Saturday, December 25, 2010

Ginger at 100: A Fan’s Perspective


Chapter 1
The Reason Why

The movies from the 30s and 40s were the universe of my Saturdays and summers as I was growing up.   My criterion for investing my time or money in a movie is first the actors, then the story.  The story has to be compelling to override actors I do not particularly care for.
I first met Ginger Rogers on the small screen in the living room of my parents’ home.  The movie was I’ll Be Seeing You. The screen filled with a swaying sign announcing the film as a David O. Selznick Production.  I knew him from Gone with the Wind fame.  Ginger Rogers, Joseph Cotten, and Shirley Temple’s names followed the title of the film.  I had grown up watching Shirley Temple as a child on the little screen as well as watching her story telling television show.  I had screamed with tears running down my face “It is her grandfather!” as I vigorously banged on the top of the television as Heidi yelled for her grandfather as she was driven off in the sleigh.  Joseph Cotten’s performance in Portrait of Jennie was enthralling and appealed to the romantic me.  I was acquainted with Spring Byington through her television show December Bride.  Now, Ginger Rogers was new to me.  I knew Ginger was Fred Astaire’s famous dancing partner from the 30s, but when I had tried to watch several of Fred’s movies from the 40s, they just did not click for me.  I could not get emotionally involved with the characters and their plight.  Besides Fred is not that good looking at first, second, or even third glance.  My main obsession was with detective murder mysteries and dramatic movies with a few comedies thrown in.  I was not expecting a riveting performance by Ginger Rogers.  However, I was blown away!  Wow!  Wow!  That is some actress!

I’ll Be Seeing You December 1944 Los Angeles, California

Two lonely people, who are out of sorts with the world around them, meet on a train during the Christmas season.  It is the season of miracles when reason leaves for a brief moment.  Mary Marshall (Ginger) and Zachary Morgan (Joseph Cotten) are two individuals who have become lost because of circumstances beyond their control.  They are trying to make sense out of their lives and come to grips with what they can expect in the future.
Mary is incarcerated for manslaughter while defending herself from rape.  She pushed her boss with some force and he fell backward and out of a window on the fourteenth floor of his apartment building.  Mary leaves on a furlough from prison granted for good behavior.  Zach has been in a hospital while trying to recover from shell shock where the horrors of war in the South Pacific are thrust upon him.  Their lives are full of the “ifs” of what could have been disappointments, limitations, boundaries, and confinements. 
Mary represents strength to Zach.  She is someone who is self-assured and can stand on her own two feet.  Zach finds comfort and courage while he is in her presence.  Mary gives Zach the necessary courage he needs to believe in himself while harboring her own self-doubts and secrets.  Mary sees in Zach the type of man and life she thinks is now lost to her because of her imprisonment.  Nevertheless, she can pretend and hope while she spends her time with Zach and her uncle’s family.
I feel what Mary Marshall feels as she and Zach fall in love.  I had become one with her.  When Mary let the white orchids fall to the ground as she danced with Zach, I understood why they were repulsive to her.  I was glad to see them trampled beneath the feet of the other dancers because of what it represented to Mary and me.
My heart ached for Mary when Barbara let slip Mary’s situation and of her eventual return to prison to finish her sentence to Zach.  I wept with Mary as all hope of love and romance drained from us.  My chest begins to tense up as we walk toward the prison’s door when she detects some movement in the shadows and we stop and look.  Zach moves rapidly towards Mary and they embrace as they babble and kiss knowing that they will be there for each other.  Life renewed in their embrace and symbolized by their hitting the lamppost with the stones.
My tears are pouring forth as my body shakes uncontrollably with the resounding affirmation that HOPE for a better future is attainable.  We can rise above the trials and tribulations of this life when united with another person with whom you share love, caring, and dreams with.  Everything is possible.  This is when I became a Ginger Rogers fan.  She grabbed my soul and touched my heart.
Most of the people who knew Ginger have died.  Those who are not, I have no way of contacting, as I am an ordinary fan.  This essay is purely an exercise in idol worship.  I have spent a lifetime watching and admiring strong women fight for their fair and rightful place through the movies of yesteryear and in life.  Up on that screen there was Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanywk, and Olivia de Havilland.  Then there was Barbra Streisand and Julia Roberts but you admired them from afar they were unattainable.  Sandra Bullock gives me that same type of feeling of approachability Ginger gives me.  Their screen presence is one that I can connect with while I share their struggle as we cry, laugh, and overcome the obstacles in our pathway.
To me a legendary figure is someone who inspires and can relate to the common person.  So where does one start when waxing poetic about a legendary figure that you idolize?
Ginger represents the struggle of every person who ever takes a breath of air continually striving to better oneself while finding love and romance along the way but still staying true to oneself.  Ginger Rogers embodies the average person who through hard work perfected her craft and became one of the Great Movie Legends of all time.
While Ginger’s life has not been an easy one, Ginger and Lela knew they could count on each other no matter what the circumstances required.  Ginger learned at a very young age the rewards of hard work and what sacrifices it necessitates as you diligently work to put food on the table and pay the bills.  When Ginger lived with her maternal grandparents for a time, she never doubted the love of her mother.  Lela was always there loving and caring for her the best way she knew how and her young daughter knew it.  Lela provided for Ginger during her growing up years and Ginger provided for Lela during her declining years.
Ginger was very family orientated and helped family and others when needed without fanfare.  Ginger was a strong willed woman who learned from her mother the importance of standing on your own and working hard to get what you want out of life.  Ginger and Lela were not slackers.  Ginger had to fight her whole life for what she wanted.  Sometimes she won and sometimes she lost but she never threw in the towel.
In Swing Time, Penny implores Lucky to “pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again”.  This epitomizes Ginger’s life.  She never let events envelop her and bring her down.  She always picked herself up, dusted herself off, and started anew.  Ginger’s innate desire for independence and self-preservation gave her the ability to move forward with her life.  Some have said that this is the main reason Ginger’s five marriages failed along with her devotion to her career and her mother.  Ginger married men who were not secure in their own self-identity and were unable to rise above Ginger’s persona and independence.  Women and wives in particular are expected to know their place and be submissive to their husband’s desires.  Ginger was not one to submit to anyone.  She believed in a couple not looking toward each other but looking together in the same direction.  She wanted to share a life with a man she could love and respect.  It is regrettable Ginger did not find a man who could love her for herself and and share their life with this truly loving and caring person.

