Posts Tagged ‘ginger rogers’

Vivacious Lady stars a young James Stewart as botany professor Peter Morgan and Ginger Rogers as the title character – a nightclub singer named Francey. When Peter and Francey meet, it’s love and first sight and they impulsively get married. However, Peter is then faced with the prospect of telling his conservative parents – not to mention his fiancee Helen! – what he has done. Lots of comedy ensues as he struggles to find the right time, and the couple have to hide their romance.

This film is a sparkling delight from start to finish. James Stewart is just so bloody likeable and sincere in everything he ever did, and Ginger Rogers had perfect comic timing, which made her shine in a hilarious fight scene. Not that she has the monopoly on physical comedy in this film – Stewart’s character getting drunk is terrific (he does a splendid drunken scene two years later in The Philadelphia Story) and there is a wonderful dance scene with Rogers, James Ellison as Peter’s cousin Frank, and Beulah Bondi as Peter’s mother Martha.

With Charles Coburn playing Peter’s father, who takes an instant dislike to Francey, and great turns from Frances Mercer as Helen, this is a great cast who all seem to be enjoying themselves. And this certainly translates to the viewer, because I can’t imagine anyone finishing this film without a smile on their face.

In short, this is called a classic for a very valid reason. If you like films from this genre, then don’t miss this one!

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In this 1938 comedy, James Stewart plays Peter Morgan, a college professor.  While on a trip to New York City, he meets nightclub singer/dancer Francey  Brent (Ginger Rogers), and after a whirlwind romance, they get married.  But when he takes her home to meet his family, he finds it difficult to tell his very conservative parents about his wedding…

What a gem of a film this turned out to be.  Stewart and Rogers were both extremely funny and likeable as the mis-matched but devoted couple, and as one thing after another conspired to keep them apart, the laughs kept coming.  An excellent supporting cast – especially Beulah Bondi as Peter’s mother, and James Ellison as his cousin Keith – who has also fallen for Francey – further enhanced the film.

It is a mixture of screwball comedy and romance, and both aspects balance each other out nicely.  It is a very light-hearted film, and I defy anyone not to laugh during it, and not to have a broad smile on their face at the end of it.

Vivacious Lady is not the most famous film featuring either Stewart or Rogers, but it does deserve to be better known.  The cliche ‘they don’t make ’em like that anymore’ is certainly true here.  Sadly, this film doesn’t seem to come on television very often, so if you do see it in programme listings, don’t miss out on the opportunity to watch this delightful picture.

Year of release: 1938

Director: George Stevens

Producer: George Stevens

Writers: I.A.R. Wylie, P.J. Wolfson, Ernest Pagano, Anne Morrison Chapin

Main cast: James Stewart, Ginger Rogers, James Ellison, Beulah Bondi, Charles Coburn, Frances Mercer


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Taken from the same source material as the (far better known) film Chicago, this film feature Ginger Rogers as Roxie Hart – a woman who admits to killing her boyfriend, even though she didn’t, because of the publicity it will bring her. She is convinced that with top lawyer Billy Flynn on her side, she won’t be found guilty, and instead relishes the attention that is lavished on her. The story is told in flashback by a reporter (George Montgomery) who was a rookie when the Roxie case was big news, and is now reflecting on the story of his career….

I really enjoyed this film. At about an hour and 15 minutes, it rattles along nicely, and Ginger Rogers once again gets to prove that her talent was solely in her dancing; she was a great actress too. The subject matter is relevant – perhaps more so – in today’s world, where celebrity culture is such that people will do almost anything to get into the public eye. Here, a woman accused of murder is turned into an instant celebrity!

Ginger does get chance to show off her dancing skills on a couple of occasions, but it should be noted that this film is NOT a musical. It is though, an amusing comedy with a satisfying ending, and I enjoyed it a lot. Fans of Chicago should definitely check this film out.

