I cannot think of a better way to start 2019 blogging, as I am more than thrilled to help Crystal of In the Good old Days of Classic Hollywood and Robin of Pop Culture Reverie celebrate the motion pictures made in the year 1938. Speaking on a personal level, I say the films of 1938 certainly rival the ones made in 1939. 1938 has a slew of great movies in itself and its about time we recognize the year’s legacy in film history.
For this blogathon, I chose to pay tribute to a wonderful non-dancing Ginger Rogers picture made at RKO, Vivacious Lady, produced and directed by George Stevens; co-starring James Stewart in one of his first roles as a leading man.
Vivacious Lady is a wonderful often overlooked screwball gem. Its got a plot we all are familiar with- Girl (Francey) and Boy (Professor Peter Morgan) meet, get married on a whim, and afterwards have trouble finding alone time!
For Ginger, this part was the role she had been looking for to prove herself as a straight comedic actress, she was without Fred Astaire, there were no elaborate dance or singing numbers. Whereas for James Stewart, it gave him exposure to audiences as the leading man. Up until this point he had been a supporting player, playing everything from Jean Harlow’s boyfriend in Wife vs Secretary to After the Thin Man’s “Bad Guy”- but this role elevated him to the roles he was meant to be playing.
This movie benefits from their genuine chemistry and during production although the two were NOT dating Jimmy and Ginger did date closer to 1940, ending sometime when Jimmy went to war.
Not to be ignored are the immaculate supporting cast of character actors: Beulah Bondi and Charles Coburn as Peter’s parents, James Ellison as cousin Keith and Francis Mercer as Helen, the ex-fiancee.
The stand out scene of the movie occurs with Francey and Keith teaching Mrs. Morgan how to dance “The Big Apple”- and then Mr. Morgan walks in on the lesson! The expression on Charles Coburn’s face makes me laugh every time!!
However, the funniest part comes when Francey and Helen have perhaps one of the first girl v girl cat-fight in the movies- remember this movie pre- dates The Women!
The scene is so hysterical without being over the top- its basically sheer perfection! Ginger recalls in her autobiography (Ginger: My Story) the fight, “was choreographed as carefully as any ballet“, and all of its humor came down to George Stevens’ editing.
In all retrospect, 1938 was a turning point for both Jimmy and Ginger- even though they never made another film together. Jimmy of course was on his way to being the star we know today, starring in You Can’t Take it With You later that year. Ginger made Carefree with Fred Astaire and Having Wonderful Time and was moving towards a solo career.
As for George Stevens, he was in the middle of his Hollywood career with not only war documentaries ahead of him, but also many legendary productions as well including Woman of the Year, Shane, and Giant.
Click here to check out TCM’s page on Vivacious Lady and to look for upcoming airdates!
CLIPS: Youtube, PICTURES- dvdbeaver.com and IMDB