Showing posts with label Ginger Rogers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ginger Rogers. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Professional Sweetheart (1933)

"I want to sin and suffer. But right now I only suffer." - Glory

Miss Glory Eden (Ginger Rogers), aka The Purity Girl, is a radio sensation. Ipswich (Gregory Ratoff), the owner of the Ippsie Wippsie Wash Cloth Company, which runs their own sponsored radio station, is desperate to lock down Glory with a brand new contract. But Glory has other ideas. As the baby-voiced model of purity and innocence, the management team tightly controls her public image. Herbert (Franklin Pangborn) is in charge of Glory's wardrobe and diet and Ipswich's cohorts including his right-hand men Speed (Frank McHugh) and Winston (Frank Darien) do his bidding to protect their collective property. Glory is jealous of her maid Vera (Theresa Harris) who has a boyfriend and goes out dancing at night clubs in Harlem. Glory wants to live life on her terms! Complicating matters is Ipswich's rival the Kelsey Dish Rag Co. who wants to steal Glory away from them and sends agent O'Connor (Allen Jenkins) off to sabotage Ipswich's plans. So the Ippsie Wippsie crew comes up with a plan. They want to get Glory a beau. They zero in on Jim (Norman Foster), a simple country man from Kentucky who was plucked out of a batch of prospective fan letters. They bring him to New York City and thus starts the media circus of publicity stunts that journalists, including the clueless Elmerada (Zasu Pitts) and mid-mannered Stu (Sterling Holloway), just lap up. No one stops to think what Glory really wants... except for Jim. Will Glory find true happiness in the midst of all of this chaos?

Professional Sweetheart (1933) was directed by William A. Seiter for RKO. The story was written by Maurine Dallas Watkins, best known for her stage play Chicago. This Ginger Rogers' first film for RKO and later that year she signed her own contract with them. Norman Foster was loaned out from Fox to play the leading man.

The biggest draw for me to this film was the cast. There were so many of my favorites crammed into one 79 minute movie: Ginger Rogers, Theresa Harris, Frank McHugh, Allen Jenkins, Zasu Pitts and Sterling Holloway. Wow! My perennial favorite Akim Tamiroff has a small role as the hotel waiter who takes Frank Pangborn's elaborate food order.

Speaking of food, I love to see how it's represented in early films. I was delighted with one scene in particular when characters discuss what they'd like to order from the hotel room service.

What Glory (Ginger Rogers) wants to order: caviar, lobster in wine, avocado salad, champagne, fruit salad with whipped cream, nuts and maraschino cherries
What Herbert (Franklin Pangborn) orders for Glory: breast of young chicken on whole wheat toast with no mayonnaise, unsalted butter, baked apples with cream (certified not pasteurized), cocoa (not chocolate).
What Herbert (Franklin Pangborn) orders for himself: caviar, Lobster Thermidor, avocado salad, fruit salad with whipped cream, nuts and maraschino cherries, chocolate ice cream, hot fudge sauce and marshmallow cake.
What Speed (Frank McHugh) orders for Elmerada (Zasu Pitts) to delay her: Baked Alaska (because it takes 20 minutes to make.)

"You don't kiss like you look." - Glory

Professional Sweetheart warns viewers of the dangers of treating humans like commodities although it wraps up nicely in the end. Glory as a character can be insufferable with her spoiled behavior and tantrums. She wasn't winning any points from me with her blatant distaste for books. But you can't help sympathize with her. She just wants her personal freedom. That's something everyone deserves.

The film spices things up by featuring Ginger Rogers in various states of undress giving it some Pre-Code flavor. Allen Jenkins is probably the most suave I've ever seen him in a film role. As O'Connor he uses his knowledge of romantic relationships, women ("I know dames backwards.") and business to manipulate the different characters.

Unfortunately the racism in this film is quite palpable. The management team clearly wants to appeal to a conservative white audience ("It doesn't look good to the corn belt."). When they search for Glory's prospective beau they make it clear that he has to be as white and pure as possible. Especially after Glory has expressed her desire to visit Harlem. Frank McHugh's Speed travels to "Home of the Purest Anglo-Saxons" to find Jim (Norman Foster).

