Monday, July 19, 2010

1940 - Kitty Foyle

For those who have not been paying attention, I'm currently performing in My Fair Lady at the Allenberry Playhouse. That's me on the right playing Colonel Pickering. Last week was a hectic week of final rehearsals, but our first few performances were received very well. Four more weeks to go! With such a busy schedule last week, there was little time left for this project, or anything else, for that matter, but now that the show has opened, things have settled down again. In fact, today, a few fellow cast members and I made the most of our first day off in two weeks by taking out the tubes and rafts for a slow trip down the Yellow Breeches.

On the weekend, I had a chance to catch another 1940 Best Picture nominee...

Kitty Foyle
Sam Wood
Dalton Trumbo and Donald Ogden Stewart
(based on the novel by Christopher Morley)
Ginger Rogers, Dennis Morgan, James Craig
Academy Awards:
5 nominations
1 win, for Best Actress (Rogers)

Young working class girl Kitty Foyle (Rogers) is dating a friendly doctor named Mark (Craig). Before Mark proposes marriage, he delicately enquires whether Kitty still has any feelings for her ex-beau, a high society Philadelphian named Wyn (Morgan). She promises that she no longer thinks of him. But no sooner has she accepted Mark's proposal than Wyn sweeps back in to whisk her away. He's married now, but somehow they both seem to be able to look past that minor detail.

So, Kitty has a choice: settle down with Mark or run away with Wyn. She talks it over with her mirror image who helpfully recaps her life leading up to this moment, with particular attention given to her on again, off again relationship with Wyn and the problems caused by their class difference.

The opening of Kitty Foyle is a little choppy, jumping around in time, but once the story settles into its main flashback portion, it becomes a lot more engaging. However, due to the decent amount of exposition before the flashback, we are already mostly aware of the state of Kitty's current relationships, which creates a peculiar sensation as the flashback unfolds. Initially, one feels a sense of inevitability as Kitty and Wyn begin their love affair. But even if you think you know where it's all heading, there are still plenty of ups and downs throughout the picture that hold your attention.

By today's standards, the special effects employed to give the illusion that Kitty has a mirror image capable of independence are relatively basic, but considering when this film was made, it is an impressive achievement. Not to mention its effect as a literary device. It's the rational experienced Kitty talking to the impulsive modern Kitty, reminding her of how she got into this dilemma. Despite a clever script, I have to question one minor detail. While working at the department store, Kitty moves to call the stock room, but accidentally presses the burglar alarm instead. What kind of horrible telecommunications design is that to have the stock room call button and the alarm button right next to each other?

Ginger Rogers bagged her only Oscar nomination for this title role, winning the coveted Best Actress award. And a well deserved win it is, too. She clearly proves she is not just Fred Astaire's dancing partner. The two men of Kitty Foyle, Dennis Morgan and James Craig are a little dry, but in fairness, this is Ginger Rogers' movie, so it's almost fitting that they are not as memorable. And that inexplicably cute kid from All This, and Heaven Too, Richard Nichols, also appears briefly here, just as cute as before.


  1. I haven't seen this movie yet, but it sounds so interesting. Strong review!

  2. I'm going to hunt it down and watch it.

  3. The second movie from 1940 to look at class differences in Philadelphia, Kitty Foyle takes a more melodramatic approach and frankly doesn't hold a candle to The Philadelphia Story. It does however give Ginger Rogers a chance to show her acting chops and earn her only nomination, which she cashes in on, with a win.

    1940 seems to be the year of the pairs. Director Sam Wood directs two Best Picture nominees, this one and Our Town. Eduardo Cianelli, the sinister spy in Foreign Correspondent is comedic here as a speakeasy turned Italian Restaurant owner. You already pointed out the second appearance of little Richard Nichols, whose Southern accent, while still out of place for a Philadelphian heir is more acceptable here. The final pairing are expressions. Joining James Qualen's 'By Jiminies' from The Long Voyage Home is Kitty Foyle's 'Judas Priest.'

    Considering some noteworthy films overlooked for Best Picture (which I'll name in the Best of 1940 thread) I'm surprised that Kitty Foyle made it. It's certainly not a bad picture, but Rogers' performance excepted, not a particularly noteworthy choice.

  4. Is that real facial hair Matt? Brilliant.
    Did you know ... that the side burn was actually named after a General Burnside... hey?? Yeah, I am not so bad with the trivia meself XXX

  5. It's real, mutton chops and all.