Saturday, July 16, 2011

Ginger Rogers Centenary

July 16, 1911 - April 25, 1995

According to her mother, Lela, Virginia Katherine McMath (Rogers was her stepfather) was dancing before she was born. At 14, Ginger was learning the ropes in Vaudeville and at 18 she was appearing on Broadway, first in Ruby and Kalmar's Top Speed followed by the Gershwins' Girl Crazy. Next stop Hollywood where she epitomized the show business baby.

Her many musicals, especially her fabled pairing in 10 films with Fred Astaire, had Ginger cast as an actress to accommodate the plots, but it is interesting to note that Ginger played entertainers in 35 of her 77 movies. She played models, showgirls, chorus girls, singers, dancers, radio stars, screen stars and stage stars at various points in their careers. Ginger was the hungry kid looking for a break (Stage Door), the working entertainer (Professional Sweetheart) , a success longing for more (The Barkleys of Broadway), a success trying to hold on (Forever Female). Hoofer Anytime Annie (42nd Street) may not be the type of gal a fella would take home to mother, but night club singer Francey (Vivacious Lady) won everyone over.

Ginger was Joan Blondell tough with a dollop of sweetness. She had Katharine Hepburn's versatility, but with the common touch. No matter how elegantly turned out, Ginger was always that pal who made it big.

These are just some of my favourite Ginger Rogers movie moments:

1952's Monkey Business, Howard Hawks

Ginger plays Edwina Fulton, the mature, warm and supportive spouse of an absent-minded professor (Cary Grant) who ingests a fountain of youth formula concocted by a lab chimp in this very funny comedy with a script by Ben Hecht, Charles Lederer and I.A.L. Diamond. When Edwina reverts to her younger self she is stripped of all pretense as she pursues her love and kicks up her heels in a joyfully wacky performance.

1943's Tender Comrade, Edward Dmytryk

Dalton Trumbo's script about defense plant workers during WW2 sharing a house while their husbands are in the Service is a mix of the heavy-handed with nuggets of real truth. In a very honest scene newlyweds Jo and Chris Jones have a fight. He is working a lot of overtime, brooding about the future and being stolidly male. She is sulky and feeling neglected. Ginger Rogers and Robert Ryan's work is so raw and real that I was torn between wanting to walk into the screen and knock their heads together and wanting to turn away because it felt I was intruding on their privacy.


1935's Roberta, William A. Seiter

Ginger is Lizzie Gant, an American entertainer in Paris marketing herself as the Comtesse Schwarwenke, who crosses paths with old partner, band leader Huckleberry Haines (Fred Astaire). The created-on-the-spot feeling of I'll Be Hard to Handle (Kern, Harbach & Fields) is thrilling. It is a prime example of Ginger's response when asked for the thousandth time if she and Fred got along - "How can anybody watch us and not know we were having fun?"


23 comments:

  1. What an excellent description of the pairing of Ginger and Robert Ryan in TENDER COMRADE. So childish, yet so real at times! "Raw" is a great adjective.

    Thanks for a wonderful Ginger post!

    Best wishes,
    Laura

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  2. Thanks, Laura.

    The scene in "Tender Comrade" was all the more moving because it was unexpected. Such a fine day's work from two very good actors.

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  3. Ginger 100? No - she is forever young! One of my favorites (among many) of hers is her performance in "Flying Down to Rio" - singing :Music Makes Me" you say Fred who?

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  4. Ginger absolutely makes "Flying Down to Rio". She's such a vibrant, fun presence.

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  5. I love this: "Ginger was Joan Blondell tough with a dollop of sweetness. She had Katharine Hepburn's versatility, but with the common touch. No matter how elegantly turned out, Ginger was always that pal who made it big."

    Great description. Ginger was surely was of the most versatile actresses of her day.

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  6. Thanks, Jacqueline.

    Ginger is another gal that it is sometimes easy to take for granted because she was such a star and she didn't let us catch her at the work.

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  7. Caftan Woman, you did a lovely tribute, and fun. She was an excellent dancer -- like they used to say in the feminist 70's, she did everything Fred did, but backward and in high heels!

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  8. Joan Blondell tough with a dollop of sweetness. Yes. Perfect description of Ginger. Thanks for a great post.
    I just watched Ginger in THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR the other day. I'll be posting on it for Tuesday's film post. Just enjoyed the heck out of it. Ginger could do just about anything.

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  9. Ginger looks great with your pink typewriter. Lovin' that pink typewriter!
    I love everything, she ever did.

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  10. Becky, I love that "backwards" line about Ginger. Just walking in high heels is a talent.

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  11. Yvette, thanks for the compliment. I think I'll have to re-watch "The Major and the Minor" before next Tuesday.

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  12. Novabreeze, how did you celebrate "Ginger Day"?

    Glad you like the pink typewriter. I've grown very fond of it.

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  13. Wonderful story on a wonderful actress! She was much more than Fred Astaire's partner, but in the same breath her movies with Astaire are timeless.

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  14. Yes, together Fred & Ginger are legendary, but still have lasting legacy in their separate careers.

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  15. I celebrated Ginger Day, by reading your blog and remembering the wonderful person. The early screen years and the talent that never stopped developing.
    She was super!

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  16. CW,
    I'm late to the birthday party as usual so I hope there's still cake left.

    This was a really nice tribute to our golden hair beauty.
    Page

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  17. Great post Caftan Woman. I'm a big fan of Ginger and her many films with Fred Astaire. But I especially like the contrast of Ginger with Katharine Hepburn in Stage Door. It's a perfect pairing that you have to watch to see how well it works. Keep up the good work!

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  18. Thanks, Page. There's always cake for you.

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  19. Christian, thanks for the compliment.

    I agree that "Stage Door" is ever entertaining. Ginger and Kate's abilities shone in those roles. The competitive sparks really fly.

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  20. Loved reading your wonderful Ginger Rogers birthday tribute. Not only was Ginger Rogers a wonderful actress and dancer. She also loved to paint.

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  21. Dawn, I had forgotten about Ginger's accomplishments as an artist. Such a talented person!

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  22. Beautiful tribute! I loved that bit from Lelee where she said that Ginger was dancing before she was born. I don't doubt it at all! A lovely tribute to a lovely woman.
    -Lara

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  23. Thanks, Lara. I'm glad you enjoyed this piece on Ginger. It came from the heart.

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