Doris Day is all good as Jane Osgood
On face value "It Happened to Jane" looks like just another one of those Doris Day movies where she is paired up with an adequately handsome and charming male lead and then a mix of fun and romance ensues. But where as the likes of "Pillow Talk" and "Lover Come Back" had a good romantic streak, "It Happened to Jane" is more of a comedy and a surprisingly good one thanks to both Doris Day and Jack Lemmon on fine form when it comes to having fun.
Living in Cape Anne, Maine Jane Osgood (Doris Day - Teacher's Pet) is a widow who is not only bringing up her two children alone but also running her own lobster business. But when one of her shipments is ruined in transit by Eastern & Portland Railroad, Jane with the help of her friend and lawyer George Denham (Jack Lemmon - Some like it Hot) decide to take on the owner of the Railroad company Harry Foster Malone (Ernie Kovacs) in court. Her battle with the scrooge like Malone becomes public knowledge and turns into a battle of wills with neither wanting to back down. At the same time New York reporter Larry Hall (Steve Forrest) shows up in Cape Anne to cover the remarkable story and falls for the charming Jane much to the annoyance of George who has loved her ever since their childhood.
In the scope of Doris Day movies "It Happened to Jane" fits into the category where the delightful Doris Day plays the strong minded character who stands up for what she believes. It's something Doris Day did on more than a few occasions but watching her fight the injustice of the rail road owner provides for plenty of laughs and with the combined element of her inspiring her friend and lawyer, who she also fancies, into making a stand adds that expected romantic story line. As such "It Happened to Jane" is a very routine romantic comedy with no surprises coming from a storyline which you know will end in a happy ever after manner. And frankly you expect nothing else because it's a feel good, fun movie which will make you smile and laugh on more than the odd occasion.
But whilst "It Happened to Jane" is fun, it's hard to ignore how dull the actual storyline is. There is nothing to surprise you and as movies go it's as close to paint by numbers as they come. Maybe I am being a bit harsh, but just a little bit of imagination, a bit of variation in things would have made it far more memorable as a story instead of just being an entertaining Doris Day movie. As such it is a movie which you remember for a few scenes, such as the bordering on the cheesy "Be Prepared" sing-a-long lead by Doris Day and Jack Lemmon with the boy scouts, the big speech by George Denham as he rallies the town's folk and as such the way the town's folk make Jane feel bad when they realise they have been cut off from everywhere due to her stand for justice.
With the storyline being for the most routine it is the performances of Doris Day and Jack Lemmon which bring "It Happened to Jane" to life. Doris Day is reliable as ever playing the cute, homely mother of two with a smile which lights up a room yet when she stands up for her rights you get the strong willed character whose face pulling just makes you laugh as she sulks and looks indignant. It's the sort of thing you see in a lot of Doris Day movies but she is so good and lovable when she does it that it doesn't matter if you've seen it all before because it's so enjoyable. And accompanying Doris Day is Jack Lemmon who is equally good when it comes to the comedy side of things making "It Happened to Jane" almost a laugh a minute movie. Which is a good thing because the romantic side of things is a little weak with there being no real romantic spark between Day and Lemmon.
Aside from Doris Day and Jack Lemmon there are of course some entertaining supporting performances most notably from Ernie Kovacs as the villainous operator of the train company Harry Foster Malone whose love of trains extends to having a sleeping quarter in his office decked out as in a train carriage. Plus Mary Wickes crops up in a small, funny role as Matilda Runyon.
What this all boils down to is that "It Happened to Jane" is another very pleasant and entertaining Doris Day movie. The storyline may be predictable and the romantic side of things a little dull but the comedy of Doris Day and Jack Lemmon makes it all work and worth watching.