Gossip does not consider facts in That Hagen Girl by writer Charles Hoffman, producer Alex Gottlieb, and director Peter Godfrey. Karl Freund, David Weisbart, and Franz Waxman handle cinematography, editing, and music. Filming showcases California’s Burbank and Universal studios.
The 83-minute film adapts Edith Kneipple Roberts’ (born 1902) 1946-published, same-named novel. Its distributor was Warner Bros. Its NYC-premiere and USA-release dates were October 24 and November 1, 1947.
The movie begins with Jim (Charles Kemper) and Minta (Dorothy Peterson) adopting baby Mary (Shirley Temple) from an orphanage in Evanston, Illinois. Their return coincides with that of wealthy Trenton (Moroni Olsen) and Lorna (Barbara Brown) Gateley’s daughter. Townspeople find Grace’s (Kyle MacDonnell) and Mary’s eye and hair colors similar.
Tom Bates’ (Ronald Reagan) guardian Judge Merrivale (Harry Davenport) considers the rumors. He funds Tom’s law schooling elsewhere. He knows that Grace’s insanity -- not (non-existent) pregnancy -- provokes the couple’s break-up as boyfriend/girlfriend.
Two decades later, Tom is back in Jordan, Ohio. His guardian is dead. He meets Professor Julia Kane (Lois Maxwell) at a college dance.
Mary exits for a wardrobe malfunction. Dewey Koons (Conrad Janis) grabs Mary for a kiss. Julia keeps Mary from punishment for behavior unbecoming to a college student. Mary visits Chicago, Illinois after fellow student Sharon Bailey (Jean Porter) reveals the rumors.
Julia asks Mary to perform in “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare (1564-1616). Wealthy Ken Freneau (Rory Calhoun) asks Mary to his fraternity’s dance. Mary welcomes the change from kind friend to romantic date.
Board members (Florence Allen, Ed Russell) force Julia to have wealthy Herb (Douglas Kennedy) and Selma (Winifred Harris) Delaney’s daughter Christine (Penny Edwards) interpret Juliet. Molly (Nella Walker) forces her son to take Christine to the dance. Ken gets Christine drunk. As Christine’s substitute, Mary saves the day. She says “yes” to becoming Ken’s fiancée.
Minta dies without naming Mary’s biological parents. Mary initially disbelieves Tom’s insistence upon not being her father. Tom invites Mary on afternoon outings with him and Julia. He offers to fund Mary’s university education elsewhere. He receives the Order of Merit for wartime service in Washington, D.C. He returns to:
Christine and Ken eloping;
Dewey and 2 other students encouraging Mary to frequent a tavern;
Mary getting expelled;
The board inviting him to be graduation speaker;
Jim sharing Mary’s suicide note.
The movie ends with Tom:
Chiding the board for expelling only one of four tavern-going students;
Declining the invitation;
Finding Mary before she drowns;
Taking a train with Mary to pursue career and romance elsewhere.