Monday, February 11, 2013

Ginger Avoids the Path

A woman whose mother and grandmother are prostitutes tries to avoid the life.  No, it's not a pre-Code. This is the 1940 Ginger Rogers Film Primrose Path. Ginger is Ellie May Adams, whose father (Miles Mander) is a drunk and whose mother (Marjorie Rambeau) is a hooker. Oh, and her grandmother (Queenie Vassar) pretty much functions as a pander. But, Ellie May tries hard to avoid the life of her mother, first by acting as a tom-boy, but then by marrying a man (Joel McCrea) who is unaware of her past.  Her problem, however, is not so much her family, but the fact that she lied to her husband, Ed.  Because when Ed finds out her family history, he is not able to handle it.  And her grandmother is eager to get her back into the house.

Queenie Vassar as Grandma is properly revolting. You really want to find a deep well in which to drop her (though none is handy). And Marjorie Rambeau as mother Mamie is sweet and sympathetic.  She, too, had hoped for a better life when she married, only to learn that her husband is weak.  Yet, she still loves him and does her best to protect him - and to support her family in the only "talent" that she has.

Ginger Rogers, as always, is wonderful; her Ellie May is sweet and sympathetic.  Even when her world falls out from under her, she still manages to convey, realistically, the pain and desperation of this girl who just wants love and a normal life.  Joel McCrea, however is less sympathetic - eyeing his "portagee gals", judging his wife when he certainly is not the purest flower in the garden, and just being plain nasty at times.  One really wants to put him in the well with Granny.

Keep your eyes open for Charles Lane as Mr. Smith. He is rather a nice surprise. It's always great to see him - even in a small part, but also great to see the character. All in all, this is a lovely film that I wish more people had the opportunity to see.  Here is the scene where Ellie May and Ed meet: 

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