Monday, April 27, 2009

Discovering Ginger Rogers

Ginger Rogers. It’s hard to believe that five years ago I was so dopey as to believe that she was the untalented half of the Astaire-Rogers partnership. I just didn’t see her appeal. She didn’t have any musical showcases of her own to spotlight her talent, she didn’t sing outside of her movies with Fred and only a bit in her earlier, Busby Berkeley musicals, where she was a stock player. Her decision to pursue mainly dramatic roles made me wonder what it was Rogers was running away from. If she was so talented, how come she didn’t do musicals of her own?

Another example of me being a dope and not checking the facts.

In 2006, Turner Classic Movies had their “Summer under the Stars” theme. So, while on a day off from the salt mines, I decided to give Rogers another look—signs of my slow-as-a-glacier maturity, no doubt. I began my day with Stage Door (1937). Ginger is a wisecracking chorine trying to make it big in theatre. She traded sarcastic remarks with no less than Katharine Hepburn and Gail Patrick—she had me right there! Ginger was so good! Her timing, her inflections on how she delivered the lines at a rapid-fire pace and yes, she hoofed it, too! She looked oh-so cute in top hat and short shorts and was stunning in her evening dress. She also emoted in her scenes which required pathos, and she’s effective as a major player in Stage Door—no small feat with Kate Hepburn as one’s co-star. Armed with newfound respect and interest for Ginger, I settled in for a glorious day with my new movie crush.

Later in the day I had my second great Ginger moment, which was in Weekend at the Waldorf (1946). This is a post-Astaire film and Rogers looked even more glamorous and beautiful as her movie star character was supposed to be. She was clearly the center of this Grand Hotel-sized cast and she wore a fantastic white dress that definitely caught my attention. Her performance was equally good, as she was a more mature character, definitely in the “ever after” period of a romance; something we wouldn’t see in her films with Fred Astaire until 1949’s The Barkleys of Broadway.

In the next few years, I would become quite the Ginger Rogers admirer, even if her personal life and views weren’t exactly fascinating. I like her for what she does onscreen and it only took two movies for me to realize how timeless her appeal is, how Ginger’s performances don’t grow mannered and stale over the decades. After all, movie buffs are still enchanted by the work she and Astaire put up on the screen over seventy years ago. That’s not likely to fade away anytime soon, is it?

I also realized why Ginger had to purposely remove herself from the musical genre--she had to in order to strike out on her own. Otherwise, she would have been forever associated with Fred Astaire. Of course, that happened anyway, but at the time she became a box office heavyweight on her own, even winning an Oscar for 1940's Kitty Foyle. I just hope that Ginger’s solo career will get more notice and evaluation. She was the only star of her caliber to sing, dance, and excel at both comedy and drama. You’d be hard-pressed to find many of her better-known contemporaries who could claim the same distinction.

Now, excuse me I have to continue waiting for
Vivacious Lady on DVD…

From Ginger, with Love: I can dream, can't I?

14 comments:

  1. I've always preferred Ginger to Fred, to be honest. Great post.

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  2. I've noticed that since the dvd revolution, people have taken notice of her much more. And of course also due to TCM.

    She was a great actress and a versatile talent no doubt.

    Great post!

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  3. Thanks, all. I hope no one minds me enthusing over one of my big movie crushes! I read many blogs where the ladies go koo-koo for their guys, so I hope I didn't overdo it with my "thing" for Ginger--who's probably only behind Kate Hepburn as my favorite actress ever. Of course, there are days when Ginger is #1--like today.

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  4. Great post! I remember a time not really thinking much about her one way or the other. She was just Fred Astaire's partner to me. Then one day my eyes opened, and I remember wondering why I hadn't paid attention to her before. She can do everything, and do it really well!

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  5. Oh, I adore Ginger -- wonderful post, C.K. Dexter Haven!!
    You haven't seen Vivacious Lady yet? When you do, I'm sure it will be one of your favorites!! Ginger is fantastic, and Beulah Bondi gives one of my favorite performances ever :)

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  6. I adore Ginger. She was good in Stage Door. Even better in movies like Primrose Path, 5th Ave Girl and Once Upon A Honeymoon (With Cary Grant). She churned a great dramatic performance in Primerose Path. You should check it out if you haven't though I don't think the movie is on DVD.

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  7. I love Ginger Rogers, but haven't been able to see many of her movies yet. She charmed me in The Major and the Minor, even though it was hard to believe someone wouldn't notice Ginger was not a teenager. Stage Door is great, as is her work with Astaire.

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  8. I hate to admit this, but I've never really cared for her for some reason. I've been meaning to give her another chance. I want to like her though.

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  9. One of my favorites! Ginger was good in so many films, but I think BACHELOR MOTHER might be my favorite...especially the scene where she speaks "Swedish" at a New Year's dance.

    Best wishes,
    Laura

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  10. Vivacious Lady is terrific, but I too love Bachelor Mother best!

    She did some wonderful B movies. Have you ever seen Having Wonderful Time? That was actually based on a B'way show. Douglas Fairbank, Jr. was her co-star. In one of his bios he mentions that they had to dub it back--the "deese, dem, dose" of the original script was beyond Midwestern audiences at the premieres!

    P.S. My crush on Mr. Fairbanks was so intense that my ex-husband was actually a bit jealous! You're not alone....

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  11. Su-Su Applegate! :0)
    (I think her mom appears at the end of that film...)

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  12. Stage Door and The Major and the Minor are AMAZING. Ray Milland is in The Major and the Minor-- I LOVE HIM. And Bachelor Mother. And Roxie Hart is hysterical! I finally got around to watching that and I didn't expect it to be so funny.
    I just wanted to leave a comment because I love Ginger, she is my absolute favourite actress.
    You are not alone here! Even though as a female, Ginger is more my idol rather than my crush.

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  13. Ginger is by far my all-time favorite! She has been my number one since my classic film addiction began. I love how versatile she was. One minute she was making you laugh in The Major and the Minor and then she was tugging on your heartstrings in Kitty Foyle. A truly wonderful actress and a great post!

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