According to her mother, Lela, Virginia Katherine McMath (Rogers was her stepfather) was dancing before she was born. At 14, Ginger was learning the ropes in Vaudeville and at 18 she was appearing on Broadway, first in Ruby and Kalmar's Top Speed followed by the Gershwins' Girl Crazy. Next stop Hollywood where she epitomized the show business baby.
Her many musicals, especially her fabled pairing in 10 films with Fred Astaire, had Ginger cast as an actress to accommodate the plots, but it is interesting to note that Ginger played entertainers in 35 of her 77 movies. She played models, showgirls, chorus girls, singers, dancers, radio stars, screen stars and stage stars at various points in their careers. Ginger was the hungry kid looking for a break (Stage Door), the working entertainer (Professional Sweetheart) , a success longing for more (The Barkleys of Broadway), a success trying to hold on (Forever Female). Hoofer Anytime Annie (42nd Street) may not be the type of gal a fella would take home to mother, but night club singer Francey (Vivacious Lady) won everyone over.
Ginger was Joan Blondell tough with a dollop of sweetness. She had Katharine Hepburn's versatility, but with the common touch. No matter how elegantly turned out, Ginger was always that pal who made it big.These are just some of my favourite Ginger Rogers movie moments:
Ginger plays Edwina Fulton, the mature, warm and supportive spouse of an absent-minded professor (Cary Grant) who ingests a fountain of youth formula concocted by a lab chimp in this very funny comedy with a script by Ben Hecht, Charles Lederer and I.A.L. Diamond. When Edwina reverts to her younger self she is stripped of all pretense as she pursues her love and kicks up her heels in a joyfully wacky performance.
Dalton Trumbo's script about defense plant workers during WW2 sharing a house while their husbands are in the Service is a mix of the heavy-handed with nuggets of real truth. In a very honest scene newlyweds Jo and Chris Jones have a fight. He is working a lot of overtime, brooding about the future and being stolidly male. She is sulky and feeling neglected. Ginger Rogers and Robert Ryan's work is so raw and real that I was torn between wanting to walk into the screen and knock their heads together and wanting to turn away because it felt I was intruding on their privacy.
Ginger is Lizzie Gant, an American entertainer in Paris marketing herself as the Comtesse Schwarwenke, who crosses paths with old partner, band leader Huckleberry Haines (Fred Astaire). The created-on-the-spot feeling of I'll Be Hard to Handle (Kern, Harbach & Fields) is thrilling. It is a prime example of Ginger's response when asked for the thousandth time if she and Fred got along - "How can anybody watch us and not know we were having fun?"