Cast: Ginger Roger, Joseph Cotten, Shirley Templer, Spring Byington, Tom Tully

Yes, YouTube movie of the week is finally back. And for the month of December, we’re going to be covering just Christmas movies in this feature. And this is one you’ll definitely want to be watching soon, because it will be discussed in the Christmas podcast.

Ginger Rogers plays Mary Martin, a young woman who’s been sent to prison for manslaughter. She’s granted a furlough to go visit her aunt and uncle for Christmas. On the train, she meets Zach, a soldier who’s been in an institution suffering from post traumatic stress. He, too, has been granted a holiday furlough to see how he can handle the real world. Zach gets off the train with Mary, and the two strike up a relationship, with neither known the truth about each other’s problems.

I’ll Be Seeing You is really one of the most genuine romances I’ve ever seen. Films from this era didn’t really get into dark and deeply flawed characters as their romantic heroes and heroines, and the fact that this one does makes the the love story feel very raw and real. It also develops in a very realistic, convincing way. There’s never a moment where I thought that it felt artificial. Few films depict falling in love so honestly.

It was also one of the first films in the 1940s to ditch the patriotic “America is great and being a soldier and defending your country is awesome!” idea, and really tackle the negative effects war can have on those fighting it. Zach suffers deeply from post traumatic stress, and the film isn’t afraid to actually show that. We aren’t just told he’s been suffering, we see it. His behavior in the beginning of the film alone is extremely indicative of this. And we even get an excellent scene where we see him having an episode/flashback. This came out the year before The Best Years of Our Lives, the quintessential film about the hardships of a returning soldier, and it’s really brave in it depiction of a soldier’s struggles, especially since we were still at war at the time.

The handling of Mary’s character is interesting as well. We eventually learn the circumstances of her “crime”, but in the end it doesn’t matter so much. The way she interacts with her family is a really great part of the film. The clearly love her, but both her uncle and her cousin obviously have a difficult time with her being there from prison. Especially her cousin. While she’s friendly to Mary, the things she does (separating their closet, making sure they use different towels), clearly ostracize Mary. Seeing Barbara eventually learn to understand and accept Mary is a wonderfully developed sub plot.

The acting in the film is exceptional. Both Rogers and Cotten give performances that are among the best of their career. Cotten really gets into Zach’s head, and he seems to really understand the hardship of his Post Traumatic Stress. He’s a troubled, deeply flawed man. Rogers gives Mary so much guilt and shame, and over something she really shouldn’t feel guilty about. They both creat extremely fascinating characters. Shirley Temple, all grown up, gives a very interesting performance. She starts off as a girl who doesn’t seem to have a thought in her head, but as she grows to understand Mary, she develops into a realy young lady.

This is a unique Christmas film. It’s definitely a holiday film, but it doesn’t dwell on Christmas. It has a different story all its own, and that’s what I love so much about it. The Christmas moments are wonderful, but the story is so strong and interestingon its own.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13Part 14, Part 15, Part 16

By Katie Richardson

Year: 1944

Director: Charles Vidor

Starring: Rita Hayworth, Gene Kelly, Phil Silvers, Lee Bowman, Leslie Brookes, Eve Arden, Otto Kruger

Rita Hayworth and Gene Kelly may be the most perfectly matched film couple of all time. Not the greatest, mind you, but definitely among the best matched. They were both impossibly good looking people, they both had charismatic acting chops, and both really could dance their pants off (though hardly anybody remembers that about Hayworth). They’re the best thing about Cover Girl. And that’s saying a lot. Because Cover Girl is a damn good movie.

Rusty (Hayworth) dances at her boyfriend Danny’s (Kelly) club, but she wants to get famous. So she goes to an open call for John Coudair’s (Kruger) magazine, where they’re looking for a model for the “Golden Wedding” issue. Rusty lands the gig and becomes famous overnight, much to the chagrin of Danny, who thinks she should achieve fame using her considerable singing and dancing talents.

It sounds like a simple enough story. And if that was all the movie was it would still be a really good musical romance. But the film weaves in flashback’s to Coudair’s past, where he fell in love with Rusty showgirl grandmother, who really loved the poor piano player from the club where she worked. So Cover Girl works beyond just the musical comedy level. Unlike so many films of this genre, it creates a layered, detail history to the characters and their stories that gives it a very full, meaningful feeling. You could take out the musical numbers (though they’re so good you really shouldn’t) and you’d still have a damn good movie.

