That Hagen Girl: The Shirley Temple–Ronald Reagan Movie With The Eww-Factor Ending


That Hagen Girl. (Warner Bros.)

As child actress Shirley Temple progressed through her teenage years, she was no longer believable as a precocious dancing tot, but transitioning to grown-up movie roles is always a rocky road for a child star. That was as true for Temple as anyone, most noticeably when the 17-year-old was cast opposite a much older Ronald Reagan in 1947's That Hagen Girl.

That Hagen Girl. (Warner Bros.)

That Hagen Girl

That Hagen Girl is the story of 17-year-old Mary Hagen's questionable parentage, believed by small-town busybodies to be Grace, the institutionalized daughter of the town's wealthiest family, and Tom Bates, a handsome young man who conveniently left town to attend law school. Mary is a high school senior when Tom Bates returns to town and provides fresh fodder for the rumor mill, especially after he takes a fatherly interest in Mary while wooing her teacher. For much of the film, the audience is led to believe that Tom is Mary's father, but in a somewhat icky surprise twist, we find out that he is, in fact, in love with Mary. In the end, the teenager and her quasi-father figure run away to elope.

That Hagen Girl. (Warner Bros.)

A Flop With Critics

Overall, critics gave That Hagen Girl a thumbs down. There are understandably no sparks between the leads, and audiences and critics alike found the twist pretty gross. Quite possibly, Reagan felt the same way. The New York Times noted that Reagan looked like he was doing "the silliest job of his career," and Reagan himself said that this was his least favorite project, though Temple believed her portrayal of Mary Hagen was her best post-pubescent performance. Even so, one critic wrote that he wished Temple's character had succeeded in her suicide attempt, and almost all prints of the film mysteriously disappeared as Reagan's political star began to rise, only to resurface long after he left office.