Saturday, December 28, 2019

THE SECOND FRED ASTAIRE AND GINGER ROGERS BLOGATHON: Professional Sweetheart, 1933


Michaela of Love Letters to Old Hollywood and Crystal of In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood are hosting The Second Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Blogathon on December 28-30th. Enjoy the tributes HERE and HERE.


Ginger Rogers made her Broadway debut at the age of 19 in a featured role in the Ruby and Kalmar 1929 musical Top Speed. Among the ensemble was Ginger's future RKO dance compatriot, Hermes Pan. The following season saw Ginger in the Gershwin's Girl Crazy as well as with the release of her first five film roles filmed in New York City for Paramount. The first of these movies, Young Man in Manhattan starred future Ginger leading man Norman Foster with his then-wife Claudette Colbert (1928-1935).

Ginger Rogers as Molly Gray in Girl Crazy, 1930

Young Ginger had talent to burn and would need all of her energy when her career continued under contract to RKO in Hollywood. 1931 would find her finishing up one last Paramount picture and making two films at her new studio. In 1932 Ginger appeared in five releases, and in 1933 audiences would see the appealing newcomer in ten features including well-remembered supporting roles in Gold Diggers of 1933 and 42nd Street for Warner Brothers, and Flying Down to Rio for her home studio pairing her for the first time with Fred Astaire. Ginger was placed in a mix of dramas, comedies, and musicals and Professional Sweetheart was one of those comedies.

Maurine Watkins, the playwright who gave the world Chicago wrote the screenplay for Professional Sweetheart as well as for Hat Check Girl, another of Ginger's 1933 movies. In 1942 Ginger would play the lead in Roxie Hart, based on Chicago. Professional Sweetheart's director William A. Seiter worked with Ginger and Norman Foster again in Rafter Romance, and with Ginger in Chance at Heaven, Roberta, and In Person.

Frank Darien, Franklin Pangborn, Frank McHugh, Gregory Ratoff, Ginger Rogers

The premise of our movie has Ginger as Glory Eden, the Purity Girl, the singing star of a popular radio program sponsored by The Ippsy Wippsy Wash Cloth Company. The product has been well-represented by the Purity Girl and the product is all. Gregory Ratoff is president of the company, Frank McHugh the public relations genius, Franklin Pangborn the designer of the Purity Girl's image, and Frank Darien the legal advisor. They all have a stake in maintaining the status quo for the product. Their only problem is maintaining that status quo with their temperamental star.

The listed group of scene-stealers, along with Lucien Littlefield as a radio announcer are at the top of their game with the amusing and trenchant script which points out the hypocrisy of the advertising game and the audience's knowledge of the same. Throw in Zasu Pitts as a sob sister Sunday Supplement writer and Allen Jenkins working the corporate espionage angle for rival washcloth magnate Edgar Kennedy and you have a recipe for success.

Ginger Rogers, Theresa Harris

Glory Eden was practically plucked from an orphan's home and put in the role of radio star. New York City and her sequestered lifestyle does not equal her vision of life in the big city. 

Glory: "I want a playboy. An international playboy. All the girls got 'em. I think they're cute."

Glory's maid Vera, in a decent-sized role for criminally uncredited Theresa Harris, teaches new dance steps and fuels Glory's desire for dens of inequity, gambling, and dives.

Ginger Rogers, Norman Foster

The plan is to keep Glory happy by giving her a "professional sweetheart" chosen from the thousands of fan letters on file. The process of elimination and chance brings Norman Foster as Jim Davey, a poetry-spouting backwoodsman from Kentucky. They bring the fellow north, and that's when the script goes south. Foster's character is unbelievably naive and the supposed relationship with Glory is never fleshed out. The he-man and little-woman scenes back in Kentucky are best forgotten. It is as if we are suddenly watching an entirely different, and less entertaining movie.

Professional Sweetheart begins as a clever and witty spoof, but once the romance angle appears it slows to a muddled mess, sputtering to an improbable and hurried wrap-up for our leading players, and more frustration for fans of jazzy Vera played by Theresa Harris.

It is easy to enjoy the first part of Professional Sweetheart with Ginger, the relative rookie, holding her own among a cast of well-honed pros. It will be best to imagine your own, better finale. Nonetheless, fans should take a look at the busy young performer at the beginning of her stellar career. Ginger Rogers always had the goods!












