William Perlberg and George Seaton somehow secured the services of Clark Gable and Doris Day for this amusing comedy with a journalistic background. The script by Fay and Michael Kanin is a clever original that remains fairly fresh, even though a number of its details have since dated. The only question we'd like to ask is, why didn't the producers make it in color?
Teacher's Pet helped establish a light-comedy formula for Doris Day: An independent working woman, often a professional, has to negotiate romance with an initially arrogant male. With Day warbling the novelty title tune under the credits we know that we're headed for a romance, even if the film starts with scenes in a newspaper office.
The film is actually more of a vehicle for Clark Gable, as we experience most of the plot events through his newspaper editor character. James Gannon is a cocky throwback to the Ben Hecht-Charles MacArthur days of fast-talking and cynical news hounds. He throws his weight around the city room like a big dog and runs his staff according to his personal prejudices. Gannon compensates for the lack of a formal education by dismissing book-learning in favor of front-line print experience, as demonstrated in his persecution of a deserving reporter who happens to have a college degree. Gannon also ignores the pleas of the mother (Vivian Nathan) of an office boy (Nick Adams) who has dropped out of school to become a newspaperman. After all, that's the way Gannon entered the trade.
That puts him in an awkward position when Erica Stone's class proves that the fundamentals of the profession can be taught, and that his brand of 'just the facts' journalism has serious limitations. Stone insists that the 'why' of a crime story is as important as the straight reportage, even though Gannon classifies all speculation and social uplift as 'soft' news. Erica reasons that newspapers are obliged to go in-depth with context and meaning because radio and television can easily provide raw facts and reportage.
All of this breaks down Gannon's arrogance, especially when Erica Stone isn't as easy a girl to corner as his present date, a flashy nightclub performer (Mamie Van Doren). Erica not only isn't shocked, she mocks Gannon's taste by imitating the singer. For a while, Gannon thinks that Erica is engaged to Dr. Hugo Pine (Gig Young), a multitalented professor and psychologist who can hold his liquor and knows many foreign languages. As it turns out, Erica is the daughter of a Pulitzer Prize-winning newsman.
Teacher's Pet is more dated than others of Day's vehicles of the time. Clark Gable overacts his comedy scenes by squirming and making uncomfortable faces in Day's class. The movie can't be blamed for having the usual '50s attitude toward liquor - Gable and Young practically drink each other under the table and Day doesn't object in the least. Young's hangover the next day is a crutch for a lot of easy comedy.
The impression given of night school will incense today's stressed-out teachers. Day's Erica Stone is an instructor, not a professor, but she has a personal secretary to answer her phones and handle her scheduling - night and day! Her students are all mature adults that don't seem to mind having their time wasted while Stone devotes all of her attention to a star pupil.
The script cleverly rescues Gannon's self-esteem at the last moment, when he discovers that although Erica's dad was a world-class editorial writer, the paper he published wasn't very good. So Stone merely shifts her father worship to a new man, Gannon of course. Gannon rewards the good work of his Phi Beta Kappa reporter and ships his office boy back to high school, realizing that there's no substitute for a well-rounded education.
Charles Lane and Frank Albertson are fixtures in Gable's newsroom, which is also packed with a number of Hollywood columnists and publicists: Army Archerd, James Bacon, Joe Hyams, Erskine Johnson, Sidney Skolsky. "Phi Beta Kappa" man Peter Baldwin eventually became a prolific television director, but not before a stint in foreign films, most notably Riccardo Freda's The Ghost. Marion Ross of TV's Happy Days is also in for a brief scene. Gig Young was nominated for an Oscar for his hyper-talented professor role.
Paramount's DVD of Teacher's Pet looks as sharp as a tack in enhanced B&W. It's a VistaVision film and the added detail shows. The soundtrack is also clear, even though it doesn't improve Mamie Van Doren's singing. There are no extras; the package text affects a 'newspaper' theme.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Teacher's Pet rates: