Let's face it - we all want Ginger Rogers' cinematic wardrobe, ja?
Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers in Once Upon a Honeymoon (1942).
I think the question that this movie (+ Monkey Business) begs is:
1. WHY WERE GINGER AND CARY NOT IN MORE MOVIES TOGETHER???
I also have other questions:
1b. What exactly is going on in this plot?…is somewhat unclear at times, as it gets unnecessarily convoluted through the second half. How I see it is, there is already the GINGER-CARY CHEMISTRY + NAZIS + FAKE IDENTITIES + BOATS — you don’t need much more than that to turn this into a wild ride of a movie. Unfortunately, RKO did not see things that way, so the plot is evermore built upon itself as the movie progresses and tries to cover all of WWII in 2 hours. The result is sort of diminishing for both the comedic and dramatic aspects of the film: all the fun bits just barely poke their heads out of this weird quagmire, but then the serious bits don’t even come across as THAT serious because Cary’s Smolder is really, really, distracting, and every time he tries to either reassure or caution Ginger about WAR or DANGER, I end up thinking that every dire situation is secretly a sexy one,* and I am pretty sure that is not the kind of mixed messaging this movie intended regarding WWII.
1c. Let’s talk CLOTHES! Ginger’s clothes in this movie are not nearly as ridiculous as the wife of an Austrian Nazi Baron’s could be** — probably because she’s mostly on the run once she figures that out and also it’s wartime — but she does get to open the film with this satin sensation. This military-inspired, double-breasted, belted one-piece pantsuit could signify a lot of things (repression! containment! the Third Reich! RUN GINGER RUN!), so, much like the movie, I’m not sure which way to go with it. The outfit certainly has her playing her part as Secret Nazi Wife with that military inspired bodice, but also contains some personal touches (the playfully monogrammed initials to represent her amazingly terrible fake socialite name, Katherine Butt-Smith) so that we know Ginger’s character still retains some autonomy? (The autonomy to decide that she should keep her Tales of Manhattan hair, I guess, which was not a good call in my opinion.)
On the whole, this piece is actually pretty sensible and mature as far as jumpsuits go - it doesn’t have any of the frivolity of Ginger’s 1930’s jumpsuits (tear), but it is still a very well-defined, shapely piece of clothing that clings expertly to Ginger’s curves. In that respect, when Foreign Correspondent Cary stumbles into her apartment and pretends to be her tailor, it is a perfect outfit for attracting his attention to all the right places. That he then has to measure with measuring tape he obviously does not know how to use. LET THE BRIEF MOMENT OF COMEDY ENSUE!
*Cary’s Smolder really tries SO HARD to be the Star of the movie, but at most, it’s only allowed to be Best Supporting Actor. Hm, I wonder if maybe I only think the plot is convoluted because I am hypnotized by Cary’s Smolder every time it appears on screen and consequently only process about half of the dialogue?
**Just to be clear from the outset, for those who haven’t seen the movie — Cary Grant does NOT PLAY A NAZI. Rolf from Sound of Music he is not.
Anonymous asked: Thank You!!! I just watched Follow the Fleet and could have sworn Harriett Hilliard's character was in a maternity smock in the scene where they are refurbishing the boat... Now I get it!!!
So pleased to be of assistance! We are here for all your secret metaphor needs (in the filmography of Ginger Rogers). And good job spotting the maternity wear during the building/birthing of the boat/baby!
Ginger Rogers as Ellen Saunders in The Sap from Syracuse (1930).
So this movie is just okay, and it is unfortunate that Ginger Rogers hadn’t yet decided to portray her flapper-heiress characters as live action Betty Boops, but I DO like the fact that The Sap from Syracuse is a movie driven by the vagaries of property law. Our hero is out of his element because he unexpectedly came into some money! G’s Ellen Saunders is endangered because of her family’s bad estate planning! Glad to see the plot of all British novels in Hollywood movie form.
Anyway, I also like this opening outfit, in which our heroine must stand up to her Evil Guardian, and defend her property rights.* She does this in a pretty kicky and casual way, all “yo, you’re a jerk!” because she is not a tragic heiress, but a FLAPPER heiress. Thus, the short light dress, all plain and casual, except for the tie around the waist. Which, I will point out, looks like a flag. She is liberating herself! Free Ellen Saunders! With a little help from hijinks, of course.
*To be honest, the whole estate plot, which revolves around mining rights in Macedonia made me uncomfy, in that “oh hey, lots of people were totally into colonialism in the 1930’s!” The movie definitely has this whole, “The Exotic East” orientalist thing about Macedonia, which is a reminder, I guess that Europe/the Oriental Other is fundamentally a frame of mind? Which is giving too much credit to this pleasant but silly movie, but whatever. Anyway, I had this same feeling here that I had years ago when I read A Little Princess, and realized I wanted Sara Crewe’s mining rights to be lost in a violent revolutionary overthrow of the imperialist yoke (I was something of a violent revolutionary when I was 8).
Ginger Rogers in her Oscar-winning role as Kitty Foyle, in Kitty Foyle (1940).
The first time we watched this movie, my whatgingerwore partner in crime and I had a classic Pretentious People Movie Moment. We had watched the first couple of scenes at the beginning, and as the camera cut to a snowglobe and dissolved into scenes from Our Heroine’s past, we turned to each other and back to back: “wow that is like Citizen Kane!” “Yeah, and that first scene? Very Magnificent Ambersons.” And we seriously considered for a moment whether Kitty Foyle could have influenced either of the two Greatest Movies Ever Made.*
Update on our sanity: don’t worry! Despite our love of making up crazy theories we realized this is ludicrous. We’re pretty sure Orson Welles was (we mean with the greatest respect) too far up his butt to copy some Ginger Rogers prestige picture made the year before. We will not rewrite the history of cinema. CRISIS AVERTED. We will, however, continue to sing the praises of Kitty Foyle!
