When we think of Ginger Rogers, we immediately associate her with dancing and her equally famous dance partner, Fred Astaire. But the fact is that Ginger was not just a dancer, although it was her gift. She was also a great actress, able to balance dramatic roles (she won an Academy Award after all) and comedy equally. Without a doubt, Ginger was a triple threat and I have picked a few films showcasing her fine work as a dancer and an actress, films you should not miss.
“Flying Down To Rio” (1933). This is the first film Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire ever partnered with in this lighthearted musical. Originally, Ginger and Fred were only supposed to be dance partners in this film but because of the reviews and how much the audience loved them together, an immortal dance duo was born. Before this film, Ginger never danced with a partner before, but as Fred was quoted saying in “Dancing on Astaire”, “In the beginning she faked it an awful lot. She couldn’t tap and she couldn’t do this and that…but Ginger had style and talent and improved as she went along. She got so that after a while everyone else who danced with me looked wrong.”
“42nd Street” (1933). This musical film was Ginger’s breakthrough as she portrayed Ann “Anytime Annie” Lowell as a chorine who takes Peggy Sawyer (Ruby Keeler), under her wing. It’s a real treat to watch, not only the film that brought Ginger to the attention of the movie studios and the timeless Busby Berkley numbers.
“Stage Door” (1937). Adapted from the play, it is a drama about the experiences of aspiring actresses. A perfect mirror of life imitating art as the ensemble cast including Ginger, Katherine Hepburn and Lucille Ball, were all just beginning their careers.
“Bachelor Mother” (1939). In this lighthearted comedy, Ginger Rogers plays Polly, a recently fired department salesgirl who sees someone abandon their child on the steps of an orphanage. She is immediately mistaken as the child’s mother as she approaches the little bundle and the door to the orphanage opens to her. David Niven co-stars as the department store manager’s playboy son who feels sorry for the “unwed mother” and helps her get her job back. Polly is forced to allow everyone to believe that she is the mother until the truth is revealed.
“Kitty Foyle” (1940) was the film in which Ginger won her Best Actress statuette for her portrayal as the title character, Kitty. Based on the novel by Christopher Morley, “Kitty Foyle: The Natural History of A Woman”, the film portrays the point-of-view of a white-collar girl named Kitty who falls in love with a socialite. The role was originally offered to Katherine Hepburn but she turned it down before it was offered to Ginger.
“Monkey Business” (1952). Directed by Howard Hawks, Grant portrays “Dr. Barnaby Fulton”, a research chemist who is working on a fount of of youth pill. When Fulton accidentally drinks it through a lab mishap, his wife Edwina (Rogers), wants to try the elixir too. Of course, hilarious ensues. The pairing of Ginger and Cary Grant in this screwball comedy is pure magic. Their chemistry and timing is so in synch, it’s a real shame they were not able to be more comedies together, aside from “Once Upon a Honeymoon” (1942).