Ginger Rogers had enjoyed a successful film career that began in 1929, but it really took off in 1933, when she teamed up with dancer Fred Astaire. Ginger and Fred made 9 musical films together, from 1933-39, and all proved to be box office hits. By 1940, Astaire and Rogers wanted to make other movies, so the partnership broke up(though they did reunite for 1949’s The Barkley’s of Broadway) and Ginger moved on, starring in various comedic and dramatic roles. In 1940, she starred in the film, Kitty Foyle, and for her performance, won the Best Actress Oscar at 1941’s Academy Awards. Her award-winning role is my classic movie pick for today.
Kitty Foyle began as a book, written by Christopher Morley, in 1939. It was a best-seller, and so often happens with best-selling books, Hollywood came calling. RKO Studios bought the rights to Morley’s book and made the movie version. Sam Wood was chosen to direct and Millard Kaufman wrote the screenplay. Ginger was chosen to play Kitty, and the two leading men for the film were Dennis Morgan and James Craig. Supporting cast included: Eduardo Cianelli, Ernest Cossart, Gladys Cooper, and Odette Myrtil.
Ginger(who let her natural reddish-brown hair color come through for the role) is outstanding as Kitty. As the film opens, we meet Kitty Foyle, a pretty, smart businesswoman who is an executive at Delphine Detaille’s Fashion House. Kitty is deep in thought as she has to make a choice. Marry Dr. Mark Eisen or stay unattached so that her former love and husband, the wealthy Wyn Strafford, can sweep into her life yet again.
We then see Kitty’s life in a flashback. Kitty is a poor girl, growing up in Philadelphia, raised by her widower father(Cossart). She is always daydreaming about living a life of wealth, more of a Cinderella-type dream where a rich, handsome, young man will swoop in and be her Prince Charming. Her dad, whom she affectionately calls Pops, warns her to stop the daydreaming and wake up to reality. One day, however, she does meet her Prince Charming, Wynnewood Strafford VI played charmingly by Dennis Morgan. It’s love at first sight!
Wyn wants to be a businessman in his own right and doesn’t want to join in the family’s banking business. He has begun a magazine and after he meets Kitty, he hires her to be the secretary for his new venture. Love blooms between Wyn and Kitty. When the magazine fails, Wyn’s weak side shines through as he goes back to his family and enters the banking business, and refuses to ask Kitty to marry him because he’s afraid of what his family will say about his wanting to marry a girl not from their same social standing.
Kitty’s father passes away and she is off to New York to seek a new life. She gets a job at Delphine’s (Odette Myrtil) fashionable shop for ladies. While at the shop one day, Kitty accidentally sets off the store’s burglar alarm and pretends to faint to hide her error. A doctor is summoned and he has a “meet cute” moment with Kitty. He is Dr. Mark Eisen(James Craig) who teases Kitty into going out on a date with him and she agrees to the date. After seeing Mark quite a lot, Kitty begins to have fond feelings for him, but then Wyn reappears, in NYC! He finds Kitty and begs her to marry him, that he is desperately in love with her! What’s a girl to do?
Wedding bells ring, and Wyn and Kitty marry, agreeing that the only way their marriage will last is if they don’t live in Philadelphia. They decide to settle in NYC. Wyn also decides that he needs to introduce Kitty to his family. During their visit to the family estate, Kitty is treated very coldly, especially by Wyn’s mother(wonderful British actress Gladys Cooper, who was often called upon to play imperious mothers or mother-in-laws!) and Kitty learns that unless Wyn joins in the banking business in Philadelphia, he will be disinherited and will be left penniless. Kitty can see that Wyn won’t be able to stand up to the threat of losing all his money, so she quietly goes back to NYC alone and files for an annullment.
Back in NYC, Kitty is back at her job with Delphine and life is going on when Kitty discovers that she is pregnant! Before Kitty can tell Wyn about their baby, she finds out in a society section of the NY Times that Wyn is engaged to a girl from a prominent Philadelphia family! More troubles come Kitty’s way, but she does have her steady work at Delphine’s, and that brings the audience back to Kitty at the film’s beginning. Whom will she choose? Wyn or Dr. Mark? I don’t want to reveal the movie’s ending as I want you, the readers of this blog, to seek it out!
From time to time it airs on TCM(Turner’s Classic Movies cable channel) but it isn’t on the list for the remaining days of February. The film is available in a dvd for sale at TCM’s Shop. It is available to buy via Amazon or to watch it through their instant rent program. Lastly, a kind soul put various trailers of it on Youtube. By trailers, I mean an advertisement for the movie, that audiences in 1940 would have seen at movie theatres.
Kitty Foyle is a lovely film. It’s charming, romantic, sad at times, with Ginger Rogers never hitting a wrong note in her portrayal of such a strong, sensible character. It’s no wonder she won the Oscar for Best Actress for her portrayal.