70. 5th Avenue Girl (Gregory LaCava, 1939)
Another great film to come of the Golden Year of cinema, 5th Avenue Girl is something of a somber romantic comedy. It’s a funny movie about poverty and being ignored by your family! Sounds like a howler, right? But really, it manages to be very funny and very touching at the same time. Mary, played with a healthy does of world weary cynicism by Ginger Rogers, is a poor girl hired by Mr. Borden, the always wonderful Walter Connolly, to come live in his home as pose as his new ladyfriend to help him in his attempts to get his family to notice him again. His wife, his son, and his daughter all ignore him while paying attention to his money. The scheme definitely works, but complications arise when the attentions of his son (played by a pretty darn dreamy Tim Holt) toward Mary turn from suspicious to romantic. 5th Avenue Girl joins movies like My Man Godfrey in the category of socially conscious screwballs of the Depression era, but it definitely has a darker tone overall than most of the film of this type. The film is also notable for Verree Teasdale’s performance as Mr. Borden’s wife.

069. Kongo (William J. Cowen, 1932)
There are some movies that have such a strong atmosphere you can actually feel it physically, on your skin and in your bones. Kongo is one of those movies. It’s a film with such deplorable characters and horrible goings-on that it really could only come out of the pre-code era. And it has an atmosphere of so much wrongness, dirtiness, and sexuality that it almost oozes off the screen. Walter Huston is incredible as the depraved Flint, a cripple who reigns over a cult of natives in Africa. He’s a twisted individual who’s completely self obsessed and bent on revenge. In the film, most of his wrath is brought down upon Dr. Kingsland (Conrad Nagel), a doctor who he kidnaps in hopes that he’ll be able to heal him, and Ann (Virginia Bruce), the  main pawn in his revenge scheme. The brutalizes the two of them, getting them addicted to drugs and forcing Ann into prostitution. It isn’t a pleasant movie to watch, but it is an incredible look at the darkest side of human nature you could possibly find. Along with Huston’s masterful performance, Nagel and Bruce are incredible. Their characters become so broken and hopeless. They’re really the only sympathetic characters in the film, and watching them be just so utterly destroyed is pretty heartwrenching.

068. Anna Karenina (Clarence Brown, 1935)
It’s kind of amazing that a studio would even attempt an adaptation of Anna Karenina, a story that’s all about adultery, after the pre-code era. Despite the restrictions of the era, of the many adaptations of Tolstoy’s novel, Clarence Brown’s 1935 version is probably the best. This was actually the second time Garbo had played Anna Karenina. She’d made a silent, modernized version in the 1920s opposite her then paramour John Gilbert, entitled Love. The role is one that suits Garbo and her talents so amazingly well, and it’s hard for any other actress in the  role to measure up to her.  Particularly impressive are the moments between Anna and her son. Garbo loved children, though she never had any of her own, and the few scenes she shared with children throughout her career are some of the most purely emotional and open moments Garbo ever had onscreen.

067. Five and Ten (Robert Z. Leonard, 1931)
While Marion Davies was always at her best in comedies, she did have some seriously dramatic acting chops. Where so many films during the Depression were about the poor, Five and Ten told the story of a family who acquires new wealth, and the negative effects that has. So I guess it sort of said to the Depression audiences, “Don’t feel bad about being poor. Look at how awful and miserable the people who have money are.” The film looks at the Rarick family as they become members of the new rich. Instead of being blissfully happy with their new money, each family member faces their own problems. Jennifer (Davies), tries to become a member of society, but is generally shunned because she doesn’t come from old money. Her mother (Irene Rich) is bored with her life since her husband works so much, and she takes up with gigolo. Avery, Jennifer’s brother, played by Douglass Montgomery, spends all his time worrying about the problems of his family and it starts to drive him a little crazy. Where the wealthy families in films like Merrily We Live are endearingly nutty, the Raricks are an incredibly sad family to watch.