Theresa Harris has a marvelous role as Glory's maid and friend Vera. Glory wants Vera's lifestyle as a young woman living it up in New York City. Both Harris and her character get the shaft. Harris has a substantial role, even more so than Sterling Holloway who only speaks a few lines and gets on screen credit where Harris remains uncredited. Vera is Glory's superior when it comes to her singing skills and we get one glorious scene where Vera takes over Glory's show delivering a sexier and more adult voice over the waves. Vera disappears shortly after as the story wraps up in Glory's favor.

Professional Sweetheart (1933) is a lighthearted Pre-Code with a fantastic cast and a lot of charm. It suffers from the trappings of the era most notably in the depiction of gender and race.

Professional Sweetheart (1933) is available on DVD-MOD from the Warner Archive Collection and can be purchased at the WB Shop. When you use my buy links you help support this site. Thank you!

This is the film's DVD debut. George, D.W. and Matt of the Warner Archive Podcast discuss this film in the January episode Jungle Kings, Giants and Jokers.

Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I feature titles from the Warner Archive Collection. Thank you to Warner Archive for sending me copy of Professional Sweetheart (1933).

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Tender Comrade (1943)

"Teacher, Tender Comrade, Wife. A fellow farer true through life. Heart-whole and soul-free. The August Father gave to me." – Robert Louis Stevenson

Tender Comrade (1943) is a sentimental WWII drama much in the style of Since You Went Away (1944). It follows the story of Jo Jones (Ginger Rogers) a fiesty and strong-willed woman married to mild-mannered soldier Chris (Robert Ryan). After Chris’ 24 hour leave, the two say their goodbyes at a train station as he travels overseas for battle. Doing her part for the war effort, Jo works at a local aircraft factory as a welder. She becomes friendly with a trio of women who've also been left behind. There’s Barbara (Ruth Hussey), an embittered woman who harbors bad feelings for her sailor husband. She openly dates other men and is the voice of discontent among the group. Then there is Doris (Kim Hunter), a sweet and starry-eyed newlywed. A proposal and quickie marriage left her in a suspended virginal state. Then there's Helen (Patricia Collinge), the matriarch and most level-headed of the bunch. Both her husband and son are away at war. All the women struggle to make ends meet and Jo comes up with an idea: they’ll all move in together and share the expenses equally. They add a fifth, Manya (Mady Christians), a German refugee whose husband is fighting the good fight against the Nazis. She takes on a job as a housekeeper. We follow their stories as they adjust to this new arrangement. The film is broken up with flashbacks of scenes from Jo and Chris’ courtship and marriage. It’s equal parts touching and tragic, just as you’d expect a WWII movie to be.

Written by Dalton Trumbo and directed by Edward Dmytryk, Tender Comrade was produced by RKO. Several endings were filmed in order to get just the right tone for the end product. According to Robert Ryan biographer Frank Jarlett, “the picture did well financially, earning $843,00 in profits for RKO, mainly because its tone of patriotic righteous indignation registered in the public’s mind at a peak emotional time.”

Ginger Rogers was on a high point in her career. She had won an Academy Award for her performance in Kitty Foyle (which was also written by Dalton Trumbo). That film did well for RKO and Tender Comrade was a psuedo follow-up to that success. For Tender Comrade, Rogers was billed as the “chin-up girl”, a role model for women embodying the ideal of strength and resilience during wartime. The film premiered in Los Angeles on December 29, 1943, just under the wire to have Rogers’ performance qualify for Academy Award submission. In the end, she didn’t receive a nomination and the film was released to the general public in June 1944. I’ve always been partial to Ginger Rogers and her performances but I felt her role as Jo was overbearing. Perhaps it was the long speeches and the constant bickering, but I found her character not as sympathetic as I wanted her to be.

On the other hand, Chris Jones was an exceptionally good part for Robert Ryan, who was still in the early days of his long acting career. Playing a leading romantic part with a major movie star helped put him on the map. Ryan is incredibly charming in this film. It’s a shame Hollywood relegated him to roles as heavies and villains because there was a “tender” side to him that really shone through.

A few years after its release, Tender Comrade developed a reputation for its perceived Communist agenda. During the HUAC investigations, the film singled out for subversive propaganda and for the term “Comrade” and its connection to Communist Russia. Although the phrase "tender comrade" is a reference to Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem The Wife and is quoted at the very start of the film, its reasonable to consider an intended dual meaning.

Trumbo is one of my favorite writers and a huge influence in my life. Reading his novel Johnny Got His Gun completely altered my perspective on the world and I tend to gravitate towards his works. I enjoyed the social commentary and the political subtext of the film even though I thought it to be overly sentimental.

