an immediate hit. Later, she does permit John to take her to supper at the Parker House. A few days pass and Cynthia receives a letter from John's mother inviting her to dine with them on the evening of a Regimental Ball. Cynthia feels that Mrs. Pritchard and her social circle will probably be terrible snobs. Her rooming house companions then give her some coaching on how to "behave" and she practices the delivery of insulting remarks. However, John's socialite mother turns out to be not at all snobbish, admires Cynthia and encourages her to keep working. Mrs. Pritchard has even bought a typewriting machine. She tells John he would be an idiot to lose Cynthia but he informs her that he has competition, the Boston Chapter of the New England Womens' Suffrage League. The courtship continues, however, and John and Cynthia become engaged. Later, when he objects to her continued involvement in the suffrage movement, Cynthia says that in the past three months, she has persuaded over four hundred women to go out to work, and insists that she cannot suddenly abandon the cause. John and Cynthia break their engagement and she is replaced in the office by, in rapid succession, three male and three female typists from a new school in Boston. Even grumpy Mr. Saxon admits to missing Cynthia and wants John to accompany him to the school to select yet another candidate. When John is asked by a school official if he has any objection to employing a married woman, he replies that he has come to the conclusion that women are perfectly entitled to work if they want to. Becoming suspicious of the nature of the school's requirements for employers, John goes to see its general manager, who turns out to be none other than Cynthia. Finally, they are reunited in business as well as love.
Hal K. Dawson
Countess Elektra Rosanska
Karen X. Gaylord
Saul Z. Martell
Walter "spec" O'donnell
Maurice De Packh
Frances C. Richardson
John M. Stahl
Miss Kay Swift
Darryl F. Zanuck
The Shocking Miss Pilgrim
Don't mistake this for a hard-hitting proto-feminist tract. The picture is based on a screenplay by longtime scriptwriter Frederica Sagor Maas and her husband Ernest Maas about a pioneering young typist embroiled in a murder trial that attracts the attention of famed real-life activist Susan B. Anthony. Shopped around to a few studios and eventually bought by 20th Century-Fox, it languished for a few years until studio head Darryl F. Zanuck thought of turning it into a Grable vehicle. After several rewrites and the addition of eleven previously unpublished songs by George and Ira Gershwin, the result was what Sagor Maas, in her 1999 autobiography, called "another stupid boy-meets-girl Zanuck travesty."
Grable fans didn't seem to mind, and even though the film was not one of her biggest hits (because of her darker blonde hair and failure to show her legs, in the studio's opinion), it didn't keep her from being noted by the U.S. Treasury Department in 1947 as the highest-paid star in Hollywood, earning as much as $300,000 a year.
George Seaton, who adapted the screenplay, was assigned to direct but had to take time off for an illness. John M. Stahl, one of Fox's top directors at the time, filled in for a time in early December 1945 until Seaton could return. In January 1946, the Hollywood Reporter announced that Edmund Goulding would complete the picture after Seaton went back in the hospital with an abscessed lung, the result of working too soon after having pneumonia.
Cast member Porter Hall likewise had to be replaced when he suffered injuries in a car accident. Gene Lockhart took over his role.
Frederica Sagor Maas, who began her credited Hollywood career with the Clara Bow film The Plastic Age (1925), later named her autobiography for this production: The Shocking Miss Pilgrim: A Writer in Early Hollywood," published when she was 99.
According to several reports, this was Marilyn Monroe's first screen job, supplying a voice (likely cut from the final print) of a telephone operator. Grable and Monroe would eventually co-star in How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) when Grable's movie career was drawing to a close just as Monroe's was on the ascendant. By many accounts, Grable was kind and gracious to her young co-star, and one Hollywood legend has it that she gave Monroe her blessing to walk away with the picture with the encouragement, "Honey, I've had mine. Go get yours."
Grable's leading man here is Dick Haymes, an Argentine-born talent who became one of America's most popular singers. He had once been the featured vocalist for Harry James, the bandleader to whom Grable was married at the time. Haymes was offered a contract by Fox in 1945 following success with a Decca recording contract and his own radio show. This was his second picture with Grable. One of his biggest hits of the 1940s was a song from this film, "For You, For Me, Forevermore," a duet he sang in the movie with his leading lady. But when Decca decided to record three of the songs from The Shocking Miss Pilgrim, they released them with Haymes and Judy Garland instead of Betty Grable.
Director: George Seaton
Producer: William Perlberg
Screenplay: George Seaton, from a story by Frederica Sagor Maas and Ernest Maas
Cinematography: Leon Shamroy
Editing: Robert Simpson
Art Direction: James Basevi, Boris Leven
Music: David Raksin (uncredited), songs by George and Ira Gershwin
Cast: Betty Grable (Cynthia Pilgrim), Dick Haymes (John Pritchard), Anne Revere (Alice Pritchard), Allyn Joslyn (Leander Woolsey), Gene Lockhart (Saxon)
By Rob Nixon
The Shocking Miss Pilgrim
According to documents in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department and the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, the studio purchased the rights to "Miss Pilgrim's Progress," an unpublished, uncopyrighted story by Ernest and Frederica Maas, in October 1939 for $8,000. Several screenwriters worked on the project from 1940 on, the first of whom were Robert Ellis and Helen Logan. Subsequent writing teams included Darrell Ware and Karl Tunberg, as well as Samuel Hoffenstein and Betty Reinhardt. The extent of their contributions to the produced film has not been determined. Late in 1945, George Seaton wrote the version eventually produced.
For the film's songs, Ira Gershwin put lyrics to unpublished melodies written by his brother George, who had died in 1937. "But Not in Boston" was published as "The Back Bay Polka." A "Tour of the Town" number was recorded and filmed by Dick Haymes and Betty Grable, but was dropped. A "Welcome Song," to be performed by Haymes and the clerks on Grable's arrival, was not used. The same situation appears to pertain to the song "Demon Rum." The Packard Business College of New York was an actual school that was well known in the 1870s and still existed in 1946 as The Packard School. Fox secured cooperation from them as well as from the Remington Museum, which supplied antique typewriters. Hollywood Reporter Production Charts list Coleen Gray, Margaret Bannerman and Susan Blanchard in the cast, but they are not in the completed film. Studio records also list Nina Gilbert, Robert Malcolm and Jane Nigh as playing Grable's parents and sister, respectively, but their sequence was cut before the film's release. Gene Lockhart replaced Porter Hall, who was injured in an auto accident. In early December 1945, John Stahl filled in for director George Seaton, who had a severe cold. According to a January 3, 1946 Hollywood Reporter news item, Edmund Goulding was assigned to complete the film after Seaton had to return to the hospital with an abscessed lung, the result of having returned to work too soon after a bout of pneumonia.