066. Follow the Fleet (Mark Sandrich, 1936)
There are so many ways in which this is not your typical Astaire/Rogers musical. First, fter Flying Down to Rio, Fred and Ginger were almost always cast as the leads. This time they share pretty equal screentime with a less interesting, but still charming, couple comprised of Randolph Scott and Harriet Hilliard. Second, the pair usually played characters of considerable wealth, or were, at the very least, comfortable. In Follow the Fleet, he’s a sailor and she’s working hard at a dance hall just to make ends meet. Finally, this is the only film in which one of their dances breaks character and they’re actually performing the dance as other characters. These differences make for a breath of fresh air in the Astaire/Rogers canon. For once they’re a completely ordinary couple, trying hard to raise some money. The films features two of their best dances, the beautiful “Let’s Face the Music and Dance”, and “I’m Putting All My Eggs In One Basket”, a lighter number which shows off Ginger’s incredibly gift for physical comedy.

075. Hide-Out (W.S. Van Dyke, 1934)
Hide-Out is a mobster movie in so much as it’s about a mobster. But instead of being a Little Caesar type story of the rise and fall of a gangster, it’s a romantic dramady. Montgomery’s Lucky really is no good. When he ends up at the Miller family farm after being shot, he intends to use the family’s kindness for as long as he can until he recovers and then return to his life of crime. But he starts to actually genuinely like the family, especially Pauline, the daughter, played by a charming Maureen O’Sullivan. At first he is after that one thing that bad boys are after when it comes to girls, but he realizes her really loves her and that makes him want to turn his life around. The movie is a really good piece of character development for Lucky, and Montgomery’s performance as both the heartless Lucky and the changed man is very good. He makes the development feel very natural. The love story, while simple, is surprisingly romantic, and there’s a an incredibly charged scene where Lucky and Pauline take refuge in an empty house during a rainstorm.

074. City Girl (Murnau, 1930)
FW Murnau was a really interesting director. It’s kind of fascinating to compare his other films, like Nosferatu, Faust, and even Sunrise with his 1930 silent film City Girl. On the surface, it’s a very different kind of film. It’s visual style is much simpler than most of his previous efforts (but no less stunning), and it doesn’t have the massive dramatic punch. It’s a much smaller, more intimately set story about love and family and finding your place. Mary Duncan and Charles Farrell (who were fantastic together the year before in Frank Borzage’s The River) play the young lovers who come from two different worlds, and their chemistry manages to carry much of the film.

073. Libeled Lady (Jack Conway, 1936)
William Powell and Myrna Loy made a huge amount of films together. Their most notable are obviously the Thin Man movies, but Libeled Lady is easily their best non-Thin Man movie. I’m a big fan of the love-quadrangle thing in old movies, and this movie has one of the best. Powell, Loy, Spencer Tracy, and Jean Harlow make a great team, and it makes for three of the best pairings in classic romance – Loy and Powell (obviously), Tracy and Harlow, and Harlow and Powell. I think Harlow’s performance is particularly impressive because she spends a good portion of the movie acting like the last thing she wants to do is marry Powell, when in reality that was what she wanted more than anything (Powell and Harlow were an item until her death in 1937).

072. Shall We Dance (Mark Sandrich, 1937)
Shall We Dance really doesn’t get a lot of love among the Astaire/Rogers films, which is unfortunate and not entirely fair. Sure, while the dancing is good, it doesn’t really match a few of their other films, and with the exception of “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” there isn’t an amazingly memorable number. But what it lacks on the musical front it makes up for by having one of the most original stories and the pair’s film canon. No mistaken identity here. Fred and Ginger play two famous dancers who the press mistakingly think are married. It’s a good premise that leads to some fantastic comedy, and great performances from its leads. Especially Ginger, who spends much of the movie acting annoyed and put out by Fred’s obvious attractions. And while there’s no mind blowing dance accompanying it, “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” is one of the best songs Fred ever sang, and Ginger’s reaction shots to it are beautiful.

071. Midnight Mary (William A. Wellman, 1933)
Thanks to the ultra-pious good girl image she cultivated for herself in the late 1940s and 1950s, when people think of Loretta Young think almost exclusively of that ultra-pious good girl. So a lot of people are often surprised to go back in her filmography and look at her pre-code work, in which that good girl was a far away thing. This is especially true of Midnight Mary, an amazing character study where Young plays one of the most flawed heroines of the era. Mary gets dealt a shit hand early on, and her life just devolves from there, from prostitution to a dangerous relationship with a violent criminal. This film is so obviously pre-code. It seems that every time Mary makes a strong moral decision, it backfires on her completely, but whenever she does something bad things kind of work for her. In the end, Mary is her own worst enemy, thinking that she doesn’t deserve any better than the life she has. Young’s performance is incredible, and this is one of the best characters to come out of the decade.

