The Shocking Miss Pilgrim

The Shocking Miss Pilgrim is a 1947 American musical comedy film in Technicolor written and directed by George Seaton, and starring Betty Grable and Dick Haymes.

The Shocking Miss Pilgrim
Original poster
Directed byGeorge Seaton
Produced byWilliam Perlberg
Written byGeorge Seaton
Based ona story
by Ernest Maas and Frederica Sagor
StarringBetty Grable
Dick Haymes
Music byAlfred Newman
David Raksin
CinematographyLeon Shamroy
Edited byRobert L. Simpson
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • January 4, 1947 (1947-01-04)
Running time
85 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2,250,000 (US rentals)[1]

The screenplay, based on a story by Frederica Sagor Maas and Ernest Maas, focuses on a young typist who becomes involved in the Women's Suffrage movement in 1874. The songs were composed by George and Ira Gershwin. Marilyn Monroe made her film debut as an uncredited voice as a telephone operator.


Cynthia Pilgrim (Betty Grable) is the top typewriting (Typewriter) student of the first graduating class of the Packard Business College in New York City, and as such she is offered a position with the Pritchard Shipping Company in Boston. There, she finds an office of men overseen by office manager Mr. Saxon (Gene Lockhart). When Cynthia introduces herself to company co-owner John Pritchard (Dick Haymes), he tells her he thought all expert typists were male and his policy is to hire only men. Cynthia asks for an opportunity to prove she's as efficient as her male counterparts, but John refuses and offers her train fare back to New York.

John's Aunt Alice (Anne Revere), an avowed suffragette, has the controlling interest in the company and insists that Cynthia be given a chance. Cynthia finds lodgings at Catherine Dennison's (Elizabeth Patterson) boarding house, where she meets an eclectic group of tenants, including poet Leander Woolsey (Allyn Joslyn), artist Michael Michael (Arthur Shields), and musician Herbert Jothan (Charles Kemper).

John invites Cynthia to dinner but she prefers not to socialize with her employer. She does allow him to escort her to one of his aunt's rallies, where she impresses the other women, despite John Pritchard standing up from the audience and asking her some awkward questions about management and labor getting closer together. When John's mother asks her to dine with them on the evening of the Regimental Ball, Cynthia feels she won't fit in with the woman's social circle, so her rooming house companions coach her on how to behave unpleasantly, thinking the mother would be a snob. Cynthia is delighted to discover their efforts were unnecessary, because Mrs. Pritchard proves to be down-to-earth and a supporter of Cynthia's desire to be treated equally in the workplace.

John begins to date Cynthia, and eventually they become engaged. He tries to persuade her to give up her involvement in the suffrage movement, but she insists she cannot abandon such a worthy cause. They break their engagement and she is fired from her job, but none of the people hired by Mr. Saxon to replace her please Mr. Pritchard. He and John go, in desperation, to a local school to find yet another candidate for the position. There, John discovers that its general manager is Cynthia, and the two are reunited in business as well as in love.



In 1941, husband-and-wife screenwriting team Ernest Maas and Frederica Sagor collaborated on Miss Pilgrim's Progress, a story about a young woman who enters the business world by demonstrating the newly invented typewriter in the window of a Wall Street establishment. When she tries to fend off the unwanted advances of one of the firm's clerks, her employer comes to her rescue but is killed when he falls down the stairs in the ensuing altercation. Abigail Pilgrim becomes the focus of a murder trial that attracts widespread coverage by the media and the attention of Susan B. Anthony when the concept of women working in offices comes under fire.[2]

Acting as their agent, Paul Kohner brought the story to several studios. RKO and MGM expressed some interest, but both eventually passed. 20th Century Fox finally purchased the screen rights, but the outline remained filed away until Darryl F. Zanuck, searching for material for Betty Grable, remembered it and decided to tailor it to his leading lady's talents. After it underwent several rewrites, Zanuck assigned the task of whipping the screenplay into shooting shape to George Seaton, who would also direct. Working with Kay Swift, Ira Gershwin sorted through songs he and his brother George had written but never used and selected eleven for the film's musical numbers. Frederica Sagor was unhappy with the tunes and later observed, "Not even if they had scraped the very bottom of the barrel could they have come up with something so unmelodious." Displeased with the treatment her and her husband's original story was given, she called the end result "another stupid boy-meets-girl Zanuck travesty." [3]

Song list

  • Sweet Packard
  • Changing My Tune
    • Music by George Gershwin
    • Lyrics by Ira Gershwin
    • Performed by Betty Grable
  • Stand Up and Fight
    • Music by George Gershwin
    • Lyrics by Ira Gershwin
    • Performed by Anne Revere, Betty Grable, Dick Haymes and ensemble
  • Aren't You Kinda Glad We Did?
    • Music by George Gershwin
    • Lyrics by Ira Gershwin
    • Performed by Dick Haymes and Betty Grable
  • The Back Bay Polka
    • Music by George Gershwin
    • Lyrics by Ira Gershwin
    • Performed by Allyn Joslyn, Charles Kemper, Elizabeth Patterson, Lillian Bronson

Arthur Shields and Betty Grable

  • One, Two, Three
    • Music by George Gershwin
    • Lyrics by Ira Gershwin
    • Performed by Dick Haymes and ensemble
    • Danced by Betty Grable and Dick Haymes
  • Waltzing is Better Sitting Down
    • Music by George Gershwin
    • Lyrics by Ira Gershwin
    • Performed by Dick Haymes and Betty Grable
  • Demon Rum
    • Music by George Gershwin
    • Lyrics by Ira Gershwin
    • Performed by ensemble
  • For You, For Me, For Evermore
    • Music by George Gershwin
    • Lyrics by Ira Gershwin
    • Performed by Dick Haymes and Betty Grable

Critical reception

Bosley Crowther of The New York Times felt in a few of the songs "a certain exuberance is momentarily achieved," but he thought "the bulk of the music is as sticky as toothpaste being squeezed out of a tube." He added, "Miss Grable and Mr. Haymes are neither given nor deserve a script if the caliber of their performances is a valid criterion, and several other minor actors behave ridiculously in silly roles. There is no more voltage in The Shocking Miss Pilgrim than in a badly used dry cell."[4]


  1. "Top Grossers of 1947", Variety, 7 January 1948 p. 63
  2. Maas, Frederica Sagor, The Shocking Miss Pilgrim: A Writer in Early Hollywood. University Press of Kentucky 1999. ISBN 0-8131-2122-1, pp. 232-234
  3. The Shocking Miss Pilgrim, pp. 235-238
  4. The New York Times review
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