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The Petty Girl (1950)

Approved | | Biography, Comedy | September 1950 (USA)
An artist famous for his calendar portraits of beautiful women becomes fascinated by a prim and proper professor and tries to get her to pose for his arwork. She declines his offer, but he's determined not to take no for an answer.



(screenplay), (based on a story by) (as Mary Mc Carthy)
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Complete credited cast:
Mrs. Connie Manton Dezlow
Prof. Whitman


An artist famous for his calendar portraits of beautiful women becomes fascinated by a prim and proper professor and tries to get her to pose for his arwork. She declines his offer, but he's determined not to take no for an answer.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Biography | Comedy


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

September 1950 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Das skandalöse Mädchen  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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The Petty Girl
Music by Harold Arlen
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Performed by Joan Caulfield (uncredited) (dubbed by Carol Richards (uncredited)), the Petty Girls and a male quartet in the large production number at the end
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User Reviews

Strained romantic comedy with intriguing glimpses of the "Petty Girls"
18 November 2010 | by See all my reviews

The most fascinating aspect of THE PETTY GIRL (1950) for me is the use under the credits and in some early scenes of actual pin-up girl paintings by George Petty. These are pretty provocative renderings of voluptuous females showing plenty of skin while adorned in sexy outfits. The long bare legs are a dominant feature. The Petty Girl illustrations were a lot like the Vargas Girl pin-ups that were popular around the same time (and also featured in Esquire Magazine), although the Vargas girls were much sexier and flirted more blatantly with nudity. Still, the Petty Girl drawings seen in the film struck me as something that might have pushed the boundaries of the Production Code then dictating Hollywood's depiction of sexiness. I wonder if there was any battle between the censors and the studio (Columbia) over this.

The film's protagonist, George Petty (played by Robert Cummings), is supposedly based on the actual artist. At the time of this production, Petty had been drawing these girls for Esquire Magazine since 1933 and would continue to do so for another six years. The film, however, has contrived a situation where he's supported by a rich patroness who has convinced him to give up pin-up girls and stick to "highbrow" art—landscapes and portraits. We are supplied with the unlikely notion that the highbrow art is "commercial" and makes him rich, while the pin-up girls are just for fun. (Apparently, the reverse was true for the real Petty.) When Petty meets Victoria Braymore (Joan Caulfield), a female professor from a stuffy, conservative New England college who is visiting New York, she's not offended by his pin-up art at all and insists that it constitutes his "real" art and he should stick to that. She eventually models for him in a blue bathing suit and, in a truly bizarre twist, stars in a burlesque show based on his pin-ups. None of this makes any sense and the film takes a fatal turn away from the art milieu for its entire middle section when the action shifts to Braymore College and Petty follows Victoria there (she's the descendant of the college's founder) and attempts to woo her and paint her. He even takes a job as busboy in the faculty kitchen in order to be close to her. There's a long, pointless slog of a "slapstick" sequence on a sailboat that neither of them is able to successfully pilot. We're away from the New York art-and-music scene for such a long time that the film loses its bearings.

The Technicolor photography and set design are very beautiful. The songs by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer are easily forgotten. The supporting cast includes the unlikely pair of Melville Cooper and Elsa Lanchester, although both are actually pretty funny. Joan Caulfield plays Victoria and she isn't bad. She's lively, charming, and nice-looking, but she just doesn't have the pulchritude of a proper Petty Girl. Someone sexier was needed. If they'd simply altered the character enough (i.e. dropped the superfluous college connection), Marilyn Monroe would have been perfect. (Check her out in ALL ABOUT EVE that same year.) Same problem with the many young women recruited to play Petty Girls in the burlesque show (one of them being a 20-year-old Tippi Hedren). None of them look remotely like Petty pin-ups. I just wish they'd devised a more suitable comic plot around a successful pin-up artist, completely unashamed about what he does, and the complications that ensue in his love life. Interestingly, Cummings later starred in a sitcom, "The Bob Cummings Show," with just that kind of premise, only he played a cheesecake photographer, rather than an illustrator. (In the film, Petty does indeed use the word, "cheesecake" to describe his pin-up art.)

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