Primrose Path tells the story of a young woman, Ellie May (Ginger Rogers), whose family comes from the 'wrong' side of the tracks. This family includes an escort mother (yes, I'm being euphemistic), a failed alcoholic father and a mouthy little sister who is under the spell of her selfish maternal grandmother. Ellie May is a bit of a tomboy, deeply upset by her father's failings and disapproving of her mother and the gifts she brings back after she's been away. Encountering a man near the beach (and stealing his wallet in the process), Ellie May falls instantly in love. Ed (Joel McCrea) marries her after she spins him a lie about her family disowning her. When this secret comes out it threatens their marriage but things at the family home are about to take a tragic turn.
Rogers was fantastic in this. When she first appeared in pigtails she was extremely cute (think Doris Day in On Moonlight Bay (1951) and she passes through trying to be feminine to attract Ed, being a ballsy waitress at his diner and, finally, evolving into a strong woman who is comfortable in herself and beautiful to boot. Here are the before and after shots:
Quite a difference! The supporting cast worked very well, particularly Miles Mander as the drunken father. Queenie Vassar played the manipulative grandmother with few redeeming features better than anybody else could've and even the actress playing Ellie May's younger sister was less irritating than most child actors (and went on to play Agnes in Meet Me in St. Louis (1944). Overall, I think this film was well-written and well-acted though I don't think Ed is a particularly enticing hero. This film was my first experience with Joel McCrea so I'm not too sure about him. Ginger, however, has cemented her place at the top of my favourites list: pigtails or not.