*I wrote this article back in 2012 for "The Cinementals" website, a site that covered TCM-style classic films. Since I wrote this, I've seen other Ginger movies "Rafter Romance", "Twenty Million Sweethearts", "Star At Midnight", "Bachelor Mother", "Primrose Path", "Monkey Business", with "Rafter" and Bachelor" being ones I'd put on this list if I were to re-number the films.
In My Humble Opinion: Fave Five Ginger Rogers Movies
by Chris Morris
On May 14th, TCM is showing Gregory La Cava’s "STAGE DOOR", a film that has a all-star female cast that includes Katharine Hepburn, Lucille Ball and the subject of this article, Ginger Rogers. In honour of that, I thought it would be fun exploring the career of the singing, dancing, Oscar winning actress.
First of all, this isn't an article about "The Best 5 Ginger Rogers Movies EVER!" This is an article about my 5 favourite Ginger Rogers movies. 5 movies that affected me, the writer of this article. As a movie buff, I have seen many films, but admittedly there are lots I haven't seen as well. If I were to make this list a year from now, or five years from now, it would probably be different. But I am writing it today, and these are my tastes today, so here we go.
Another major point I need to bring up: These are Ginger Rogers movies, not "Fred & Ginger" movies. That's a whole different article for another time. I am a huge fan of the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movies, but I thought Ginger needed an article just for her, so here it is. After all, some could argue she was even more talented than Mr. Astaire. She could do everything he did, but backwards and in high heels. But let’s get back to Ms. Rogers and her solo career.
Here's the list in chronological order:
1- Mervyn LeRoy's GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 (1933)
One of the great movie musicals, best known for it's musical numbers choreographed by Busby Berkeley. The movie opens with Rogers' famous Pig-Latin version of "We're in the Money". Originally the order of two numbers, "Pettin' in the Park" and "Remember My Forgotten Man" were to be in the reverse order, but producers felt "Forgotten Man" was a more powerful number to end the movie with. During the filming of the fourth musical number, "The Shadow Waltz", on March 10th, an earthquake hit and Busby Berkeley and the dancers ended up stuck in the soundstage until being able to be saved by technicians.
2- Gregory La Cava's STAGE DOOR (1937)
A boarding house of would-be actresses living together and trying to survive in New York is the setting for this film and includes an amazing cast, including Rogers, Katharine Hepburn, Gail Patrick, Ann Miller (who was only 14 at the time, shockingly), Andrea Leeds, Eve Arden and young Lucille Ball. Rogers and Hepburn had an uneasy relationship, with Rogers later calling Hepburn "snippy", which mimicked their on-screen relationship. In particular, Rogers' drunken scenes provide a lot of comedy in an otherwise dark movie.
3- George Stevens' VIVACIOUS LADY (1938)
This is a fun little romantic screwball comedy that co-starred Jimmy Stewart. Stewart is a professor at a small town university who ventures to the big city to 'rescue' his brother from doing something stupid. Rogers is a big city girl working at a nightclub. They meet and fall in love and get married right away. And that's just the first ten minutes. Then they have to go back to Stewart's hometown and explain everything to his family, but of course, it's a screwball comedy, so everything goes wrong. Soon Rogers is pretending to be one of Stewart's students until he can get the courage to explain everything to his parents. As you can probably guess, though, the right time never quite comes up, so the deception must continue, with funny results. One hilight is Ginger being confronted by Stewart's supposed fiance and a wacky slapfest ensues. During that scene, Rogers' legs, which had been insured for $500,000, had to be strapped with boards and padded. Soon after this film wrapped, Rogers was to start filming "The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle" and RKO was nervous about their singing and dancing star getting injured.
4- Sam Wood's KITTY FOYLE (1940)
This is a pretty obvious choice, as Ginger won the Best Actress Oscar for this role. Told in flashbacks, she plays a white-collar girl from Philadelphia torn between a rich boy she loves (but his family objects to her roots) and a doctor who loves her as well. The book the movie was based on was racy at the time, containing sexual content and in it Foyle even gets an abortion. Rogers was initially reluctant to accept the role, but won the Oscar over other acclaimed actresses such as Katharine Hepburn (who had been offered the role but turned it down), Bette Davis, Joan Fontaine and Martha Scott.
5- Billy Wilder's THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR (1942)
Ginger is a small town girl on her last nerve in New York and decides to head home, unfortunately is short on funds, so she disguises herself as a 12 year old in order to get home cheaply, apparently something Rogers had done herself in real-life. She meets up with Ray Milland, falls in love with him, but of course, he thinks she's 12 years old. She could just tell him the truth, but what would the fun be in that? If watched with modern cynical eyes, some yucky implications could be jumped to (such as, does the end of the film mean Ray Milland's character is a pedophile?), but if you let the wackiness ensue, you may love this film. This was Billy Wilder's debut as a feature director in Hollywood, at the approval of box office star and Oscar winner Rogers, so it could be said that if not for Ginger Rogers, Billy Wilder may never have become the prolific, famous director he became.
So that's my list, that are your favourite Ginger Rogers movies? List them in the comments section below.