October 18, 2014

Ginger Rogers, Kitty Foyle

Won: Academy Award - Best Actress

Ginger Rogers' Academy Award winning performance is one of those wins that you don't hear a whole lot about nowadays, not necessarily because it's bad per se but because the work and films of three of her competitors have held up much better in the 70+ years that have passed. Yet it's easy to see why the folks of 1940 took to Rogers so strongly at the timefor starters, it's an old-fashioned little picture which features the everyday working woman faced with issues of class (how modern!), yet it's also a melodrama that thrusts its heroine through a slew of tearjerking situations (how gutwrenching!), and if there's anything Oscar likes about his ladies, it's a de-glammed long-sufferer. But in spite of the film's out-of-date and confused attempt at purveying feminist modernity, Kitty Foyle is actually quite a charming little flick, made all the more watchable by Rogers' lovely presence.

When I say that Rogers is "de-glammed" in this film, it's not so much that she's without makeup and looks hideous a la Charlize Theron in MonsterRogers' beauty is on full display here and she is breathtaking in many of her close-upsbut rather it's in regards to Kitty being from a working class family, someone who lives a modest life and works in retail to pay the bills. The story is supposed to be that of an average everywoman, and what I liked most about Rogers' performance is that she completely manifests this everywoman to be so sweet, so likable, and so down-to-earth, such that you'd like to be her friend (and this was a surprise to me as I had a hard time liking her in Stage Door). Rogers positively exudes geniality in this film, and it's that very approachability that really drew me in and took a hold on me. This is a performance of soft restraintRogers can quietly ooze so much emotion simply through a quick reaction shot, as demonstrated by the scene in which we first meet Wyn in her room, or the scene in which she and Wyn are reunited in New York City, or the scene in the hospital...there's a number of moments scattered throughout the film that have wonderfully subtle acting, and what I loved was how much Rogers could convey without saying anything at all. What's more, she has an excellent grip on otherwise shoddy materiallike many other melodramas, Kitty Foyle is plagued with some pretty awful dialogue, but you wouldn't know it from Rogers' delivery because lines like "...but nobody owes a thing to Kitty Foyle, except Kitty Foyle!" come out of her mouth with enough confidence and swagger that you'll excuse it. What makes everything work so well is how Rogers makes Kitty so endearing while giving her a demeanor that would seem as though Kitty's rather delicate and easy to break, and thus we feel for her when all the unfortunate events of the film's last act occur. Kitty's a great heroine, likely the most relatable character out of 1940's nominated ladies, so it's safe to say that Rogers' "everyday white-collar woman" resonated well with members of the Academy that year. And while this performance isn't my number one of 1940, nor is it one of the greatest Best Actress wins in Oscar history, this is a completely commendable performance nevertheless.


  1. Although I can't argue with anything in your review, I am not so enthusiastic.

    Her performance in The Major and The Minor is a great guilty pleasure, I recommend.

    1. I've actually seen very little of Ginger...I'm just generally not very interested in watching her, and even though I liked her quite a bit here I don't know if it's enough to prompt me to run out and watch more of her. I haven't even watched Top Hat! But I'll keep Major & the Minor in mind!

  2. Hate this movie and her performance in it.