Year of release: 1942

Director: William A. Wellman

Producer: Nunnally Johnson

Writers: Maurine Dallas Watkins (play ‘Chicago’), Nunnally Johnson, Ben Hecht

Main cast: Ginger Rogers, George Montgomery, Phil Silvers, Adolphe Menjou

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Top Hat, made in 1935, was the fourth of ten films which Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers made together, and one of the most popular.  Astaire plays Jerry Travers, an American in London, who falls for Dale Tremont (Rogers).  However, due to a case of mistaken identity, Dale believes that Jerry is married – to Dale’s friend Madge, no less – and ends their relationship, while at the same time trying to warn Madge (Helen Broderick), that her husband is a philanderer.

The plot was never the focal point of any Astaire/Rogers movie (or indeed a lot of other musicals); it’s basically there to tie the musical numbers together – and that’s absolutely fine, because the plot here is wafer thin, with holes all over it.  However, the film itself is a total joy to watch, from start to finish.  There are a lot of comedic moments, due to the fantastical identity mix-ups, and also courtesy of the characters of Madge, Horace Hardwick (Edward Everett Morton), who is in fact Madge’s actual husband, and Horace’s trusty valet Bates (Eric Blore).  Erik Rhodes, as Alberto Beddini, fashion designer and potential rival for Dale’s affections also provides many very funny moments, playing a similar character to the one he played in the early Astaire/Rogers pairing, A Gay Divorcee.

The dancing is, of course, sublime.  I am actually more of a Gene Kelly fan, but there is no doubt that to watch Astaire dance is a wonderful experience.  My favourite number was the one which caused him to first meet Dale, when his tap dancing in a hotel, in the room above hers, caused her to complain about the noise.  The Cheek To Cheek dance was also beautiful and elegant (and the feathered dress that Rogers wore, caused some problems when it shed its feathers during the dance).

I’m steadily working my way through the Astaire/Rogers film, and have now watched five.  This and the screwball comedy/musical Carefree are my two favourites.

Forget the plot holes, enjoy the laughs, and admire the beautiful, creative and elegant dancing – this is a gorgeous film, which remains as entertaining as ever, 77 years after it was initially released – a real treat!

Year of release: 1935

Director: Mark Sandrich

Writers: Dwight Taylor, Allan Scott, Sandor Farago, Aladar Laszlo, Ben Holmes, Karoly Noti, Ralph Spence

Main cast: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Edward Everett Horton, Erik Rhodes, Eric Blore, Helen Broderick


Click here for my review of Top Hat on stage in 2014.


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Of the ten films that Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers starred in together, Swing Time was the sixth, and certainly one of the most popular.  At this point, I’ve only seen four of their collaborations and I’m torn between Swing Time and Carefree as my favourite.  In this film, Astaire stars as Lucky Garnett, on stage dancer and off stage gambler, who is due to marry his fiancee Margaret.  Due to some shenanigans and dirty tricks by his fellow stage dancers (who don’t want Lucky to marry because it will ruin their careers), he turns up very late for the wedding.  Margaret’s father says that the couple can only get married once Lucky has proven himself and earned $25,000 dollars.  Lucky heads off to New York to make his fortune, and there meets dance instructor Penny Carroll (Rogers).  The two soon fall for each other, but their romance is hindered by Lucky’s prior commitment, and band leader Ricky Romero, who is in love with Penny.

Well, I loved this film.  It had some fabulous dancing (obviously), and lots (and lots and lots) of humour.  Fred Astaire is probably at his best here, and Ginger is just beautiful.  It’s no wonder that the film studio wanted to keep pairing these two up – their chemistry on screen is undeniable.  I particularly liked their first dance together (which is in the clip I’ve posted).

The two other main characters are played by Victor Moore, as Lucky’s dad – always ready to try and make an easy dollar, and is not above petty theft or deceit; and Helen Broderick as Mabel Anderson, Penny’s fellow dance teacher and best friend.  They prove to be an excellent addition to the story and between them provide a lot of laughs.

There was one scene which jarred slightly; the Astaire dance ‘Bojangles of Harlem’ where Astaire wears ‘blackface’ make-up.  The dance itself is visually stunning, and the use of shadows behind Astaire is imaginative and effective.  I just do not like to see white actors in blackface make-up, but I accept that when the film was made (1936), it was considered a perfectly legitimate form of entertainment.

