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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

'Vivacious Lady:' Glamorous Ginger Rogers and Adorkable Jimmy Stewart Make Movie Magic

Vivacious Lady
The lesser-known film by George Stevens, who also directed the uber-classic "Woman of the Year" and many other TCM staples, "Vivacious Lady" deserves at least as much regard as those other movies. The back cover of Warner Archive's recent DVD release of "Lady" indicates that truly leading lady (and definitely not a tramp) Ginger Rogers deserves thanks for that film's quality for insisting on casting Jimmy Stewart as her co-star.

"Lady" opens with Stewart's incredibly adorkable small-town boy/botany college professor/everyman Peter arriving at the New York City nightclub where Rogers' Francey Brent performs. Peter's descent into decadent city life relates to a mission from his uber-conservative father/boss, played by Charles Coburn of too many classic films to try to choose one or two to mention, to find his bon vivant cousin Keith and return him to their small Bedford Fallsesque college town.

On finding Keith in said den of iniquity, Peter almost literally falls heads-over-heels in love with Francey. A truly whirlwind romance and rushed nuptials ensue. Certain fans of a VERY vaguely similar modern (but vastly inferior) film series would state that things get focked up when it comes time to meet the parents.

Peter and Francey enlist Keith in their subterfuge regarding postponing telling Peter's parents that they have not lost a son but have gained a showgirl. Circumstances that lead to Francey enrolling in Peter's botany class add to the ensuing hilarity.

The most memorable scene is definitely a cat fight that makes the once-a-year brawls between Linda Evans and real-life Charlotte Rae nemesis Joan Collins on the '80s prime time soap "Dynasty" look like a minor spat. The ultimate involvement of Morgan Senior greatly adds to the fun.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, depicts said feline fracas. It show as well that both kitties have claws.
The bonding (no pun intended this time) between Francey and her new mother-in-law is another great element of "Lady." Beulah Bondi, whose long career includes roles in the Stewart classics "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" and "Its A Wonderful Life," does a perfect job portraying Mrs. Morgan and makes every audience member wish that she was his or her mom. Keith sums up that character's incredible kindness and suppressed independent spirit by stating "she used to be my favorite aunt until she married my uncle."

All of these elements combine in a way that making Stewart a chemistry, rather than botany, professor would have been very appropriate. Peter has a wonderful older brother/younger brother style relationship with Keith; the audience truly can understand how Rogers immediately captivates Stewart and how his overall sweet innocence and his incredible love for her wins her over. Further,the playful and loving nature of the Francey/Keith relationship is the model for any brother-in-law/sister-in-law bond.

This awesomeness extends to the anticipated but surprisingly executed happy ending.

The final academic evaluation of "Vivacious Lady" is that the excellent casting and above-average performances demonstrate this it deserves its long tenure. It does not fully illustrate Stewart's potential but is well worth 90 minutes of a viewer's time.

Anyone with questions about "Lady" is welcome to email me. You can also follow me on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.