By Katie Richardson

090. Anna Christie (Clarence Brown, 1930)
MGM kept Greta Garbo in silent films longer than any other star in Hollywood. It wasn’t until 1930 that she made her talkie debut in the title role in Anna Christie.  It was really the perfect role for Garbo – the world weary prostitute of Swedish descent. The film is based on the play by Eugene O’Neill, who wasn’t the sunniest of playwrights. It’s a grim and gloomy story that could have easily been bogged down by its own sadness and despair had director Clarence Brown not put such importance on the family dynamic between Anna and her father, played by George F. Marion. Anna hides her past from her father, with whom she’s recently been reunited, for fear of disappointing him. While there is a love story in the film, the movie is really about the relationship between a father and daughter and the difficulties they have relating to one another after being separated for 15 years.

089. Of Human Bondage (John Cromwell, 1934)
Bette Davis had been working steadily in mostly unremarkable pictures until 1934 when she appeared in her breakout role in Of Human Bondage. Davis was a brave actress. Not many would take on a character as vile and horrible as Mildred, and even fewer would work so hard to make the character as horrible as possible. As a result, Davis created one of the biggest film bitches of all time, and cemented her place in Hollywood history as one of the all time greats. W. Somerset Maugham’s story of obsession and abuse is a dark one, filled with characters you can never quite feel sorry for. Nevertheless, watching the power Mildred holds over Leslie Howard’s Carey and the inexplicable pull he feels toward her is fascinating to watch. We’re basically watching a series of events that leads to a train crashing. We recognize that these things are going to lead to a disaster, we’re powerless to stop it, but it’s impossible not to be entranced by it.

088. Vivacious Lady (George Stevens, 1938)
Ginger Rogers and James Stewart were close friends for most of their lives, and they shared a really amazing chemistry on screen. In the 1930s and 1940s, they were both the “every man” (or woman) stars. Unlike much of Hollywood, which seemed glamorous and untouchable, Stewart and Roger seemed like they belonged with us. Like they were regular Joes. And pairing the two worked so well on film. Which is why it’s surprising that the only made one movie together, the delightful romantic comedy Vivacious Lady. The basic story is a little hackneyed – Stewart comes from a wealthy and respectable family, so he’s afraid to tell them that he’s married a showgirl – but the fact that director George Stevens can take that story and make something so funny and heartfelt is what’s beautiful about the whole thing. The romance between Stewart and Rogers feels incredibly genuine, and the family dynamic, while screwball and therefor a little daffy, actually feels real and honest. Despite the screwball elements, this is a movie that feels true.

087. Living on Velvet (Frank Borzage, 1935)
Living on Velvet is one of Borzage’s less recognized films. On the surface is seems to be a typical romantic melodrama, but it’s actually one of Borzage’s darkest stories. George Brent’s character, Terry, has lost his family in a plane crash while he was piloting, so he spends much of his life basically courting death, even after he marries Kay Francis’ Amy. He’s so much more damaged than any of Borzage’s other heroes. So damage that not even his love for Amy can save his soul.  Rather, much of the film seems to be about how their love for each other isn’t enough. For once in a Borzage film, it’s the outside forces that his heroes and heroines are usually so isolated from which are needed to save their lives. It’s an interesting departure for Borzage, less spiritual and certainly darker.

086. Dodsworth (William Wyler, 1936)
Hollywood romances, in both classic and modern film, are usually about young people. While it’s becoming a bit more common in current film to give older people the spotlight, that was a rarity in classic film, which makes Dodsworth a breath of fresh air. The leads are Walter Huston and Ruth Chatterton, 52 and 44 years of age, respectively. Chatterton was lucky enough to have an ageless face, and was able to play the leading ladies in roles that might have gone to younger actresses for much of the 1930s. But in Dodsworth she embraced her age to play an older woman, the mother of an adult child, and the wife of a man who’s just retired. The film continues to be unconventional, telling the story of a long time romance unraveling. It’s sometimes heartbreaking to watch, but it’s such a well done film that you can’t tear your eyes away. It’s also brilliantly performed by its entire cast, especially Chatterton, who isn’t afraid to reveal the incredibly unlikable traits of her character.

Stay tuned for 85-81.