Anyway, there is a reason we had our Welles comparisons early in this film: the first few minutes of this movie are truly excellent and deserve mad props. For one thing, it utilizes our favorite thing: comparisons!
Yes, this lady above, is the Victorian Lady who our very own Kitty Foyle (and modern womanhood) is about to be compared to. Not so much HER (though incidentally, this lady seems like a pretty cool chick, fighting for suffrage and all), as the benefits she has. In a few brief, ironic sketches, the (genuinely seductive) benefits of her life as the Angel of the House are enumerated: men offer up their seats and are gently deferential, she gets to wear gorgeous frilly clothes, she is the freakin’ adored Angel in the House.
And this seductive past is compared to the modern (well, okay, 1940’s) present. No seat on the subway! Simpler, plainer clothes. Our main character has to work for a living, she emerges from her job with a bunch of other girls complaining about men. Life seems less fun; less easy, less frilly.
If this was the point of Kitty Foyle – those ladies sure were silly, gettin’ them rights! It would be an awfully frustrating movie. But, instead, our heroine puts on her warm winter coat, steps outside into the city streets, and we see her: alone.
In her simple and unadorned coat, with the snow falling down, she stands alone. But not just any alone. The point isn’t her isolation, or maybe the point IS her isolation. Instead of yards of men giving up her seat, tolerating her suffragetting, protecting her in the warm safe house, she gets something the Victorian lady doesn’t get; she gets the Hero Treatment.
Because yeah, you know who stands alone, reflecting quietly in isolation? Luke Skywalker. Superman, basically all superheroes. John Wayne, in all those movies where he stands defiantly in the vastness of the west. Kitty Foyle may not have the safety offered in the Victorian world, but there is a promise inherent in her isolation, in the sense that she must create her own destiny, find her own happiness. That is how heroes begin. Bravely and alone, wearing kinda crap clothes. John Wayne’s clothing is always dirty, heck, all heroes of westerns are somewhat wrinkled. Clark Kent is dressed in a badly-fitted suit before he reveals his gleaming goofy superhero outfit. Kitty Foyle’s outfit here isn’t an object of desire, a fantasy outfit. It is too simple - while the coat looks warm, even the fur on the hood looks like a practical touch, or at the least a sign that in a time of fur coats, she can’t afford more than a fur hood. But it makes you root for her, lets you understand what she doesn’t have, and what she might want. It lets you know that you are looking at the hero of this movie. It is kinda a crap coat, but in another way, it is a great one.
*HOW FITTING is it that a lot of the people who argue for Magnificent Ambersons as the BEST EVER admit that whatever cut of the movie they think is the best has been lost to time/shenanigans? “The best movie ever is the one you cannot ever see!” I think sums that up. That said, apparently Vertigo is the best movie ever now, according to some list. Fair enough! Anyway, The Best Ever is one of those pointless games that it is fun to indulge in - I mean, lots of things are great for a whole lot of reason, and clearly at some point gradations of wonderfulness become so small and prone to subjectivity as to become meaningless. But, on the other hand, it is so fun to argue!
Haha, happy Oscars weekend, everyone!
Connie Martin, guys. Connie Martin. I find her depressing, and usually fast-forward through her scenes to make Follow the Fleet the note-perfect 45-minute laughfest it is meant to be. No fault of Harriet Hilliard – she’s perfectly decent, and it must be hard to fill the shoes previously filled by Irene Dunne (so likable!) and Dolores Del Rio (DAT FACE!). Harriet Hilliard does okay. The problem with Connie Martin is hidden behind the Hays Code and ballgowns, and the result is that what is technically going on in the movie isn’t what is ACTUALLY going on in the movie and if that is confusing….well, hear us out.
So here is the plot of this movie, devoid of subtext: Connie Martin meets a sailor, sees him for a single day, the sailor leaves and she buys him a boat (WHAAAAA????) with all her money. Then she is shocked when the sailor returns a year later and isn’t inclined to put a ring on it. Which….seems unreasonable on her part? But she is all tragic and surprised, and WE are feeling tragic and surprised because we don’t understand and want to go back to the dancing and pranking and is Connie supposed to be really dim or a little unstable or something? Sad times all around. Time to skip all Connie Martin scenes (obvs. Bilge too, he is the worst).
But the subtext of Follow the Fleet….well, luckily, we have clothes to help us understand. Connie, outside of that BRIEF part at the beginning where she is all dowdy, is super dressed up! Ballgown after ballgown, in a movie where her showgirl sister dresses like a paralegal. And Connie is a music teacher in a small town! Not exactly ballgowns for days, one would suppose (though if there is some small town in Northern California dedicated to constant ballgown wearing: I wanna go to there). And her dresses are all…dark and sexy and serious. Outfits for the tragic heroine.
On the face of things, it is hard to read Connie as a tragic heroine. The worst things that happened to her is that a sailor was a jerk (WHAT A SURPRISE, you can just imagine Kitty Collins saying), and she spent all her money? And yes, bad financial planning can lead to BAD results. In real life, sure, it is tragedy. But poor financial decisions made by pretty ladies in movies are not generally the thing of high drama. In fact, there was a movie made about this, that Confessions of a Shopaholic movie, in which the heroine has out-of-control credit, and Pat Field dressed her like a tacky clown, and she seemed like a sociopath but it was a romantic comedy? Not at all sad. No, Connie is not the tragic heroine because of reckless financial planning. Connie is the tragic heroine because:
THE BOAT IS ACTUALLY A BABY!