Chapter 2
The Beginning

In the first year of her marriage, Lela and Eddins’ first baby girl had died after only a few hours of life.  Lela was desperate and determined to give birth to this new child in a positive atmosphere, she considered essential to the child’s survival.  She wanted this child to have a chance to thrive.  She leaves her husband and family and goes to Independence, Missouri. Virginia Katherine McMath made her debut on July 16, 1911, in Independence, Missouri.  Eddins wanted Lela to come back and bring Virginia with her.  Lela and Eddins reunited for a while and Lela became pregnant again.  The delivery being a difficult one Eddins gives the doctor permission to use forceps.  The baby’s neck was broken and was stillborn.  Lela was inconsolable and blamed her husband and the doctor for the child’s death.  This was so to speak the last straw and Lela informed her husband she was leaving and that as soon as she could earn enough money to pay for a divorce she would end their marriage.  Eddins McMath response to this was to kidnap his young daughter twice.  Lela did not let that deter her in her desire to locate and bring her precious baby girl back home.  She forcibly took her blessed Virginia away from her husband’s mother.  
After the second kidnapping, Lela took Eddins to court for full custody and divorced him soon afterwards.  This was the last time Virginia saw her father.  Virginia’s father died when she was eleven years old.  Ginger does speak about her father and his work on the Panama Canal as an electrical engineer when she visited the canal years later with her fourth husband Jacques Bergerac.  I felt a sense of pride in Ginger’s voice as I read of her father’s accomplishment in her biography or why mention it.  Another insight into Ginger’s benevolent nature and her profound sense of family is the fact that she would visit her Grandmother McMath with her mother later on.  Ginger took care of her grandmother in her old age until her death in 1934.  This quality speaks volumes for Ginger and Lela enormous devotion for their family.  Mrs. McMath later regretted her participation in her granddaughter’s kidnapping.
Lela had to leave her young daughter with her parents, Walter and Saphrona Owens when she went to Hollywood and wrote for the likes of Theda Bara and Baby Marie (Osborn), who in later years became Ginger’s double for a time.  Lela’s reassignment sent her back East to write for Fox.  Lela and Virginia moved to New York City.  Virginia found herself immersed in the world of the theatre for she went everywhere with mother. 
In 1918, Lela joins the Marine Corps and Virginia goes back to Kansas City, Missouri to live with her grandparents.  She worked in the publicity department. Lela was editor of the Leatherneck for a time where she used her talent as a writer.  You can get a feel for Lela’s extreme love and devotion for her country.  You can sympathize with her feelings against the infiltration of Communism into American politics even if it was extreme and sometimes unreasonable.
Lela meets John Logan Rogers after he is released from a Veterans’ hospital.  After Lela’s release from the Marines, Lela and John were married in May 1920.  They left for Kansas City to meet the family and take Virginia with them to Texas.  Virginia affectionately calls her stepfather “Daddy John”.  Even though he never adopted Virginia, she cherished his love and affection for her.  Virginia takes his name as her own.  While in Texas, Virginia toys with the idea of becoming a teacher for a nano second but the theatrical bug bites her good and hard and there is no turning back.
Virginia’s cousin, Helen Brown Nichols was not able to pronounce her name and Virginia was known as Ginga to the family and later as Ginger to the world.  In the South, Ginger is short for Virginia and especially for anyone who had red hair.  Ginger brings Helen to Hollywood years later to help her with a career in movies.  Ginger took her cousin under her wing and picked Phyllis Fraser for her cousin’s new name.  Phyllis had a short career and married Bennett Cerf a publisher and panelist on What’s My Line.  After his death, she married Robert Wagner, Jr., the former mayor of New York City. They remained married until his death.  She died at 90 in 2006.