And like I said, those musical number are all kinds of awesome. The fun songs combined with the skilled dancing of Kelly and Hayworth may not be as memorable as something out of an Astaire/Rogers picture, but they’re still a load of fun. “Make Way For Tomorrow”, “Poor John”, “A Sure Thing”, and, especially, “Long Ago and Far Away” are all winners. With musical numbers set in two different time periods, the song writers creat to distinct styles (and “Poor John” is actually a song written in 1906).

And, of course, there’s Hayworth and Kelly, who should have made a lot more films together. They’re chemistry is off the charts. It shows not only in their romantic dialog scenes together, but also their dances. By the time they’re singing “Long Ago and Far Away” (pretty much the most romantic song of all time) to each other, they’ve already cemented themselves as one of the great couples of cinema.

Ginger Rogers is my favorite actress. She’s mostly remembered today for being Fred Astaire’s dance partner throughout the 1930s. But Rogers had an acting talent that went beyond that. She was a fantastic and graceful dancer, but she should be remembered as so much more. Her range was unbelievable. She could make a fantastic screwball comedy, and then turn around and make a melodrama, giving great performances in both. Rogers stopped dancing with Astaire in 1939 with The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (they’d re-team just once more, ten years later, for The Barkleys of Broadway) to focus on a career in non-musical films. Almost immediately her talent was recognized and she won an Academy Award for her performance in the 1940 film Kitty Foyle. Unfortunately, though, so many of her sans-Fred films aren’t remembered today. Here are some of the best.

Primrose Path (Gregory La Cava, 1940)

The same year she gave her award winning performance in Kitty Foyle, she gave an even better performance in Primrose Path, as the daughter of a prostitute who tries to escape her life by marrying Joel McCrea. This is one of the most beautiful love stories put out by the studio system. It’s about the importance of honesty in a marriage. It’s surprising that this film got past the Production Code, not just because it featured characters who were clearly prostitutes, but because these characters were sympathetic. Marjorie Rambeau (who received an Oscar nomination for the role) played Rogers’ mother and a basically good woman simply doing what she was taught in order to support her family. Her relationship with Rogers is gentle. She only wants the best for her children. Primrose Path is a really brave film for the time it was made, and it’s just one of the best romance films I’ve ever seen.

Rafter Romance (William A. Seiter, 1933)

Rafter Romance is actually a pre-Fred film. It’s a simple but incredible sweet and pretty funny romance. Rogers and Norman Foster play two people who share an apartment – he lives there during the day, she lives there at night. They never meet, but they still can’t stand each other. Of course, they meet outside of the apartment, not realizing the other is the person they believe they can’t stand, and they fall in love. This is definitely one of the most original romantic comedies of the early 1930s. Rogers is completely charming, and Norman Foster is a good match for her. They’re both just so endlessly cute.

Romance In Manhattan (Stephen Roberts, 1935)

It’s amazing that such a simple romantic dramady can be so moving. Francis Lederer plays an immigrant who is in the country illegally. He’s taken in by Rogers and her kid brother. It’s really as simple as that. The three just try to make a living and stay afloat while Lederer and Rogers fall in love. But it’s such a sincere and genuine romance. It’s made with so much heart from all involved. And it has one of the funniest finales ever.

Star of Midnight (Stephen Roberts, 1935)

Star of Midnight is my favorite Thin Man knockoff. It’s central mystery is really very interesting, and it has a certain “strange” feeling that I think sets it apart from other screwball mysteries. Powell stars in this (and he’s great, as always) with Rogers as his much younger and very eager love interest. She goes after everything with determination and vigor, whether it’s trying to solve the case or trying to get Powell to marry her. I really wish these two had made more movies together. They were a perfect fit.

Vivacious Lady (George Stevens, 1938)

Vivacious Lady is a sweet romantic comedy made great by the brilliant pairing of Ginger Rogers and James Stewart. They both had an “everyman” feel to them, which made them an incredibly relatable couple. You want so badly for them to be happy together because they’re so normal and remind you of yourself. I also like that it’s not really a movie about two people falling in love. They get married early on in the film. The movie is about them trying to break the news to his family, and staying together while they do it. It’s just an adorable movie.