By Katie Richardson

095. The Gay Divorcee (Mark Sandrich, 1934)
After their show stealing supporting performances in Flying Down to Rio, RKO paired Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in their first starring vehicle in 1934, The Gay Divorcee. The set up of mistaken identity definitely established a standard story point for many of their films in the following years, but Fred and Ginger are always so charming that nobody really cares that the plots all look kind of the same. The Gay Divorcee is definitely noticeable as an early entry in the pair’s canon. The dancing isn’t quite as awe inspiring as it would be a few years later. But what they may lack in technical proficiency, they make up for with chemistry. Fred and Ginger are one of the all time greatest screen teams because of all the ways they clicked together on screen, with or without the dancing. As always, they’re surrounded by a wonderful supporting cast including the delightfully daffy Alice Brady and the dependably befuddled Edward Everett Horton.

094. Inspiration (Clarence Brown, 1931)
Inspiration, Greta Garbo’s third talkie, is often dismissed as lifeless, and it’s leading couple (Garbo and Robert Montgomery) as being without passion. It’s easy to see how some might think that, seeing as how it’s surrounded by pre-code melodramas being made at the same time. But this film is anything but lifeless and passionless. It’s simply a lower-key melodrama than most films that were being made at the time. For addressing such a typically pre-code topic, it remains a remarkably gentle and patient movie. Garbo played a lot of these long suffering, self-sacrificing women, who loved their men enough to know when to leave. She played the character so many times because she was good at it, and it worked, as it does here. The relationship between Montgomery and Garbo is a lot less in your face than so many of her other pairings, because in this case we’re dealing with a man of extreme repression. There’s a lot going on underneath the surface with Montgomery, and their relationship, in this movie. Inspiration is all about the thing going on just outside of our line of vision. That’s why it usually needs to be seen more than once. You have to realize where you’re supposed to be looking.

093. Romance (Clarence Brown, 1930)
This vaguely titled melodrama is the ultimate forbidden love story. Greta Garbo, at her absolute most beautiful, is an opera singer with quite a past who falls in love with a man of God played by Gavin Gorden. Director Clarence Brown isn’t particularly creative with the camera (save for one particularly tense and steamy scene between the lovers toward the end), but he makes up for it with lush and glamorous costume and set design. Garbo’s gowns in this movie are exquisite. The fact that the story is so simple is what makes the film special. There are no crazy twists and turns. We know the way it’s going to end the second the story starts. It’s the knowledge of the inevitable which makes watching the love story unfold so heartbreaking. This is the love story from which so many modern love stories derive.

092. What Price Hollywood? (George Cukor, 1932)
Five years before William Wellman’s A Star Is Born became the cautionary tale for young stars exceeding their mentors, George Cukor’s What Price Hollywood told the same basic story, with an even more heartbreaking twist of unrequited love. Constance Bennett is the young starlet here, every bit as charming as the naive Hollywood newbie as she is as the seasoned Hollywood vet. The criminally underrated Lowell Sherman is her mentor, a gifted producer who teaches her how to be a star. Unfortunately he’s a drunk, and the more her star rises, the more his falls, and his unrequited love for her doesn’t help, especially when she married another guy. In the early 1930s, the film industry was still relatively young, and it wasn’t an entirely usual thing for people on the inside to take a cynical look at the inner workings of their bread and butter. It had been done before, of course, but not quite as brutally and heartbreakingly as it was in What Price Hollywood. It showed, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that even the ones who seem like they have it all don’t have it all.

091. Lovers Courageous (Robert Z. Leonard, 1932)
The set up and story for Lovers Courageous, Robert Z. Leonard’s stunningly visual ode to the complications of love, is rather simple. Rich girl meets poor boy. In any other movie, this set up might lead to some pretty humdrum boring stuff. But when the girl is the endlessly charming Madge Evans and the boy is sexy and suave Robert Montgomery, you’re well on your way to an entertaining movie experience. Add to that the fact that Robert Z. Leonard managed to express the beauty of love on front of the camera with some surprisingly gorgeous settings and camera work, and you’re got a pretty nice little love story to kill less than an hour and a half with. Montgomery and Evans are one of the unsung duos of classic film. They made some of the best romances of the 1930s together, and had the perfect spark and chemistry for each other. Montgomery, who is often known for playing snarky men of considerable means, is quite low-key here, a humble and romantic minded playwright who enjoys the simpler things in life, specifically the beauty of one Miss Evans. It’s a charming, visually pleasing love story with a satisfying conclusion and a couple that’s impossible not to root for.