Chapter 3
The Appeal of the Theatre

For as long as she can remember, Ginger’s young life found her play-acting, singing, and dancing.  She also participated in school plays written by her mother. Virginia’s stepfather is musically inclined and introduces her to the piano and singing.  Virginia and Daddy John would perform songs he had written on the local radio station together and at his lodge.  Virginia is always up for a challenge learns to play the piano well enough to perform several pieces in a recital to thunderous applause at the Fort Worth op’ry house.  Virginia bows and walks off the stage and onto the next challenge.  She was in perpetual motion dancing everywhere she went.  One thing Virginia always did through her whole life was to jump from one hobby or challenge to another but not until she had mastered it. 
When Virginia was eleven she still was thinking about being a teacher because she so admired her teacher Miss Browning and ask her mother if she could live with them.  If she wanted to be a teacher, she would need to immerse herself in all aspects of teaching.  Virginia helped to correct papers and plan the next day’s lessons while discussing the difficulties encountered in the classroom.  Virginia realized through her association with Miss Browning that she must apply herself seriously with diligence meeting life’s difficulties and walking through them if she was going to win the race.  Miss Browning lived with them until she married.  
Lela writes several little plays about famous characters in Texas’s state history.  Virginia and other students from the school put these on for the school.  One play received extra attention, which led to putting the play on at one of the local theatres.  The sound of applause was beginning to give Virginia something to think about, as it was thrilling to be up on that stage performing for others. 
However, Eddie Foy Jr. gave Virginia the means for her entrance into show business by teaching her how to dance the Charleston while performing in Fort Worth.  She danced with him on stage when asked to replace one of the ailing Foy children.  The applause was exhilarating.  With the seed planted it started to bloom and grow on the road to stardom.
One day when Virginia was at the local theatre with her mother, the manager asked if she could dance the Charleston.  When she answered in the affirmative, the manager took her back stage and introduced her to Joe Martin.  After watching Virginia dance, he asked if she could help him at the end of his act.  Joe presented the steps to the Charleston to the audience using Virginia to demonstrate them.  Once the explanation was over and the music started to play Virginia went into the fast-paced Charleston to a delighted audience.  Virginia was thrilled and reevaluated her plans for her future. 
If she decided to set her sights on a career on the stage, she would need to apply what she had learned from Miss Browning, diligence was the road to winning.  She would need to immerse herself with everything dealing with the stage. Virginia learned songs with motions and danced hours on end to her phonograph.  She made up an act with songs and dances and practiced it endlessly.  Her mother would smile and said it was cute.  Lela had plans for her little girl.  She would go to college and after graduating if her little girl wanted a career in the theatre that would be all right with her.  First, Virginia was going to go to college.
Viola Mercer recounts an incident in Screen Book May 1936 involving Adolf Bohm, the renowned ballet master from the Russian Ballet.  Mr. Bohm had come to Dallas and witnessed Virginia dancing when she was twelve.  Overwhelmed by the child’s innate dancing ability he sought out the child’s mother.  Mr. Bohm saw a natural dancer.  She possessed more than just talent.  Her whole being was “the soul of rhythm.”  He went on to tell Mrs. Rogers that her daughter had the potential to become another Anna Pavlova, who was the premiere ballerina of the early twentieth century, under his personal tutelage.  Mrs. Rogers and Virginia were both impressed by Mr. Bohm accolades but in order for this to happen Mr. Bohm wanted to adopt Virginia.  Virginia needed to be completely under his control.  Well, we know Virginia stayed with her mother and kept on performing and dancing in her own inimitable fashion.
Wheeler and Woolsey the vaudevillian and Broadway comedy team came to Fort Worth with five other acts.  Bert Wheeler and Bob Woolsey made movies in the 1930s.  Mark Sandrich directed Hips Hips Hooray and Cockeyed Cavaliers, which Wheeler and Woolsey starred before Mark Sandrich was promoted to Ginger and Fred musicals.
Bill, the manager at the Majestic theatre, called Lela and asked if Virginia could fill in with some songs and dances as one of the acts could not appear that afternoon.  Lela said that Virginia did not have an act when she felt her daughter pulling on her sleeve saying she did have an act.  Lela consented and Virginia went on to perform her act.  The card hanging from the proscenium arch read “Ginger Rogers.  Special Added Attraction.”  Virginia wanted the sign to say Virginia instead of using her nickname because it appeared to be more dignified but the manager said Ginger fit her personality better and so Virginia Rogers became Ginger Rogers to her friends and in the theatre world.  Ginger played the whole week even after the players regained their health and were able to perform their act.