Bachelor Mother (Garson Kanin, 1939)

This is one of Rogers’ very best performances. She plays a woman who has to raise an orphaned baby she finds on her own because nobody believes it’s not hers. In the meantime, she begins to fall in love with David Niven, her boss’s son who takes an interest in caring for the baby as well. This movie is so great because, in addition to the great romance between Rogers and Niven, it’s wonderful to watch Rogers’ love for the baby, that’s not even hers, grow. It’s one of the most interesting and beautiful relationships in film.

5th Avenue Girl (Gregory La Cava, 1939)

5th Avenue Girl is such a good movie because it has so much going for it. First would be the relationship between Rogers and Walter Connolly. Connolly plays a wealthy man who is ignored by his family, she when he meets Rogers on a park bench he takes her in and the two pretend they’re having an affair in the hopes that the family will finally pay attention to what he’s doing. Rogers and Connolly bond and form a really nice father/daughter relationship that’s the heart of the movie. But the movie has three love stories going on. Throughout the film, Connolly and his wife eventually find their way back to each other. Connolly’s daughter is in love with the chauffer, who seems to be something of a communist. The best love story, though, you don’t realize is there until about halfway through the movie. Rogers and Connolly’s son, Tim Holt, fall in love. It’s a strangely done romance, I’m not even sure I can really describe it, but it’s a really strong film all together.

Tom, Dick, and Harry (Garson Kanin, 1941)

Rogers played a character in Tom, Dick, and Harry who was a little… simpler than most of her other characters. She dreams of romance and love, but can’t choose between three different guys: the regular guy who’s working his way up to management at a local store, the millionaire, and the poor guy. The best part about this movie is that each of the guys has their pros and their cons, and you really have no idea who she’ll choose in the end. She gives a really adorable performance, and this movie is just cute.

Tales of Manhattan (Julian Duvivier, 1942)

In this series of loosely connected vignettes, Ginger Rogers has one of the best stories. It’s a little, short, self contained story about Rogers finding out her fiancee is a cad and realizing his pal, Henry Fonda, is perfect for her. It’s short, sweet, and funny. And Rogers and Fonda are SO good together. Watching this, it’s hard to believe they never made any other films together. They were such a good pairing.

I’ll Be Seeing You (William Dieterle, 1944)

This movie is SO amazing. While there were a lot of movies being made to show how awesome soldiers were and to spread patriotic propaganda during the war, I’ll Be Seeing You was one of the first films to really take a look at the negative effects the war was having on the soldiers. This movie gives us two incredibly flawed, complicated, and damaged characters and allows them to fall in love. It’s just such a beautiful movie. You really didn’t see movies and characters like this too much in classic film.

By Katie Richardson

Year: 1944

Director: Edward Dmytryk

Starring: Dick Powell, Claire Trevor, Anne Shirley, and Otto Kruger

There is something perplexing about Murder My Sweet, and it isn’t just the twisting plot. It has all the ingredients of a great noir from the 40s but doesn’t cook up to be a very filling entree. For some reason, despite being based off of a Raymond Chandler story and despite all the double-crossing, murder, despicable characters, adultery, brutality, blackmail, robbery, drugs, and sexuality, it falls some what flat. For some reason it doesn’t seem to quite connect with the audience, and for some reason it is hard to become invested in the characters.

It is still a good ride, but it doesn’t have the impact that some of the other movies from the era did. It doesn’t really stay with you after watching it. The bulk of the performances seemed mediocre to me, but the gritty story line and the stylistic flare redeem it some what, making it still worth watching, especially if you are fan of the era or a fan of film noir. It does visually cook up just the right atmosphere.

Maybe I am prejudiced against Dick Powell who plays Chandler’s well known Philip Marlowe because I recently saw Bogart play the same character in The Big Sleep, or maybe it is because Powell’s primary former film experience had been fluffy musicals. Maybe he just didn’t have what it took to step into Chandler’s dark view of Los Angeles and the shady characters who dwell there. Either way I found his performance sub-par. Maybe he just didn’t look like Marlowe to me, kind of like Timothy Dalton as Bond, his manner and looks just distract me from my love and interest in the character.

If you want to experience the best the 40s, Chandler or Film Noir have to offer, look else where first. Murder, My Sweet won’t satisfy your hunger for any of those things, but it does make a decent snack.

By: Greg Dickson