Vivacious Lady (1938)

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.

Vivacious Lady

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.

Jimmy and Ginger

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!

Nice one Ginger!

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

A Kiss is Just a Kiss Blogathon: Astaire and Rogers-Swing Time (1936) and Carefree (1938)

Happy Valentine’s Day weekend! Welcome to the You Must Remember This…A Kiss Is Just a Kiss blogathon!

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! To celebrate today’s post is for Second Sight Cinema’s A Kiss is Just a Kiss Blogathon!

Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire are of of the most famous on screen couples in all of history. You could even consider them to be one of the most famous dance duos in all of history.

However, when it came to on screen kisses they were famous for not having any. By the time they had made their 6th film Swing Time (1936) the grand total of kisses between the two was a round zero. True, one could argue there was a kiss in their fourth film Top Hat (1935) but according to Ginger it was more of a “quick peck” and not a real kiss. When asked why there was never a kiss between them, Ginger always blamed it on the director, “Ask March Sandrich or Bill Seiter”, she’d say. In reality, it was actually Fred, and his wife Phyllis, who insisted on no screen kisses, as he always considered his dancing to be the romance and love between his and Ginger’s characters. With Swing Time all that was about to change- sort of- with the famous “Door” kiss.

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Ginger on a Mission!

The scene starts off with Ginger’s character Penny walking down to Lucky’s (Fred) dressing room with the intent on planting one on him. Nervously knocking on the door Lucky tells her to come in, and after failing twice to kiss him- she chickens out!

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“It’s Nice”

the painted kiss
They Kissed?! Right??

Using her dress (one of my favorite dresses in the history of cinema!!!) as an excuse, Penny awkwardly asks Lucky what he thinks of it. After responding “nice” to everything Penny asks him about, (including her hair, shoes, and cape) Lucky goes in for it- only to be cut off by the door opening! However- by the time the camera cuts back to Fred and Ginger, Fred has lipstick all over his lips! Certianly they had kissed, right?! Well not exactly- according to Miss Rogers, Fred had his kiss “painted” on by the makeup crew. (click here to watch this awesome scene

For Fred and Ginger fans however it seemed to do the trick- and it left them wanting even more, which they got in the duo’s 8th film Carefree (1938)

Carefree by all accounts is the least “musical” Fred and Ginger picture- it only has 4 songs and Ginger really steals the spotlight with her character’s crazy antics. It also is famous for the first real lip to lip kiss of Fred and Ginger in the number “I Used to Be Colorblind”. 

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Finally!

Seen in a dream like setting, “I used to be Colorblind” has a unique backstory. For one it was originally supposed to be shot in color; two, it was slowed down and filmed in slow motion to add to its dream like nature; and three it finally contained the kiss audiences had been waiting 8 pictures and five years to see. According to Ginger in her autobiography, the actual shooting of the kiss was just another “peck” but when played back the slow motion made it made it seem as if it were a full fledged kiss. She also stated that Phyllis Astaire was not on set at the time of shooting. Click here to watch!

In their final two films The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939) and The Barkleys of Broadway (1949), there some kisses, with the former being noted for the famous “kiss in the dark” . However, in the end, Fred and Ginger created movie magic- if not with their kisses most certainly for their dances. 

Citations

Rogers, G. (1991). Ginger: My story. New York, NY: HarperCollins.