Within six months, Henry Santrey and Ann Seymour came to Fort Worth with their band to conduct a Charleston contest.  Bob O’Donnelle, the manager of the Majestic circuit thought of Ginger and called Lela.  Lela was adamant, Ginger was not to compete.  It was not part of her plans for Ginger.  After college, if she wanted to try the theatre that will be okay.  Bob then asked if Ginger could at least dance for Mr. Santrey.  Lela agreed to this.  Ginger went down to the theatre and danced for Mr. Santrey. Mr. Santrey liked what he saw.  Bob, Bill, and Henry ganged up on Lela telling her how much talent Ginger had and should enter the contest.  Lela was afraid that if Ginger danced and won her plans would not see the light of day.  Not to be deterred Ginger practiced endlessly.  Seeing her daughter’s deep desire to compete she gave in and bought material and made a dress for Ginger to compete in.  It was a white dress with a small pattern on it.  There is a picture of Ginger in a dress in Life magazine issued March 2, 1942 that she wore while performing on the vaudeville circuit.  I do not know if it is this famous first dress but it was probably very much like the one she wore.  It still fit her!
After practicing like no other, Virginia wins the contest when she is fourteen at a Fort Worth theater.  She goes on and wins the state championship in Dallas, Texas held in the ballroom at the Baker Hotel.  She imprints the Charleston with her own interpretation of the popular dance and wows the judges.  After winning the state competition she headed for vaudeville with two other kids who were in the contest and comes up with an act called “Ginger Rogers and Her Redheads” before going out on her own.  Ginger Rogers becomes the cute redheaded girl from Texas.
While perusing some old 1940s magazines, I found a letter to the editor from a woman whose path had crossed Ginger’s two days after the Charleston competition in Fort Worth.  It gives you an insight into Ginger’s tender heart and compassion for strays and the less fortunate while keeping her command of justice while effectively administering it with dignity.
“Many years ago, in a drugstore in Ft. Worth, Texas, a young girl walked in, and I instantly recognized her as the girl who had just won a Charleston contest at the local theater.  She was carrying a tiny, dirty kitten, meowing at the top of its voice.  She asked for a saucer of milk, and as the boy behind the counter handed her it to her, he said, “That’ll cost you 5c.” She produced the nickel, took the saucer of milk, and then the boy said nastily, “And feed ‘em outside!”  When she came back to return the saucer after the kitten had been fed, she handed the saucer to the boy-but it dropped to the floor and crashed to smithereens!  “That’ll cost you 5c,” she said smilingly.  That was Ginger Rogers’ comeback to a snippy soda jerker.”  Gladys Tatum of San Francisco
Ginger always had a high moral sense as to what was right and what was wrong.  Ginger was there with a helping hand to anyone who was willing to take it.  She took people at face value and you proved yourself worthy of her friendship or you did not.  She did not have much use for the phony side of Hollywood or its inhabitants.
Ginger continues her pursuit for a theatrical career and continues on the road as a solo act with Lela as her manager after the two redheads leave their act. For a short time, Ginger found herself performing with Paul Ash in Chicago at the Oriental Theatre.  Then off on the road again.  While she was performing in Indianapolis in 1928, Paul Ash asked Ginger to come to New York City and perform with him and his orchestra at the Paramount Theatre in New York City.  Lela felt her daughter was ready for the big time and gave her approval.  After her three-week engagement was over, she was back on the road.
It was while Ginger was back in Dallas she runs across an old beau of her Aunt Jean, who had lived with the Rogers in Texas.  Ginger had a major adolescent crush on the handsome Edward Jackson Culpepper.  When they met again on the circuit, they began to spend time together and Ginger’s infatuation with Jack hit her like a ton of bricks.  They shared the theatre and a common background, besides Ginger was in love with the idea of love and romance.  Who does not love the notion of the knight in shiny armor and happily ever after.  They married when Ginger was seventeen on March 29, 1929, but the marriage did not last long and they separated after ten months.
Ginger’s spirit did not allow for being a hausfrau standing in the wings watching the man she loves.  She had too much energy and motion going on inside her.  She just simply loved performing and giving joy to the people who came to see her perform.  After Ginger separates from Jack Culpepper, she discovers Lela has divorced her beloved Daddy John.  Lela never says why they divorced and Ginger never asked her what happened.  Even though John Rogers marries again, he follows his stepdaughter’s career with pride.  John Rogers had always introduced Ginger as his daughter to others.  They shared a great love for each other as father and daughter.  Upon returning home to her mother, Ginger decides to continue with her career.  Lela and Ginger started hitting the road again.
I found a statement by Grant Menzies on the internet (July 6, 1999) about Ginger and Jack’s relationship.  He says, “Just the other day I was talking to my grandmother about Jack Culpepper and Ginger Rogers.  Grandma remembers Jack coming to see Amaryntha Jane Kelley, nee Culpepper, at her daughter’s place outside Gainesville, on several occasions.  Grandma’s sister, Vera Kincaid, once by chance was seated beside Ginger Rogers on a plane and the subject of relatives came up.  Ginger remembered Jack perfectly, whatever difficulties had led to their divorce, she spoke well of him to Aunt Vera.”
I find this characteristic one of Ginger’s strong points.  She does not derive satisfaction in cutting another person to shreds in order to justify the difficulties or failures in her life.

