Ginge Binge: And The Oscar Goes To ...

July 26, 2018

The 1930s are behind us and a new decade begins: the 1940s. As of right now, I've rewatched Ginger's entire filmography from the 1940s, the decade that brought her that Oscar.

The year 1940 was a significant year for Ginger in films. She had just begun her professional separation from Fred Astaire in 1939 that would last ten years before the two would collaborate again. The role of "Ellie May Adams" in Primrose Path (1940) offered Ginger her first substantial dramatic role since that separation. For this film, Ginger dyed her hair brunette in order to be taken more seriously in the genre and to break out of her musical comedy typecast. Primrose Path gives us a true look at what Ginger can do when given such an emotionally complicated role, and is, in my opinion, of equal importance to her work in Kitty Foyle, and one that I always highly recommend.

Ginger in Primrose Path (1940)

From this breakthrough film, Ginger goes into Lucky Partners (1940) with Ronald Colman, and then wraps up the year with the most important critical performance of her career in Kitty Foyle (1940), for which she received recognition from the Academy. She won Best Actress, and 1941 marked the only time Ginger was nominated for an Oscar. For more coverage of how she earned such a high honor and her work leading up to it, check out my longer post about the subject here.

with Dennis Morgan in Kitty Foyle

Ginger had now reached the peak of her on-screen success, and had gained much more critical respect as an artist unlike she'd ever had before, and this led to even more opportunities for her to demonstrate deeper emotional development in her roles. One such example is the poignant war time film Tender Comrade (1943). Ginger portrays Jo Jones, the wife of Chris Jones, played by Robert Ryan. Their life together before Chris's deployment is told through flashbacks, much like Kitty Foyle. When switched to present day, Jo must learn to be strong while her husband is away not only for herself, but as a leader to her fellow aircraft factory wives whose husbands are also overseas.

Another recurring theme throughout the 1940that we experienced in the previous decade and that I touched on in my most recent post was dream sequences. This comes up again three more times with the films Tom, Dick and Harry (1941), Lady in the Dark (1944), and It Had To Be You (1947). Lady in the Dark is the most elaborate and complex of three, entirely focused on following the psychoanalytical treatment of the film's leading lady, played by Ginger, in the form of a musical. It was Ginger's first color film of only seven she would make throughout her career. I find this repeated subject matter interesting because we get multiple opportunities to visualize her characters' deepest thoughts which helps us to better understand them emotionally and what leads them to making these major life decisions.

Among these more serious pictures, Ginger also made two of her best comedies during this time: The Major and the Minor (1942) and Roxie Hart (1942). In The Major and the Minor, Ginger poses as a child to get a half-fare price on the train. This is another theme we'll see a few times. She portrays herself as a child briefly in Kitty Foyle, and we get a glimpse of it again during the "Saga of Jenny" number two years later in Lady in the Dark.

with Ray Milland in The Major and the Minor

The 1940s concluded in the most seamless way possible with the release of the last Astaire-Rogers musical The Barkleys of Broadway (1949). After a ten year departure from  working together, Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire teamed up again for one final curtain, and in glorious technicolor. This was Ginger's second film for MGM, her first was Week-End at the Waldorf (1945). Barkleys is by far the most intense of the duo's ten films. It explores their relationship more seriously than in the previous nine, but still contains the same essence and chemistry from the old films that we all came to know and love.

To read my now completed overview of the 1950s, click here.

with Fred Astaire in The Barkleys of Broadway

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