Friday, April 26, 2013

Kitty Foyle

Tonight is the last night of Cher presenting the Friday Night Spotlight with Robert Osborne, presenting the defining Hollywood era of women on film. Three of Cher's four selections for tonight are on DVD, with the one not currently available being Kitty Foyle, at 10:00 PM.

The movie opens with Kitty Foyle (played by Ginger Rogers) living in New York where she's a bigwing in a fashion house, who has Mark, a doctor with a conscience (James Craig) for a boyfriend. She spends part of her evening on rounds with him, at the end of which he asks for her hand in marriage. Mark drops Kitty off at her place presumably to pack for their honeymoon -- Dr. Mark even has an all-night justice of the peace lined up to perform the ceremony. While Kitty is getting married, there's a knock on the door, and in walks Wyn Strafford (Dennis Morgan). This is a problem for poor Kitty, because she was in love with him at one time. And now he's back, to ask her to run away with him. What's a woman to do...?

At this point, we get a flashback, surprise surprise. Flash back a decade or so to Philadelphia, where Kitty is a working-girl who lives with her father (Ernest Cossart), who is that perfect Irish stereotype of the lovable drunk who's always a few dollars short, but dammit if you can't help but love the charming rascal anyway. Kitty understandably wants better, to be financially stable, so she dreams about being one of the beautiful people she reads about in the high society pages. Pop, warns her against this because the rich are just evil snots who won't respect her and she should just stay in her class. (The screenplay was written by Dalton Trumbo, so you have to understand there's going to be some unsubtle politicizing here.) And then into her life walks Wyn. He's one of those wealhty people from the "Main Line", Philadelphia's equivalent of the 400. Wyn loves Kitty, and she loves him, but this is a big bit of rebelliousness from Wyn, but he doesn't have the courage to go all the way and tell his parents to respect her no matter what.

This, combined with Pop's death, causes Kitty to leave Philadelphia and go to New York to get away from it all and clear her head. It's here, working as a shop assistant, that she meets Dr. Mark, who isn't perfect himself, but is at least of the "right" social class. But Wyn eventually returns and he and Kitty get married just long enough for Wyn to knock up Kitty, while Wyn's family, all of whom are Trumbo tropes, try to turn Kitty into the "proper" woman that she isn't. So the marriage is annulled and Kitty returns to New York, which is where she finds out she's pregnant (so she obviously couldn't have been married too long), and that Wyn's relatives have arranged a marriage of convenience for him, even though he really still loves her. But Kitty starts taking up with Mark again, eventually leading to the fateful night that starts the movie....

Kitty Foyle is a movie that I have a lot of problems with, mostly because the characters all leave me cold. The choice of which suitor to go with is supposed to be a crisis for Kitty, but I found myself not particularly caring which one she married at the end. Compare this to a conflict like The Easiest Way, where there are clear pros and cons for each of the two suitors. It doesn't help having a screenwriter who makes the point so bluntly obvious for us as well. That, and the fact that Kitty Foyle is definitely in the "women's picture" genre. Still, Ginger Rogers give a good performance, and there are lots of women out there who would love "women's pictures".

I'm really surprised that Kitty Foyle has fallen out of print. Amazon suggests that the movie got a DVD release back in 2006. With Ginger Rogers as the star, giving an Oscar-winning performance, and with the rights now controlled by Warner Home Video, you'd think the movie would have gotten a release to the Warner Archive, or one of those four-film box sets that TCM hawks between movies. But apparently not.

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