Thursday, June 19, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Vivacious Lady (1938)

Peter (James Stewart), a quiet, proper small-town professor, is captivated by nightclub dancer Francey (Ginger Rogers) when he visits the Big Apple. Before you know it, Peter and Francey are married and on the train back to Peter's hometown, where Peter is nervous about introducing his staid parents (Charles Coburn and Beulah Bondi) to his wife, who is a VIVACIOUS LADY.

Peter's wimpy reluctance to break the news of his marriage to his parents is annoying, but without that angle, there would be no story! And the rest of the movie is so much fun, the viewer ultimately forgives Peter.

Stewart and Rogers are wonderful. They have excellent chemistry -- a scene involving a Murphy bed is subtly, yet definitely, steamy -- and it's a shame they didn't make more movies together. Jimmy is endearing, and quite amusing in his big drunk scene; Ginger is gorgeous in this, and wears a beautiful wardrobe by Irene.

Beulah Bondi is particularly good as Stewart's mother, who reveals a bit of a secret life behind her quiet exterior. James Ellison, who was Ginger's leading man in 5TH AVE GIRL (reviewed here), plays Stewart's cousin in this. Frances Mercer (her film debut) is Peter's ex-fiancee, although she doesn't know about the "ex" part for quite a while!

The movie is filled with funny character actors, including Franklin Pangborn (a stitch as the desk clerk in a women-only hotel), Phyllis Kennedy, Hattie McDaniel, Grady Sutton, Willie Best, and Jack Carson, in a small role as a headwaiter.

The movie was directed by the great George Stevens. It runs 90 minutes.

VIVACIOUS LADY doesn't appear to have had a U.S. video release (it was released in Britain) and is not available on DVD. It's a bit of a mystery to me how a good movie with two popular actors has not yet made it onto DVD. The movie can be seen on cable on TCM, where it next airs September 12, 2008.

The trailer can be seen here.

For Ginger fans, a nice review of some of her non-Astaire films can be found at Obscure Classics.

Update: VIVACIOUS LADY is now available from the Warner Archive in a newly remastered print.


Blogger Missy said...

I've always liked this movie, but haven't seen it in years.


8:09 PM  

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