41 comments:

  1. Is Theresa Harris the one from BABY FACE?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed she is. Her role is a fine showcase yet Theresa doesn't receive a credit!

      Delete
  2. First of all, love that you singled out Theresa Harris. I always enjoy it when she pops up. Secondly, I remember seeing this film quite a few years ago but I honestly can't recall much about it. I think it's partly because I often get Professional Sweetheart, In Person, and Twenty Million Sweethearts confused since they all star Ginger as a radio personality and they all came out within a few years of one another. It's amazing the amount of films she did in the '30s.

    Thanks so much for contributing to our blogathon!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My pleasure.

      Honestly, the workload for Ginger and many of her studio cohorts of the 1930s is mind-boggling. Luckily, we benefit from the output.

      Delete
  3. This blogathon has introduced me to some Ginger Rogers films I haven't yet seen, and this is one example. I've seen a couple of her really early films and it was obvious she was going to be a Star, wasn't it? She is always a joy to watch on screen.

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    1. Truly, it is an immediate thing with Ginger. She was a shimmering, shining star in the cinema firmament, to coin a phrase.

      Delete
  4. Did you know that GINGER ROGERS did a pilot episode for a show where she played twins? It was in 1961(the year she turned 50). If Ginger had done a weekly series what kind of part would you want to see her in? If it was a drama, she could have played a reporter or editor. She could have played the head of a modeling agency. Also did you know that she was once engaged to HOWARD HUGHES?

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    Replies
    1. It seems like everyone was engaged to Howard Hughes at least once.

      I think I read something about the pilot, but I've never seen any clips. I would have liked Ginger to have a series with a show business background. I'll probably dream about the details tonight.

      Delete
    2. Here's the youtube link to Ginger Rogers' tv show. All that was ever done was the pilot; it was not picked up for a series. Her co-star (along with herself, as twins!) was the great Charlie Ruggles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fCX0eiwmlw

      Delete
  5. Per your post, it seems Ginger made at least 10 movies in less than 2 years; did the studios work their stars! I've noticed that feature you pointed out with early-30s movies: they start out with a funny premise but sputter out with conventional, and unpleasant, romantic complications, as if the scriptwriters couldn't think of what next to do. Plus Norman Foster was an unappealing actor (he makes me shudder in his scenes with Maureen O'Sullivan in Skyscraper Souls). He became a much better director (doing some Charlie Chan and Mr Moto movies, and also the great Journey into Fear). After his divorce from Colbert, he ended up happily married to one of Loretta Young's sisters.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I put Norman Foster in charge of my imaginary movie for a blogathon a few years ago. It is called Charlie Chan in Hollywood. I'm pretty predictable.

      Foster also directed the Zorro TV series for Disney. I loved that when I was a kid. He certainly found his career niche, and his personal happiness.

      Delete
  6. CHARLIE RUGGLES! I first saw him in THE PARENT TRAP as the dad to MAUREEN OHARA. I saw that movie in the mid 70s on TV. Also Charlie was on a color ep of THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW. It was the first one that I saw. Also he did some eps of THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES as the father of MRS. DRYSDALE.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I usually adore Charlie Ruggles. The only time I couldn't stand him was in Murders at the Zoo.

      Whenever I am making a bed, I start to giggle remembering Ruggles as a millionaire who had trouble mastering that simple task in It Happened on 5th Avenue.

      Delete
  7. You won me at ZaSu Pitts. I can't wait to watch more filsm of the early 1930s with Ginger, because of her energy and lovely charisma. Great review.
    Thanks for the kind comment! Kisses!

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    Replies
    1. It is a dandy role for Zasu. She is such an amazing actress.

      Delete
  8. I didn't watch the movie THE MAGNIFICENT DOLL where GINGER played DOLLY MADISON. I did read that at least one movie critic said that she was miscast but usually somebody says that about a movie star. For example, I mentioned BOB MITCHUM in SHE COULDNT SAY NO and we both thought he was fine as a small-town doctor. Even though Mitchum is known for playing tough guys my favorite movies of his are SHE COULDNT SAY NO and HOLIDAY AFFAIR.

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    1. I feel the same way about Richard Widmark. He made his mark as the villain, but I like his nice guy roles.

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