Aside from that one scene, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this musical, and it will be one that I will certainly be watching again in the future.

Year of release: 1936

Director: George Stevens

Writers: Howard Lindsay, Allan Scott, Erwin Gelsey, Ben Holmes, Rian James, Anthony Veiller, Dorothy Yost

Main cast: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Helen Broderick, Victor Moore, Georges Metaxa

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This is quite an appealing, but badly dated film, starring Ginger Rogers and Joel McCrea, neither of who are in the kind of role for which they were famous (Rogers isn’t dancing and McCrea isn’t being a cowboy). Rogers plays Ellie May Adams, a young girl who falls in love with young beach cafe owner Ed Wallace, and is desperate to hide her family from him, because her father is an alcoholic, and her mother is a prostitute (this is never explicitly stated, but is very clearly implied). However, she cannot keep her two worlds seperate for long…

The acting by Ginger Rogers in this film was really quite revelatory. She is obviously best known for her dancing, especially with Fred Astaire, but this film (as well as Kitty Foyle: The Natural History of a Woman) shows that she had a real talent for dramatic acting. Joel McCrea is less convincing, but his performance is still fine for the role he plays.

The storyline did move a little fast – no sooner had Ellie May met Ed than she was declaring her love for him, and twisting his arm into marrying her – and it all feels a little ‘cramped’ somehow. It’s not often that I think a film could benefit from being longer, but this is a case where a little extra time spent on the early relationship between the two main parts would have benefitted the story.

Supporting roles were played by Marjorie Rambeau, as Ellie May’s mother (she was excellent, and won an Oscar nomination for her portrayal), a surprisingly sympathetic character; Miles Mander, as ELlie May’s educated alcoholic father; Joan Carroll as Honeybell, Ellie May’s little sister; Queenie Vassar as Ellie May’s cruel, spiteful and altogether horrible grandmother; and Henry Travers as Gramp – the kindly elderly man who first introduces Ellie May and Ed.

I do not think that this film has aged particularly well – some of the characters are stereotyped, and a lot of the smart wisecracks made by Ellie May do seem obviously scripted (which of course they were, but the film never quite lets you forget that). Nonetheless, it’s worth seeing for Ginger Rogers’ performance, and overall it’s fairly entertaining, if slightly predictable.

Year of release: 1940

Director: Gregory La Cava

Writers: Robert L. Buckner (play), Walter Hart (play), Victoria Lincoln (novel), Gregory La Cava, Allan Scott

Main cast: Ginger Rogers, Joel McCrea, Henry Travers, Marjorie Rambeau, Miles Mander, Queenie Vassar

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Ginger Rogers stars as the title character in this 1940 film, for which she won an Oscar.

Kitty is a working class girl from Philadelphia, who falls in love with a Wynn Stratford VI, a young man from an upper class family.  However, his family do not think that Wynn and Kitty should be together – Kitty just isn’t from the same social class as they are, and they believe that she isn’t good enough for their family.  As their story is told through flashback, Kitty has a choice to make about her future.

This is the first serious role I have ever seen Ginger Rogers in, and I was blown away by her acting.  There’s no dancing here, and little comedy, so she is definitely not playing a typical role for her.  I’m not surprised she won the Oscar; people watching this film must have suddenly realised that there was a lot more talent in Ginger Rogers than they had previously thought.

I really liked Kitty as a character – she was feisty, and although she deeply loved Wynn, she could also see the social pressures they would face if they were together.  Wynn himself was brilliant played by Dennis Morgan.  He was a more naive character than Kitty, and couldn’t understand as well as she could, the kind of pressure they would be under (probably because he had never had to face such pressures himself before, being from a rich and privileged family).  Ultimately though, he is a weak character – and in one particular scene, where his family are insulting and patronising to Kitty, I was angry at him for not reacting in a stronger and more supportive way.