Stay tuned for 90-86

By Katie Richardson

Year: 1942

Director: Billy Wilder

Cast: Ginger Rogers, Ray Milland, Rita Johnson, Robert Benchley, Diana Lynn, Edward Fielding

The Major and the Minor is Billy Wilder’s American directorial debut. He also wrote the screenplay together with one of his longtime collaberators, Charles Brackett. In a period of thirteen years they wrote more than a dozen classic screenplays together for some of the greatest films in history i.e. Ninotchka, Midnight, Ball Of Fire, The Long Weekend and best of all Sunset Blvd. The Major and the Minor was based on a play by Edward Childs Carpenter.

The ever-lovable Ginger Rogers plays Susan Appleton, a young woman who after a year of starting and failing at twentyfive different jobs in New York City decides to leave the City to go home to Stevenson, Iowa and marry a local boy. When she got to the city a year earlier she held onto an enveloppe with enough money in it for her return ticket home. When she gets to the ticket counter at the train station, she’s told the fairs have gone up in the last year and that she’s five dollars short for her return ticket. She goes into the Woman’s Loung to change her appearance so that she’ll look younger; as a 12 years old girl she’s gets a ticket for half fair.

On the train a couple of conductors aren’t fooled by her masquarede and she flees into the cabin of Major Philip Kirby (Ray Milland). He’s fooled by her scheme and gets mesmerized with this child, which he calls Su-Su. He lets her stay with him in his cabin. The next morning Philip’s fiance Pamela (Rita Johnson) and soon-to-be-father-in-law Colonel Oliver Slater Hill (Edward Fielding) decide to pick him up from the train in High Creek, Indiana. When they get there Pamela sees a young woman in her fiancee’s cabin and wants to break off the engagement. Philip asks the “twelve year old” Su-Su to come along to the military academy to settle things straight.

The Major and the Minor is sort of a two faced film for me. It’s a very sweet film. Ginger Rogers is great. At the time she made this, she on the height of her career as an solo actress after her six year collaberation with Fred Astaire. But it’s a movie of it’s time. It couldn’t be made now without many adjustments. Ray Milland’s character threads a twelve year old like a five year old. You would presume his character, Philip Kirby, would have some characteristics of a child predator, if his character himself wouldn’t have been such a naive and very childish character. Wilder as a director is still searching for a style; compared to other Billy Wilder films The Major and the Minor is very static. But all these dubious thoughts are in no contrast to the cheer fun this movie still brings to the audience.

Filmtrivia: Susan (Ginger Rogers) Appleton’s mother is played by Lela E. Rogers (Ginger’s mother).

By Ralph van Zuuren


Cast: Ginger Rogers, David Niven, Charles Coburn, Frank Alberton

Polly Parish (Rogers) is a sales girl at Merlin’s Department store. She’s fired just a few days before Christmas. On her way home, she finds a baby on the steps of the orphange and picks it up, so the people at the orphanage think the baby is hers. Thinking she abandoned the baby because she had lost her job, the orphanage convinces David Merlin (Niven) to give Polly her job back. Polly takes care of the baby that isn’t really hers, and begins to love him as though her were her own. As does David, who also begins to love Polly.

Bachelor Mother is a really terrific Christmas movie. It’s one of those movies that’s a clever take on the virgin birth, making the subject matter perfect for the holiday. It also slyly slides past the censors and the Production Code with the subject manner. There’s a tiny bit of a subversive undertone to the family comedy that’s delightful.

This is one of Ginger Rogers’ best performances. As always, she handles both the comedy and the drama with tremendous skill, and helps to make the growing romance between Polly and David very convincing. But what makes her performance great is her work with the baby. Rogers never had any children of her own, but you’d never guess that by the way she behaves with the baby. She grows to love the baby that’s not really her’s, and it’s one of the most convincing performances I’ve ever seen, and it also makes for one of the most touching mother/son relationships in film.

It definitely is, without a doubt, Ginger’s movie. But David Niven gives a very solid performance. He has some great moments of humor, like when he’s reading the baby book and the pages get stuck together, and when he tries to return the toy duck to his own department store. He really is wonderful with Rogers, and the development of their romance is quite lovely.