Trumbo was singled out by Lela Rogers, Ginger Rogers mother, during a HUAC hearing. During the filming of Tender Comrade, Rogers started to take issue with some of the dialogue and this was a very dialogue-driven film. In one scene, the German housekeeper receives her husband medal of honor in the mail. Its decided that the medal belongs to all of them and not just Manya. Rogers was supposed to deliver the line “share and share alike, that’s democracy” but instead it was given to Kim Hunter. The film has a bit of a socialist agenda: the give women split their profits evenly, Manya becomes upset at perceived excess and Doris confesses hoarding lipsticks. However I felt the movie as had some strong patriotic messaging. There is Ginger Rogers’ grand speech about the sacrifice needed to live in a better world. And there are various references to being patriotic through rationing and also anti-German and Japanese sentiment. But in the end Dmytryk and Trumbo were both blacklisted by the HUAC and Hollywood. Dmytryk went into exile only to return to the US and give testimony which eventually cleared him from the blacklist. Trumbo was more defiant. After being jailed, he continued to work in Hollywood under pseudonyms. It wasn’t until both Otto Preminger (Exodus) and Kirk Douglas (Spartacus) publicly listed Trumbo as screenwriter in their respective films that the blacklist officially ended.

Tender Comrade holds an important place in the history of WWII films and the Hollywood Blacklist. This film makes its DVD debut thanks to the good folks at the Warner Archive Collection.

Tender Comrade (1943) is available on DVD-MOD from the Warner Archive Collection.When you use my buy links you help support this site. Thanks!

The Warner Archive trio George, D.W. and Matt discuss the film (about 25 minutes in) on the A Colossal Collection episode of their podcast.

 Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. Thank you to Warner Archive for sending me Tender Comrade (1943) to review!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Bachelor Mother (1939) at TCMFF and My Thoughts

Seeing Bachelor Mother (1939) on the big screen has been a dream of mine for a long time and I'm so grateful to TCM for making that dream happen at their classic film festival. I cherished every moment of this experience and I'm so grateful to have seen my beloved film on the big screen in Hollywood.

Comedian Greg Proops introduced the film at the Chinese Multiplex. He was hilarious and had us all in stitches. TCM posted part of Proops presentation:

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Bachelor Mother (1939) let me summarize the plot for you. Ginger Rogers plays Polly Parrish. She’s a sales clerk in the toy department of Merlin & Son Department store. Christmas is approaching and the store lays off some of their temporary help, including Polly. Despondent, she goes out for a walk and sees an old lady leaving a baby at the door step of a foundling home. Polly picks up the baby and the foundling home staff mistake her for its mother. They track her down and convince the son of Merlin & Son, David Merlin (David Niven), to give her back her job. But to her surprise the much needed job also comes with the foundling baby. David and Polly develop an unlikely romance and hilarity ensues when other characters including John Merlin (Charles Coburn) and Freddie (Frank Albertson) get involved. It’s a sweet film with lots of hilarious and heart-warming moments. 

 I remember the first time I watched Bachelor Mother (1939) was years ago on a VHS tape. I had recorded a block of “Bachelor” themed films on TCM. The line-up included BachelorApartment (1931), The Bachelor Father (1931) and Bachelor Bait (1934) among others. While I enjoyed the other films in that line-up, I remember being particularly enamored with Bachelor Mother. It was the start of a love affair that would only grow over time with multiple repeat viewings. I re-recorded the film on another tape when I temporarily lost my original. Then Warner Archive came out with Bachelor Mother on DVD-MOD and I bought it the instant it went on sale. Ever since then I’ve watched this film many times (I estimate around 30-40 viewings) and would watch it at least twice before New Year’s.

You might not know this about me but when I was growing up my family did not celebrate any holidays. It was partly because my parents are from other countries and didn't understand American traditions and partly because of my mother's personal beliefs. As an adult holidays often confuse me and I don't tend to celebrate them with the exception of New Year's. It's the only holiday I can get my head around and thanks to Bachelor Mother it's become my favorite holiday. I love that it's one big celebration of living through the year and starting fresh with a new year right around the corner. It's basically everyone's birthday. New Year's is a time for us to reflect on the events of the past year and to make plans for the future. Bachelor Mother influenced me greatly in this respect. For Polly, New Year's Eve is a pivotal point in her life. The coming year will bring with it lots of new challenges but also great hope for love, family and overall happiness. 

