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Friday, 16 March 2012

Classic Film Review: Kitty Foyle (1940)

Ginger Rogers won an Oscar for her portrayal of Kitty in this film and I'm not surprised. It's subtitled 'The Natural History of a Woman' and is based on an 1939 novel by Christopher Morley. The script was slightly sanitised; Rogers was apparently reluctant to play the sexually explicit character of the book who has an abortion. Nevertheless, the character remains a strong one and Rogers's performance is wonderful.

The story opens with Kitty receiving a marriage proposal from Mark, a doctor. She accepts him and rushes home to pack, only to find an old (and now married) flame, Wyn, waiting for her. She ends up telling Wyn she'll meet him at the same time she's supposed to be meeting Mark. As she packs she thinks back on her relationships with both Wyn and then Mark to decide who she should choose. Wyn was the first man she fell in love with but his Philadelphia family was far too wealthy to accept her while Mark is a man who tricks her into a first date and then plays cards at her apartment because he can't afford to take her out.

I found myself shouting 'pick the doctor' at this from the very beginning, whilst still being pretty unsure who she'd pick or whether she'd pick at all. Rogers surprised me in this very emotional role, playing both a sassy woman who won't take any rubbish and a vulnerable one who is open to being hurt. There's one heartbreaking scene where the director keeps the camera on Rogers's face while she receives some terrible news: the subtlety of her performance is painful to watch but it was completely the right choice. In fact, the whole thing was artistically shot (even the opening segment that showed the progression of woman since emancipation in a silent film format) and the script was fairly sound. Even the characters who only had a few scenes were memorable, especially Kitty's two flatmates who put cream on their faces to try and intimidate Mark into leaving the apartment on his first date with Kitty. Although Rogers was clearly the star, there was a ensemble feel to it, with every character being portrayed wonderfully. I don't think they could have gathered a better cast together.

The story didn't unfold as I thought it would but that was rather a pleasant surprise. I can't find much bad to say about this one. Ginger Rogers certainly deserved her Oscar!

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