James Craig played Dr Mark Eisen, another man who loves Kitty – and who loves her for who she is, not where she comes from, or for what job she does.  But he suspects that her heart belongs to Wynn…

There’s tragedy in this story – grief, heartbreak, loss, helplessness – but there’s strength as well.  Kitty was resourceful and intelligent, while Wynn, nice man that he undoubtedly was – was neither resourceful (because he had never had to be) or really intelligent.  I don’t mean that he was stupid, far from it, but he never had to really think about his future because it was assured for him, and always had been.

I enjoyed this film a lot, and am surprised it isn’t better known.  If you get chance to see it, I would highly recommend it.

Year of release: 1940

Director: Sam Wood

Writers: Christopher Morley (book), Dalton Trumbo, Donald Ogden Stewart

Main cast: Ginger Rogers, Dennis Morgan, James Craig

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Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers made 10 films together, and this one from 1938 is probably one of the least well known.  There’s less dancing in this one than in some of the others (only four numbers), but the film itself is still highly enjoyable, being something of a screwball comedy.

Astaire plays psychiatrist Tony Flagg.  His friend Stephen (Ralph Bellamy) is worried because Ralph’s finance, radio singer Amanda Cooper (Rogers) keeps calling off their wedding.  He asks Tony to treat Amanda, to overcome her reluctance to marry.  However, some of Tony’s methods have unexpected side-effects – and then Tony starts to fall for Amanda himself.

This is a very enjoyable and very funny film.  Ginger Rogers was best known for her amazing dancing, but she really had a flair for comedy too.  She shines in the role of Amanda Cooper, and also looks beautiful.  Astaire is also fine as Tony, but of course with Astaire the real magic is in watching him dance.  I’ve always been more of a Gene Kelly fan, but there’s no denying that Astaire could dance beautifully.  The golf tap dance – shown in the clip above – was a joy to watch, and when he and Rogers dance together, its just glorious.  Luella Gear is also brilliant as Amanda’s Aunt Cora.

The ending is entirely expected, but still nice to see.  This is just a nice, light-hearted film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, with a few lovely dance sequences.  Well worth a watch.

Year of release: 1938

Director: Mark Sandrich

Writers: Allan Scott, Ernest Pagano, Dudley Nichols, Hagar Wilde, Marian Ainslee, Guy Endore

Main cast: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Luella Gear, Ralph Bellamy, Clarence Kolb

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Not to be confused with the Marx Brothers film of the same name, this hilarious screwball comedy stars Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers, Charles Coburn and Marilyn Monroe.  Grant plays Barnaby Fulton, a scientist trying to develop an elixir of youth for a chemical company.  Barnaby takes the elixir himself, unaware that the concoction he’s taken is far stronger than he realises, having been tampered with by a chimpanzee (bear with me).  Soon, Barnaby is feeling rejuvenated, young and vital, and ends up spending the day in town with young secretary Lois Laurel (Monroe).  When Barnaby’s wife Edwina (Rogers) tries the potion she reverts back to her youth and starts acting like a petulant and emotional schoolgirl.  Mayhem – and plenty of laughter – ensue….

From the very beginning of this movie, with Cary Grant being the self aware centre of a joke (where he interrupts the credits and an off screen voice can be heard saying, “Not yet Cary”), it’s obvious that this is not a film to be taken seriously under any circumstances.  The plot is implausible, illogical and at times ridiculous – but that’s part of what makes it so genuinely funny.  Cary Grant has terrific comic timing and provides so many laughs; there are a lot of visual gags in this film, which are as funny as they are daft.  Ginger Rogers is as good as (or dare I say it, possibly even better) that Grant, and really makes the most of her role – she gets to briefly show off her amazing dancing skills, and watch out for the scene with the glass on her forehead!  Grant and Rogers really bounce well off each other (and I personally thought that Rogers was easily as gorgeous as Marilyn Monroe).

If you want something to make you laugh, I would certainly recommend this film – one to be enjoyed time and again.

Year of release: 1952

Director: Howard Hawks

Writers: Ben Hecht, Charles Lederer, I.A.L. Diamond, Harry Segall

Main cast: Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers, Marilyn Monroe, Charles Coburn

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