Chapter 4
Shorts, Broadway, and the Movies

When Ginger found herself in the New York area, she filmed a few short three and two-reel films, A Day of a Man of Affairs November 6, 1929, A Night in a Dormitory January 5, 1930, Campus Sweethearts March 9, 1930, and Office Blues November 1930.
I have only seen A Night in a Dormitory and Office Blues.  A Night in a Dormitory shows a release date on the film of 1929 but its release date to the public seems to be in early 1930.  Ginger has top billing after the title.  Thelma White, Ruth Hamilton, Morgan Morly, and Eddie Elkins and his orchestra follow Ginger’s name.
A Night in a Dormitory concerns a girl returning to a girl’s dormitory and regaling in her adventures at the Melody Club. There are several skits mixed in with the story line.  It is straight from vaudeville to the screen.  You become more aware of what it was like to go to the theatre and watch the young performers trying their best to impress you.  Thelma White sings Give it Everything Now and then taps with her backup dance girls.  The dance was reminiscent of Joan Crawford or Ruby Keeler, a very heavy-footed type of tap.    Eddie Elkins turns towards the audience and announces, “Now, I want to introduce our little star, Miss Ginger Rogers.”  Ginger bounces onto the stage with a little skip step and sings Why Can’t You Love that Way in a little girl high-pitched voice that she perfected while touring.  Ginger will use her tremendous ability to mimic and change her voice all through her career.  Ginger acts very coy and she is getting her feet wet in the film world at the tender age of eighteen.  Ginger comes back in a cute soldier suit and sings I Love a Man in a Uniform.  She seems more at ease than in her first number and you see a twinkle of the Ginger that will come alive on the screen in later years.
While Ginger was performing at the Paramount Theatre with Paul Ash in New York, Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby were in the audience.  They had just written the music and lyrics for a new play entitled Top Speed.  They saw in Ginger the perfect person to play Babs Green, the second female lead.  Therefore, she gave up vaudeville for the bright lights of Broadway.  She introduced the song Hot and Bothered to the public on December 25, 1929.  Ginger met a boy in the chorus who she became fast friends with and would be a very important person in her movie career in a few years.  His name was Hermes Pan. Ginger finished her run in Top Speed on March 22, 1930.
One evening Walter Wanger and Adolph Zukor, the head of Paramount, were in the audience of Top Speed.  They were impressed by the young actress and offered Ginger a screen test.  Off Ginger went to Astoria Studios in Queens.  She has the part of Puff Randolph, a flamboyant young flapper out for fun.  Ginger found her days acting before the cameras and her evenings acting on stage to the audiences’ delight.  She also finds time to hit the nightspots.  Ah, youth!

Young Man of Manhattan April 19, 1930 New York City, New York

Puff Randolph is a redheaded society flapper, and Ginger makes an impression in her first movie.  She utters the immortal words, “Cigarette me, big boy” to Norman Foster, who is married to Claudette Colbert in the movie and at the time of the filming.  Ginger’s part was small but essential to the plot.  She plays the “Gilded Child” of the late twenties.  She sings, I Got IT, But IT Don’t Do Me No Good in the little girl high pitched voice of the day with a hint of Helen Kane aka Betty Boop.  Good ‘n’ Plenty is a lively tune where you can hear and see the enthusiasm of the Ginger I recognize start to emerge.  Ginger is still trying to find her niche and style.  Ginger will be paired with Norman Foster in two more films but not until Ginger makes the move to Hollywood.

Queen High August 23, 1930 

Ginger is refreshing and real but a little awkward in places as acting on film is different from the stage.  She sings Brother, Just Laugh It Off as she pecks the tune on the piano in the opening scene.  While she sings It Seems to Me with Stanley Smith, Ginger begins to sharpen her ability to continue to act while listening to her ardent admirer woo her in song.
Charles Ruggles and Stanley Smith are partners of a women’s garter business.  They are always at odds with one another and decided to dissolve the partnership.  Their lawyer instead proposes that they play a single poker hand and the loser becomes the winner’s personal manservant for a year.
      Ginger does an adequate job as Frank Morgan’s niece, Polly, who goes to work for him as his stenographer.  Stanley Smith is Charles Ruggles nephew, Dick, and works in the office with the girls who model the garters.  Polly and Dick become the romantic interest. Ginger again sings Brother, Just Laugh It Off and dances mainly in the background of other dancers while she leads the musicians with a baton.  Frank Morgan and Charles Ruggles also sing a few bars.  There is a brief unaccredited tap routine on a table by Eleanor Powell. Ginger sings well but the focus is on Frank Morgan and Charles Ruggles.
      Later on in Ginger’s career, she comments on her portrayal of Polly to an interviewer.  She said that if she ever caught herself high-hatting anyone she would just pull out Queen High and watch it.  Ginger thought her performance was horrible.  I thought it was a young and youthful performance.  Her acting was a bit awkward and stilted in some places.

