In fact, the film's working title was "Old 97 Goes to Market," a play on two Capra vehicles - "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" (1936) and "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (1939), movies of staunch Americana that "Jane" successfully emulates. While Capra was restricted largely to backlot filmmaking, Quine brought his story of a small-town lobster farmer and her first selectman-boyfriend into the open air of New England (Chester, Connecticut standing in for the fictional Cape Ann, Maine) and with a few vivid vérité touches.
“Don’t be silly!”
Uncle Otis (to George): “More steam!”
It's been rumored, falsely, that Harry Foster Malone, the monied villain played by Ernie Kovacs in “It Happened to Jane,," was modeled after Charles Foster Kane in Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane" (1941).
It's an easy assumption to make. While the character's middle name, Foster, was probably borrowed from Welles, the name Harry itself actually comes from ... Harry Cohn, the legendary head of Columbia Pictures, which produced and released "It Happened to Jane."
True, the name Foster seems to be a dead giveaway but it's also a distraction. While we were working on a book together, Jack Lemmon told me that Kovacs' Harry Foster Malone was based directly on Cohn, who died while Lemmon, Kovacs and Quine were making "Bell, Book and Candle" the year before. Kovacs affected Cohn's look for his wicked impersonation by donning a bald plate for the film and gaining 40 pounds.
He also appropriated Cohn's infamously foul-tempered, autocractic and abrasive personality for the role. There's really nothing of Charles Foster Kane in Kovacs' movie-stealing performance.
Did he get the joke? No problem. Cohn, as noted, died on February 27, 1958, during the filming of "Bell, Book and Candle"; "It Happened to Jane" went into production June 2, 1958 and ended shooting July 31 of that year.
Nevertheless, the Kovacs-Welles rumor has persisted, supported surprisingly by Turner Movie Classics which is usually never less than fastidious in its research. I watch "Jane" whenever Turner airs it - I love the film - and in the introductions to the movie by Ben Mankiewicz, the source of Kovacs' performance is invariably misidentified.
I've no idea when it morphed into a Doris Day vehicle but both Quine and Lemmon were eager to work with her.
The film would go through more title changes - "Miss Casey Adams" and "As Jane Goes (As Maine Goes)"- before the studio settled on "It Happened to Jane." No one involved in the film particularly liked that moniker but it lent itself to a terrific, catchy title song by Joe Lubin (who worked often with Doris Day) and Irvin J. Roth (aka, Adam Ross), sung by Day over the main credits.
The movie was in post-production when the studio came up with yet another title, "That Jane from Maine," and had the composers rewrite "It Happened to Jane," changing the lyric but retaining the music. (That version of the song remained unreleased until it popped up on a Day album and subsequent CD; it can currently be heard on the CD, "Golden Girl.") But there was a problem: While "That Jane from Maine" was a better title, "It Happened to Jane" was the better song. So back to the original.
At least,I think that's the song/title chronology. It's madding.
In the meantime, Columbia had commissioned Marvin H. Albert to write a novelization of Norman Katkov and Max Wilk's script. The book was printed and ready to go under the title "That Jane from Maine" - it was too late to change - while the film went into theaters as "It Happened to Jane."
There were some theaters which sold copies of the softback novelization at their concession stands, certainly confusing their patrons.
"It Happened to Jane" was a good film that came at the wrong time for everyone concerned - its two stars, the public and the critics, who hastily dismissed it. Both Lemmon and Day were at the crossroads in their respective careers and "Jane," released in June of 1959, just didn't seem to fit in. Lemmon had a personal triumph three months earlier in March in Billy Wilder's "Some Like It Hot" (which was actually shot after "Jane") and Day was poised to reveal a major makeover with the October release of Michael Gordon's "Pillow Talk." Both were frank, sexed-up films.
By comparison, "It Happened to Jane" seemed a tad old-fashioned.
And a little square.
It would take"It Happened to Jane" several decades before it was recognized as the smart, alert farce that it is or before its undervalued maker, Richard Quine, would be appreciated as an auteur.
I may be a majority of one but it's my opinion that the train sequence showcased at the start of this essay is as good as anything that Billy Wilder gave Lemmon to do in "Some Like It Hot" or "The Apartment," or that Day got to do in "Pillow Talk" and her subsequent modern comedies.
Note in Passing: The location shooting of "It Happened to Jane in Chester was so pleasant and memorable that co-star Casey Adams (aka, Max Showalter), 1917-2000, purchased an 18th-century farmhouse and settled there, becoming involved in the local theater in his later years.
~Publicity shot of Ernie Kovacs as Harry Foster Malone
~Cover for Marvin H. Albert novelization of the film's screenplay, then titled "That Jane from Maine"
~14x22 window card for the film's re-release under the title "Twinkle and Shine"
~Publicity shot of Casey Adams (aka Max Showalter)
~End credit for "It Happened to Jane"
~photography: Columbia 1959©