CAROLE LOMBARD - My Favorite Actress

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ginger Rogers - Classic Movie Goddess Of The Month Part Two

Both before and immediately after her great dancing and acting partnership with Fred Astaire ended, Rogers, now on her own and one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood, starred in more than a few very successful dramas and comedies. Stage Door (1937) demonstrated her skillful dramatic capacity, as the loquacious yet vulnerable girl next door, a tough minded, theatrical hopeful, opposite Katharine Hepburn. In Roxie Hart (1942), based on the same play which served as the template for the musical Chicago, Ginger played a wise-cracking wife on trial for a murder her husband committed. In the neo-realist Primrose Path (1940), directed by Gregory La Cava, she played a prostitute's daughter trying to avoid the fate of her mother. Further highlights of this period included Tom, Dick, and Harry, a pleasing 1941 comedy where she dreams of marrying three different men; I'll Be Seeing You, an intelligent and restrained war time "weepie" with Joseph Cotten; La Cava's 5th Avenue Girl (1939), where she played an out-of-work girl sucked into the lives of a wealthy family; and especially the sharp and highly successful comedies: Bachelor Mother (1939), where she played Polly Parrish, a shop girl who is falsely deemed to have abandoned her baby; and Billy Wilder's first Hollywood feature film: The Major and the Minor (1942), where she played herself as a 12-year-old, at her own real age, and pretended to be her own mother. Her greatest skills were as a comedienne, and, as a master of the deadpan and the sidelong glance, she became well established as one of the major actresses of the screwball comedy era.
In 1941, Ginger Rogers won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her starring role in 1940's Kitty Foyle. She enjoyed considerable success during the early 1940s, and was RKO's hottest property during this period. Becoming a free agent, she made hugely successful films with other studios in the mid-'40s, including "Tender Comrade" (1943), "Lady in the Dark" (1944), and "Week-End at the Waldorf" (1945), and became the highest-paid performer in Hollywood. However, by the end of the decade, her film career had peaked. Arthur Freed reunited her with Fred Astaire in The Barkleys of Broadway in 1949, a delightful Technicolor MGM musical which succeeded in rekindling the special chemistry between them one last time.

Ginger Rogers' film career entered a period of gradual decline in the 1950s, as parts for older actresses became more difficult to obtain, but she still scored with some solid films. She starred in Storm Warning (1950), with Ronald Reagan and Doris Day, the noir, anti Ku Klux Klan film by Warner Brothers, and in Monkey Business (1952), with Cary Grant and Marilyn Monroe, directed by Howard Hawks. In the same year, she also starred in We're Not Married!, also featuring Marilyn Monroe, and in Dreamboat. She played the female lead in Tight Spot (1955), a mystery thriller, with Edward G. Robinson. Then, after a series of unremarkable films, she scored with a great popular success, playing Dolly Levi in the long running Hello, Dolly! on Broadway in 1965.
In later life, Rogers remained on good terms with Astaire: she presented him with a special Academy Award in 1950, and they were co-presenters of individual Academy Awards in 1967, during which they elicited a standing ovation when they came on stage in an impromptu dance. In 1969, she had the lead role in another long running popular production of Mame, from the book by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee, with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in the West End of London, arriving for the role on the Liner QE2 from New York. Her docking there occasioned the maximum of pomp and ceremony at Southampton. She became the highest paid performer in the history of the West End up to that time. The production ran for 14 months and featured a Royal Command Performance for Queen Elizabeth the Second. The Kennedy Center honored Ginger Rogers in December 1992. This event, which was shown on television, was somewhat marred when Astaire's widow, Robyn Smith, who permitted clips of Astaire dancing with Rogers to be shown for free at the function itself, was unable to come to terms with CBS Television for broadcast rights to the clips (all previous rights holders having donated broadcast rights gratis).

From the 1950s onwards, Rogers would make occasional appearances on television. In the later years of her career, she made guest appearances in three different series by Aaron Spelling; The Love Boat (1979), Glitter (1984), and Hotel (1987) which would be her final screen appearance as an actress.

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