Ginge Binge: A New Competition

Monday, July 30, 2018

I am quickly approaching the last few films of this month's Ginge Binge and time has flown by. At this point, I have completed her entire 1950s filmogrpahy.

The 1930s saw a light haired, lively, wisecracking dancer, the 1940s saw a brilliant dramatic actress capable of taking on much heavier roles, and the 1950s saw a newer image still. The Ginger of the 1950s was sophisticated and an even more mature, seasoned actress.

The 1950s began with Perfect Strangers (1950), a film also starring Dennis Morgan, with whom she appeared with ten years prior in Kitty Foyle (1940). Strangers has all the elements of a classic old Hollywood love story in which the two main characters fall in love surprisingly fast, and while they engage in an affair, the film ultimately ends with, spoiler alert, Ginger's character convincing Dennis's character to remain loyal to his wife at home for a certain period of time before he can decide what he really wants.

Ginger's second film released in the 1950s was Storm Warning (1951). This one deserves extra attention, as it is a genre you are unlikely to find both Ginger and her contemporary Doris Day. I won't spoil it too much, but it's definitely worth checking out, but not if you're expecting a lighthearted musical comedy. The movie showcases Ginger's dramatic talents when placed in a thriller, something we haven't experienced since her pre-code years.

Ginger with Steve Cochran and Doris Day in Storm Warning (1951)

Monkey Business (1952) is where things start to get really interesting. This is the first film of this decade where we see her in competition with a much younger actress, played by Marilyn Monroe, who was fifteen years younger than Ginger. Marilyn was still a relatively new star at the time, her big break happening only two years prior, and Ginger had been active in the Hollywood scene since the early 1930s. This theme continues immediately after with Pat Crowley in Forever Female (1953). What's even more intriguing about Forever Female is the fact that the two women are competing for roles in a play, much like what would be the case in real life with fresh, new talent coming in.

Ginger with Cary Grant and Marilyn Monroe in Monkey Business (1952)

In 1954, Ginger was off to England to film Twist of Fate, the European title being Beautiful Stranger, with new husband Jacques Bergerac. This is the only picture in which the two would star, and marked Bergerac's first film appearance. He would later go on to have a role in Gigi (1958).

As we near the mid-1950s, we see Ginger sporting a new hairstyle, or rather, going back to an old one. When she first entered Hollywood, she wore her curly, dark hair in an almost pixie cut. Twenty years later, we see a similar style, only blonde. She sports this new look beginning in Black Widow (1954), where she portrays stage star Carlotta Marin, competing with a younger woman named Nancy Ordway, played by Peggy Ann Garner. Caroltta is relentless in her insults to Nancy behind her back, even after Nancy's death. Where in the 1930's Ginger's digs were wisecracking and sassy, the lines she fires in Black Widow are stronger and much more personal.

One of her pictures from the 1950s that stands out the most is Teenage Rebel (1956). Ginger plays a mother who, due to custody issues, hasn't seen her daughter in eight years. When said daughter arrives, Ginger's character does everything she can to make her feel welcome. As Nancy Fallon, she takes on the motherly role unlike any we've seen her do before. In the past, we've witnessed Ginger as the guardian to small infants, but in Teenage Rebel, she faces the pressures of raising a stubborn teenager.

The decade wraps up with Oh, Men! Oh, Women! (1957). Recurring theme alert! In this one we experience her character, Mildred Turner, undergoing psychoanalytic therapy, much like Liza Elliott Lady in the Dark, only the visualizations are not as bizarre.

Though the 1950s may have housed a few disappointments regarding Ginger filmography, such as The Groom Wore Spurs (1951) and The First Traveling Saleslady (1956), it also showcased her seasoned capabilities as a performer by this time as well an elegant, matured image when rivaling budding new contemporaries. To read the final piece of this series that covers the 1960s, click here.

Ginger with Betty Lou Keim in Teenage Rebel (1956)

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