Saturday, December 08, 2007

Tonight's Movie: 5th Ave Girl (1939)

The way the movies tell it, a park bench was a good place for a wholesome, penniless Depression-era girl to meet a kind, wealthy man and then land a job. Jean Arthur met Herbert Marshall while sitting in a park in IF YOU COULD ONLY COOK, and in tonight's film, Ginger Rogers meets wealthy Walter Connolly on a park bench and soon finds herself living the life of a 5TH AVE GIRL.

This is a somewhat strange film with a convoluted plot: Connolly is ignored by his family, especially his philandering wife (Verree Teasdale), so he brings Ginger to live in his home as his "girlfriend" to get his wife's attention. (The Hays Office must have had an interesting time approving the script for this one!) In reality, the relationship is perfectly innocent, of course; Ginger has been hired to play a role. She functions as a sort of ersatz Mary Poppins, working her magic to bring happiness to a miserable family, and by film's end everyone's lives have been changed for the better thanks to Ginger's stay.

The film is rather serious in tone for a purported comedy and isn't a top-of-the-line movie, but it's interesting, has a few scenes that are extra-good -- my favorite was Teasdale trying win Connolly back by making his favorite beef stew -- and Ginger is always worth watching.

The supporting cast includes James Ellison as a revolutionary chauffeur, Kathryn Adams and Tim Holt as Connolly and Teasdale's adult children, Franklin Pangborn as the butler, Louis Calhern as a psychiatrist, and Jack Carson in a one-scene role as a ukelele-playing sailor.

Some good trivia: Kathryn Adams was married for 40 years to Hugh Beaumont, who played Ward Cleaver on LEAVE IT TO BEAVER.

The movie was directed by Gregory La Cava, whose other films include the comedy classic MY MAN GODFREY and the fine Ginger Rogers-Katharine Hepburn film STAGE DOOR. This black-and-white film runs 83 minutes.

5TH AVE GIRL is available on VHS. (Which begs the question, shouldn't someone put out a Ginger Rogers DVD set at some point?) It can also be seen on Turner Classic Movies.

Update: This movie is now available on an unremastered DVD-R from the Warner Archive.

November 2013 Update: I had the chance to see this film in 35mm at UCLA and shared the experience here.


Blogger jau said...

I don't think the Hays office was in business yet, in 1939. Isn't that pre-code? That's why so many of those movies are so daring - and wonderful!! :)

10:22 AM  
Blogger Laura said...


The Hays Office started enforcing the Production Code in 1934. :)

I've been taping a bunch of "pre-Code" movies this month -- recording a couple this morning with Loretta Young and Kay Francis. Very interesting seeing how different movies sometimes were in the early '30s compared to what came later. About a month ago I watched the documentary COMPLICATED WOMEN, about pre-Code films, which was very interesting.

Best wishes,

10:29 AM  

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