Bachelor Mother is simply one of the funniest, sweetest movies to come out in the 1930s.

Also, it was remade as a musical in the 1950s with Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher as Bundle of Joy. It’s not nearly as good as Bachelor Mother, but it is a really cute movie, and Debbie Reynolds is adorable.

Unfortunately, the version on Youtube is the colorized one, but it’s a good movie whether it’s bastardized by color or not.

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

And just so you know, after part 4, they’re incorrectly labeled on youtube. I believe I got them all in the right order.

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

My brain is kind of melting. I played way too many drinking games last night and can no longer thing of clever titles for my posts.

Anyhoo…. everyone knows the “essential” Fred and Ginger films. Swing Time, Top Hat, The Gay Divorcee, Shall We Dance. But most of my favorites are the ones that don’t get a lot of attention. Roberta, Carefree, Follow the Fleet. And these movies have some of my very favorite Fred and Ginger dances. So why aren’t they better known? So here are my favorite obscure Fred and Ginger movies, with my favorite dances from each of them.

Roberta
In my absolute favorite of their films, Fred and Ginger actually play second banana to Randolph Scott and Irene Dunne. They are infinitely more interesting than the main couple, but the movie is just so completely charming.


I’ll Be Hard to Handle
I don’t think Fred and Ginger ever had more fun doing a dance number than they did here. It’s a fast, fun, breezy dance that’s a blast to watch, and judging be the smiles and laughter coming from the pair, a blast to perform as well.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
This is my favorite Fred and Ginger dance. It’s a very simple dance, but it’s so well choreographed and put together. It’s extremely beautiful, and has some exquisite moments (the dip, the spin, the way he holds her head against his shoulder… so romantic).

Follow the Fleet
Fred and Ginger are kind of playing second banana again in this one (the other couple is Randolph Scott and Harriet Hilliard). The balance is a little more even between the pairings in this one, though. For once, Fred and Ginger don’t play upper class people. Fred is a sailor in the Navy and Ginger is a singer/dancer in a small dance hall. It makes for a really unique and fun dynamic between them.

I’m Putting All My Eggs In One Basket
This is probably Fred and Ginger’s funniest number. I also love it because it’s really a moment for Ginger to shine and show her tremendous ability for physical comedy. Fred’s great here, but surprisingly, it really is Gingers number. I also like the song quite a bit as well.

Let’s Face the Music and Dance
Like Smoke Gets In Your Eyes this is a very simply done, but beautiful number. Ginger’s dress is extremely beautiful in it (it’s probably my favorite dress Ginger wore in any of there movies). It was beaded and very heavy, and if you look close enough you can see Fred getting whapped in the face by one of the sleeves.

Carefree
This is probably the most unique Fred and Ginger movie, because it’s storyline and narrative structure are completely different from their other films. Fred is a psychiatrist who’s trying to help his friend with his wishy washy fiance (Ginger). Of course, they fall in love. This is definitely more Ginger’s movie than Fred’s, and it’s probably her finest comedic performance.

I Used to Be Color Blind
This is a very interesting dance. It’s done in slow motion to give it a dreamy feeling (the whole dance is actually a dream sequence). And it’s also the first time Fred and Ginger shared a kiss onscreen.

The Yam
This number is another reason that this is mostly Ginger’s movie. She gets to sing this song (Fred thought it was too silly and handed it off to her). She does a great job, and she kind of takes the lead in the dance, which is a really fun and creative number.

By Katie Richardson

Year: 1933

Director: Albert Ray

Cast: Ginger Rogers, Lyle Talbot, Harvey Clark, Purnell Pratt, Lillian Harmer, Arthur Hoyt, Louise Beavers

Before she got famous with Fred, Ginger Rogers made a lot of B-grade films. A Shriek in the Night is a better one, and another film that has a low rating on IMDb that I don’t understand. It’s certainly not a great movie, but it’s a good one.

Ginger plays Pat, a reporter who’s been working undercover as the secretary to a possibly crooked public figure. When that man is killed, she’s in the prime position to get a good scoop. However, her scoop is stolen by her sometimes paramour Ted (Talbot). The two eventually end up working together, and the closer they get to the murderer, the more danger their lives are in.