The Sap from Syracuse July 26, 1930

Littleton Looney (Jack Oakie) is a crane operator who has come into some money by way of an inheritance and decides to travel to Europe via ship. Ellen Saunders (Ginger) is an heiress on a cruise to Europe with the purpose of saving her mines in Macedonia.  Littleton is mistaken for a prominent mining engineer, Vanderhoff, traveling under an assumed name and vouched for by Senator Powell to Ellen who is in need of an engineer.  Of course, her advisors are trying to get Ellen to sign over her mines to them.  Littleton pursues Ellen and she beseeches Littleton for his help in getting her mines in Macedonia operational before the ninety-day deadline.  As their shipboard romance progresses they serenade each other with How I Wish I Could Sing A Love Song.
Once in Macedonia Littleton confesses that he is not Vanderhoff and Ellen feels defeated and gives in and promises to sign the papers turning over her mines to her nefarious advisers.  Littleton who has dug many a canal comes up with a solution to Ellen’s engineering problem before she signs her mines away.  By damning the low riverbed and drying it up you have a slate bottom on which the machinery for her mines can now be transported and are able to reach their destination within the ninety day deadline.  Senator Powell who is actually the famous engineer Vanderhoff, has gone along with the deception and in the end is impressed with Littleton’s insight he offers him a job.  Ellen and Littleton are together as the movie ends. 
Ginger is appealing and endearing as she continues to improve her acting presents on the screen. Variety July 30, 1930, reviews the film.  “Ginger Rogers is here in a new field for her, playing a straight heroine and bringing to the part all the vital energy she has successfully applied in singing and dancing roles.  She does extremely well in this strictly dramatic role, thanks to an effervescent style that is entirely captivating.”