Carlos and I celebrating 2013 and ringing in the New Year!
I also really love the New Year's Eve scenes in Bachelor Mother. David uses his influence to get Polly all dolled up so they can go out to a fancy dinner in Times Square and ring in the New Year. Their class differences are set aside and they come together to celebrate and have fun. My husband and I dress up every year for New Year's and I always strive to recreate the glamor and the fun of those scenes from the film (sans the fake Swedish. Svell!).

I'm very grateful that I got to share the experience of watching Bachelor Mother on the big screen with my husband Carlos. He knows how much this film means to me and he even waited in the standby line so he could get in to the screening. I'm so glad he did and that we could share this moment together.

Carlos and I at the Bachelor Mother screening (with Trevor photo bombing!)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

New Year's and Bachelor Mother (1939)

For Polly Parrish (Ginger Rogers) in Bachelor Mother (1939), the New Year is off to a bad start before it even began. Around Christmas time she gets a note from her employer John P. Merlin & Son, a New York City department store, that her services will no longer be needed after the holiday is over. Without a job or any family members around to help her, she's in dire straits. While out and about looking for new employment, she stumbles across a baby that has been left at the door stop of a foundling home. The home's staff refuse to believe her when she says the baby is not hers.

"I wasn't leaving it, I was just picking it up!" - Polly 

The foundling home and David Merlin (David Niven) get together and devise a plan. They give Polly back her job and bring her the baby along with a lot of baby supplies back to Polly as a Christmas present. Seems like the New Year is going to be filled with dirty diapers, feedings, no sleep and a lot of nosy visits from David Merlin.

David Merlin and Polly Parrish are total opposites. Merlin is wealthy and reckless, speeding in the middle of the night and getting thrown in jail, showing up to work after noontime and stringing his society girlfriend along. Polly on the other hand is responsible, poor and has a very cynical outlook on life.

"I almost envy you. I do envy you." - David
"Really?!" - Polly

Fast forward to New Year's. David Merlin (David Niven) calls up his society girlfriend Louise King (June Wilkins) after 8 pm on New Year's Eve inviting her out. But it's too little too late and she turns him down.

"Why David. Are you under the impression that we have a date tonight?" - Louise

He offers a date to Polly which seems quite a rotten thing to do seeing as she's basically his back-up so he won't go stag. Polly sees right through this and realizes she can't go even if she wanted to because of the baby and because of their noticeable class difference.

"Well you and your... And me in my... What I've got. We'd make half of a lovely couple." - Polly

As long as Polly can get the landlady to watch the baby, David offers to dress her up in the finest from his department store and to take her out for an amazing night on the town.

The New Year's scenes in Bachelor Mother (1939) are quite grand. They have colored my idea of New Year's celebrations with it's 1930's elegance in black and white. David gets Polly a new dress,  a mink coat with orchids, stockings, handkerchief, purse, gloves and shoes.

Transformation complete.

They go out to a restaurant for dancing, a four course meal and all the tinsel and confetti they can stand. But there is a bit of a problem. How is Polly going to be able to talk with David's upper-class and wealthy friends with whom she has nothing in common? David devises a ruse in which Polly is the daughter Swedish magnate and doesn't speak a word of English. She dances the night away with his buddies, much to David's dismay, and needs not worry about revealing her true status. She's a queen for one glorious evening. And we get rewarded with some fun made up Swedish.

"Svell" - Polly

Polly is having so much fun she misses out on all the food!

"Hey, I'm hungry" - Polly

They leave the party in search of some food but find themselves in Times Square instead. They got lost in the crowd, the great equalizer. For one night everyone is the same, gathering together to celebrate the New Year that they'll all experience together.

They watch the ball drop in Times Square, find each other in the crowd and ring in the New Year with a kiss.

It's a very romantic New Year's celebration. Once it's over, reality meets our two heroes and the complexity of their situation comes to light. But for that one glorious night, they could forget their troubles, their class divide and just enjoy the evening.

I think I will always be longing for a New Year's Eve like the one David and Polly have in Bachelor Mother. This wonderful film is from a year known especially for being a golden year in Hollywood history. I watch it every year and it's become part of my own New Year's celebration. I hope it'll become part of your celebration too.

"'Appy Nuuu Cheah!" - Polly in her fake Swedish accent

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