Ginger is incredibly spunk and likeable in this movie. In a lot of films of these types from the early 1930s, when they had a pretty young actress playing an inquisitive reporter, the actress often didn’t seem anywhere near smart enough for the role. But Ginger comes across as being extremely intelligent and resourceful. And she has good chemistry with Talbot. The relationship begins with the usual hate/love of the two leads of strong personality. Fortunately, though, it goes a different direction and sticks mostly with the ‘love’ side of things. Which is a good choice, because as good as they are when they’re fighting, Rogers and Talbot are much more adorable as a couple.

The film does have some tone problems. It’s a mystery/comedy. It is very funny, with Rogers and Talbot delivering their fair share of zingers, and Purnell Pratt being funny and quippy as the lead Inspector. He especially earns some great laughs in the first scene. It also has some extremely well done moments on the thriller side. Towards the end there are some very well executed moments of genuine creepiness and suspense. However, the two tones never really gel completely. While both comedy and suspense are done well, they don’t come together well. It’s like watching two different movies.

There is a good central mystery, though. Unlike a lot of movies of this type, A Shriek in the Night is more focused on it’s murder mystery than it is on the romance. Sometimes with mysteries, you follow the story with some interest, but not trying to figure it out because you know they’ll just tell you it all in the end. With this film, however, I found myself constantly engaged with the mystery, greatly interested in all the clues and revalations, and trying to figure it out before the end. They do kind of blow their load by revealing the killer a little too early.

With its great cast, charming leads, and intriguing mystery, A Shriek In the Night is definitely a chiller worth your time.

NOTE: This movie is available on YouTube.

By Katie Richardson

While Three Loves Has Nancy is a fun comedy with deeper character development underneath, Tom, Dick, and Harry leans more toward the light romantic comedy side of things. While it does present some interesting and unique characters, they don’t quite have the issues and depth that the earlier film possessed. Still, Tom, Dick, and Harry is a unique romantic comedy that takes chances with its storytelling techniques.

Ginger Rogers is Janie, a sweet, but simple girl (her parents complain that she becomes more and more adolescent every day) who dreams of love and marriage. She’s dating the stable and ambitious Tom (George Murphy), who’s just received a promotion and is seeking another one. He asks her to marry him, and she seriously considers it, until she meets Harry (Burgess Meredith). She mistakes him for a wealthy man, but continues seeing him even when she discovers he’s not, because there’s just something about the loveable, but short tempered deadbeat, that she likes. Then she meets the wealthy and powerful Dick (Alan Marshal) and thinks that all her dreams of love and money can come true. All three vie for her affections, while she tries to decide which one to choose.

What Tom, Dick, and Harry lacks in depth, it makes up for in creative storytelling. Janie’s subconscious rebels against the thought of marrying each man through surreal, and sometime creepy dreams.  Each suitor is given a fair amount of time to build a convincing romance with Janie, which actually makes the ending unpredictable. All of the men have something appealing about them. They all seem like suitable matches for Janie, and she does have genuine feelings for them all. So, even in the last scene, as she’s deciding once and for all, we really don’t know who she’ll choose. And the characters of the men are so well done that they’re very different, so there is the sense that no matter who she chooses, she’s giving up something else good.

While one of the men wasn’t present for most of Three Loves Has Nancy, all three men are very present in Tom, Dick, and Harry, making the love-rectangle much more present and much more complicated. Once all three men discover each other, there’s a huge amount of competition, from simple competitive wooing, to physical fighting. There’s one scene where all three men begin to undress to jump into bed with Janie (certainly a racy scene for the time).

Ginger Rogers was best at playing street wise, sassy gals, but Janie doesn’t quite have the intellect of Rogers’ other characters. This is probably the most “real” of all the characters she played. While Rogers played a lot of normal, middle to lower class characters, she always held and intelligence and strength that was exceptional. Janie doesn’t really have that. She’s a sweet girl who is more wrapped up in love and hearts and flowers than anything else. It’s not one of Rogers’ most stellar performances, but it is a very good one. She gives Janie a lot of heart, which I don’t think would have been there with any other actress in the role. It could have been easy for Janie to be extremely irritating, but Rogers approaches the role with subtlety.

Tom, Dick, and Harry isn’t particularly deep, but for a romantic comedy of the early 1940s, it’s extremely well crafted and creative.