Saturday, October 1, 2011

Vivacious Lady

TCM is showing the movie Vivacious Lady this evening at 10:00 PM, and I don't believe that I have ever blogged about it before. Despite the fact that it has two fairly substantial stars in James Stewart and Ginger Rogers, it's one that's relatively little-seen. To be fair, Stewart wasn't quite yet the big star he was to become; Vivacious Lady was released in 1938 and it was movies like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington a year later that made him a much bigger star. But Rogers was already quite big.

But enough of that, and on to the plot. Stewart plays Peter Morgan, Jr., a professor at a college in some unnamed middle American city where his father (Charles Coburn) is the president. The good professor starts off the film in the big city on a trip with his cousin Keith (James Ellison), who is rather the playboy, and obviously not the family member of which the rest of the family would be proud. In fact, we first meet Keith in a nightclub, where he's enjoying the singer (Ginger Rogers) despite the fact that staying at the club is going to make him miss his train home. It's Peter Jr.'s job to fetch Keith and bring him home, but Peter himself gets waylaid... by that singer. That singer, of course, is Ginger Rogers, playing a character named Francey. When Peter sees Francey, it's love at first sight, and the two get a quickie marriage before taking the train home.

This, unsurprisingly, causes serious problems. First, Dad is bound not to approve of the marriage. Could you imagine a college professor getting married to a nightclub singer? (Sure, in a Hollywood movie.) The trustees are certain not to like the idea either. So at first Peter Jr. keeps the marriage a secret, putting Francey up in a women-only apartment house while he works up the courage to tell Dad the truth. Dad isn't the only person who needs to learn the uncomfortable truth: Peter Jr. was engaged to Helen (Frances Mercer) before going off to pick up his cousin. Mom (Beulah Bondi) would be more accepting, but unfortunately she, like her son, has been too cowed by Dad to stand up to him.

Now, Vivacious Lady is a comedy, so all of this is handled very lightly. And it's quite an enjoyable little comedy, too. It doesn't seem to be trying to anything too big; we just have a bunch of professional actors going about their jobs and doing a darn good job of it.

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