Jenny Kissed Me

Jenny kissed me when we met,

Jumping from the chair she sat in;

Time, you thief, who love to get

Sweets into your list, put that in!

Say I’m weary, say I’m sad,

Say that health and wealth have missed me,

Say I’m growing old, but add —

Jenny kissed me.

Not long ago, I mentioned this poem by Leigh Hunt to a good friend of mine. I’ve always loved it (for reasons that may be obvious) and I don’t find it palls. A couple of weeks later, I found a play by Jean Kerr in my mailbox, titled Jenny Kissed Me.

The play revolves around Father Moynihan, a temperamental Catholic priest who has little use for women of any age. When his housekeeper, Mrs. Deazy, wants to bring her 18-year-old niece, Jenny, to stay for a month, Father Moynihan resists the idea: he doesn’t want any “jazzy flapper” bringing her “gin-mad,” lipsticked, “hep” ways into his house, saints preserve us. It wouldn’t be fitting. When Jenny turns out to be a thoughtful, gentle, straightforward girl (and terminally un”hep”), Father Moynihan still can’t bear her presence. His thirtysomething friend Michael spends too much time talking to her and playing chess with her, for one thing. What should he do but marry her off to one of the young university men in town? So this middle-aged Catholic priest commences a makeover. A gentle romance (unbeknownst to Father Moynihan) runs through the play, and the resolution of the romance is the lovely solution to all the play’s interactions.

Oh, this is a charming play. It isn’t deep or unpredictable or full of bitter conclusions about life’s emptiness, or whatever. It’s just a sweet story about a priest who has avoided women for so long he thinks he knows everything about them, and a girl who is so… so eighteen that she actually does know what she needs and wants. The only person in the play who isn’t sure of his own mind is the 34-year-old, Michael, and that’s reasonably true to life. It’s funny and gentle, and has some thoughts to share about why we want others to change, and why we change ourselves. And, of course, it has the most charming title going.

I think this play would be great fun to act, if you were doing community theatre or a school play or something like that. (I read an “acting edition” of the play and got stage directions, so I could imagine it very clearly.) The language is a trifle old-fashioned, but I think kids would enjoy both acting in it and watching it. I certainly enjoyed reading it.

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13 Responses to Jenny Kissed Me

  1. jennymcphee says:

    Thanks for this Jenny. Of course, “Jenny Kissed Me” is a favorite of mine as well. I first learned of it when I was 13 years old. I wrote a fan letter to Gene Kelly whom I adored and he wrote me back with a signed picture of himself and a typed letter telling me he’d once had a crush on a girl named Jenny and that he had “impressed her greatly by quoting this poem by Leigh Hunt:” and he typed out the poem for me. Needless to say, I nearly swooned.

    • Jenny says:

      That is, hands down, the best celebrity story I’ve heard. I would never, never have… I don’t know… washed the hand I opened the letter with? That’s completely wonderful, and only confirms my impression that Gene Kelly was a lovely person. Thank you so much for this!

  2. Deb says:

    What a charming poem–don’t think I’ve ever read it before.

    Jean Kerr also wrote, among other things, “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies,” which was both a movie and later a TV show starring Doris Day.

    • Jenny says:

      I haven’t seen (though of course have heard of) “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies,” which is a favorite of the friend of mine who sent the play.

  3. Emily says:

    This sounds delightful! And love the poem. And Jenny McPhee’s amazing Gene Kelly story about the poem! Swoon, indeed.

  4. Kathleen says:

    This sounds like a wonderful read. I’m off to Google to see if there is a poem with my name in it too!

  5. Jenny says:

    Ha, I appreciate that poem for no other than the obvious reasons. :p But the play sounds charming! There are tons of good songs about people called Jenny, but a depressing dearth of good characters called Jenny. They’re all bit parts, good-hearted maids and things.

  6. Beverly Haze says:

    I had put this play into my memory bank for fifty years until I was discussing with my grandson who was performing in a high school play. It all came back to me as I told him that many years ago I had the lead in the play “Jenny Kissed Me”. I had to google it for information. This was good memories.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I attended a performance of the play, “Jenny Kissed Me,” with Leo G. Carroll in the starring role but it wasn’t on Broadway. The performance took place at Loras College in Dubuque. Iowa. I can only guess at the year, which would have been in the early 1950’s. Carroll was a personal friend to Father Karl Schroeder who directed the plays at Loras College. The rest of the cast were non professionals. Actor Robert Kaliban was a student at Loras College. Whether he was in that production I can’t say. I was perhaps 10 or 11 years old at the time. The name, Jean Kerr, meant nothing to me then. Only years later did I learn that she was the author and that the play had a short run on Broadway. It was wonderful.

    Eugene F. Hanten

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