Follow the Leader December 13, 1930

      I could hardly watch this movie.  It just is not my kind of comedy.  It is full of gags and skits.  In parts, you are watching vaudeville acts intermixed in a movie, which makes little sense and wears on that one raw nerve.  The only redeeming aspects of the movie are to watch Ginger and Ethel Merman.  Crickets (Ed Wynn) finds himself the leader of a gang who is hired to kidnap Helen King (Ethel Merman) so her understudy, Mary Brennan (Ginger) can go on in her place and become the star of the show. Stanley Smith finds himself as Ginger’s love interest as Jimmie Moore.  Mary goes on in Helen’s place and naturally, Mary becomes a big star and leaves Jimmie behind when she goes to Paris.  When Mary returns to Manhattan, Jimmie is a bandleader and not just a horn player in a band. Cricket gets Jimmie and Mary back together again and their romance is renewed.  Ginger is a singer and never sings a song.  Ginger should have sung a song while performing on the Paris stage in order to further the story line of her success there but then she was a secondary character.
Ginger’s next play was the lead in Girl Crazy, which debut on October 14, 1930, at the Alvin theatre.  Ethel Merman makes her Broadway debut and is a hit when she belts out I’ve Got Rhythm.  While Ginger was, busy with Girl Crazy at night on the Broadway stage, filming movies for Paramount during the day, and hobnobbing with the New York elite, she found herself a Broadway star.  She was a “somebody” in New York and only nineteen years old.  George Gershwin wrote Embraceable You and But Not For Me especially for her and the songs became standards.  She also meets and dates Fred Astaire.  Fred helped with some steps in one of Ginger’s routines for Girl Crazy.  Fred and his sister Adele are the darlings of Broadway.  Ginger is riding high and burning the proverbial candle at both ends.  MGM made Girl Crazy into a movie with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney.  Judy’s character is a combination of both Ginger’s Molly Gray and Ethel’s Kate Fothergill.  Judy’s character is named Ginger Gray not Molly Gray as in the play.
Ginger was beginning to acquire a following among the public and critics.  They liked what they saw and could see the potential of something very big in this young Ginger.  While the people in the East were getting their Ginger up close and personable on the stage, people in the West and across the nation were getting their dose of Ginger on the silver screen.
Office Blues illustrates the eternal triangle.  Ginger plays a stenographer who is in love with her boss and her coworker is smitten with her.  He asks her to lunch but she rebuffs him while singing We Can’t Get Along.  After the coworker leaves, she laments her desires to marry her boss in an imaginary letter Dear Sir.  All ends well when the boss reciprocates by singing Dear Miss and inviting Ginger into his office on the pretense of her taking dictation.  Ginger puts a do not disturb sign of the doorknob.  I found this clip charming as Ginger is constantly improving her screen magnetism.
Ginger takes time out of her busy schedule and attends a premiere with her mother, Lela.  Ginger leaves the theatre deeply moved by the portrayal of an extremely sensitive German boy.  Ginger is infatuated by a very handsome young man up on the screen, his name is Lew Ayres.  The year was 1930.  The movie was All Quiet on the Western Front.  Lew portrays an idealistic young German.  He is ready to march off to war to fight for the Fatherland, Honor, and Glory.  Paul mortally wounds a French soldier and then has to cope with the realization of what he has done while he fights to save the soldier's life as they share a bombed out hole in the ground at the battlefront.  Bombs are falling everywhere and Paul cannot escape.  He witnesses the slow and agonizing death of the French soldier.  He cries out with anguish asking for the French soldier’s forgiveness for his part in ending his life.  Paul cannot reconcile the fact he took someone’s life with his bare hands as he knifed him.  It was either him or me; war is war.  He tries to rationalize his reasons for taking this young man’s life, but it still weighs heavily upon his soul.
