The Mating Game (1959) stars Debbie Reynolds, Tony Randall, and Paul Douglas, directed by George Marshall.
The film focuses on the story of the Larkin family who makes their living trading, a refrigerator for an electric organ, a plow for a mower etc. They own a small farm in Maryland that has been in the family for four generations. Even as the rest of the land around them has been sold to the rich and wealthy, they have kept their piece of heaven.
After the Larkins “borrow” his prized boar to breed their sow, their neighbor finally has enough of their antics. Pulling a few strings, he puts the IRS on them. It happens that the family has never paid taxes, or even filed a tax return. As dutiful IRS agents, they cannot allow this under their watch, and they send a top notch, uptight, agent, Lorenzo Charlton (Tony Randall), to investigate further.
Upon meeting Charlton, Ma and Pa Larkin decide he is just the kind of educated individual they want their eldest daughter marrying. The daughter, Mariette (Debbie Reynolds) also takes a shine to the government agent. The ensuing story is a humorous romp about love, family, and community.
In this film we can find nuggets of The American Dream, ideas worth pointing out and considering.
The Golden Rule
Frequently through the film, Pa Larkin says, “Do unto others and they’ll do unto you.” Though this is an alteration of the commonly known golden rule, it is still relevant. They believe that if they act neighborly to others, treating them with the proper respect and helping when they can, others will do the same for them.
Towards the end of the film, when it appears the Larkin farm will be seized by the IRS, all the neighbors and church members come to the Larkin farm offering to purchase various pieces of junk at outrageously high prices. They hope to give Pa Larkin enough money to keep the IRS from taking the farm. Pa turns them down, but not before thanking them for their good intentions, saying that he doesn’t think he’ll ever know people as generous as them.
Community is one of those things we don’t see as often anymore. Long ago, relationships with your neighbors were common. In the past, we could walk through a town and say hi to everyone and possibly even have a conversation. Now, we walk down the street as quickly as possible, keeping our eyes fixed forwards ignoring everyone else. Neighbors have become people we politely nod at while walking from the car to the house.
In the movie, we see community in its best light. The people of the town rally around the Larkin family to help them when they need it most. This is without any kind of compulsion by government or civic organizations. It is out of the goodness of their own hearts they voluntarily offer to help a friend in need.
The film ends much as you would expect it to. Discovering that the army had taken horses from the Larkin family during the civil war, Mariette and Charlton use the unpaid procurement order (and compounded interest), to clear all past and future taxes.
This movie is fun for the whole family, with little reminders, here and there, of a place we rarely see, in a time we rarely remember.
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