Lew’s rendition of Paul’s transformation into a disenchanted soldier is extraordinary.  After Paul is wounded in battle, he recovers and earns a short leave.  He does not fit into life at home and returns early to the front.  While Paul is with his friend Kat, Kat is injured.  Paul carries him all the way to the medical tent only to find out that he is dead.  Paul is morose as he sits in a trench listening to a fellow soldier playing a harmonica.  He looks out a hole made for his rifle and sees a very delicate butterfly.  Entranced by the marvels of nature and life Paul wants to reconnect with the simplistic beauty of the world.  He cannot reach the butterfly without getting out of the trench.  He rises up and over the trench.  His hand reaches out for a butterfly almost within his reach.  A sniper sees his chance and shoots the unsuspecting Paul as his hand falls short of the butterfly.
Lew’s sincerity and honesty in his portrayal of a young man’s uncertainties about taking another person’s life while fighting for his country endeared him to the world and Ginger.  This movie needs to be mandatory viewing by any leader eager to send up their country’s young to slaughter and realize the ramifications of war on the survivors.  I agree with Kat, all the leaders of the various countries with their political advisers need to get into a big circle and go at it.  I would also add their families.  They might think twice if the lives of their loved ones were in jeopardy.  An uncle of mine would never speak of his experiences during World War II because they were so horrific.  He participated in the Battle of the Bulge.  War should not be glorified!  War should be a last resort not the first choice.
Lew was on top of the world and his career was rising, but he was a serious minded person who felt out of place experiencing the nightlife of Hollywood parties.  Whereas upon Ginger’s arrival in Hollywood, she was seen everywhere enjoying the superficial glitter of Hollywood’s nightlife. 

Honor Among Lovers February 28, 1931 New York City, New York

Dorothy Arzner directed this movie.  She was one of the first women to direct films during this period.  Jerry Stafford (Fredric March) is a businessman who has the most efficient private secretary, Julia Traynor (Claudette Colbert), who takes care of most of his business dealings and choosing bracelets for his latest girl while he is attending football games and playing the field.  Julia is dating a broker by the name of Phillip Craig.  He wants to marry Julia but she keeps putting him off.  Jerry offers Julia a world cruise without the sanctity of marriage because he is very fond of her. Julia is in love with her boss but wants to be his wife instead of his mistress so she declines the offer and marries Phillip.  Ginger and Charles Ruggles provide the comedic relief at Ginger’s expense.  She spends most of her time as window dressing on Charles Ruggles’ arm.
Ginger decides to try movies full time once Girl Crazy ends on June 6, 1931, after 272 performances.  Ginger gets out of her contract with Paramount, and goes off to sunny California and Hollywood where dreams are made at least for some at any rate.

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