Thursday, April 14, 2011

Why Ginger Rogers? Part 1

Why Ginger Rogers? Well, the explanation is very silly. Three years ago, I watched a trailer for the 1937 movie Stage Door and got a kick out of the old-time-y voiceover. The gentleman who provided the voiceover pronounced “starring Ginger Rogers” in chipper, snooty tones, dropping his Rs. Ever since, whenever something said in casual conversation sounds like a plausible title for a movie or play, I repeat the expression and add the subtitle, “Starring Ginger Rogers.” Here is a hypothetical dialogue that could occur in my house:

MY DAD: Would you like a grapefruit, E?
MY BROTHER ETHAN: Nah. I don’t like grapefruits because I always get juice in my eye.
MY DAD: Yeah, I had a grapefruit incident this morning, actually.
ME [in a snooty, old time-y accent]: The Grapefruit Incident. Starring Ginger Rogers… as The Grapefruit.

I try to remember to speak under my breath, since I realize the joke is not funny after the first few times. At least, not to other people. To me, it is funny every time.

It is funny because the casting of Ms. Rogers in a play about a grapefruit sounds especially outrageous... without sounding utterly incredible. She is probably not my favorite Old Hollywood actor, but I do admire her exceedingly. She was known for polished dancing and snappy line readings. She could cut a glamorous figure in a glittering dress and whirl around a dance floor, or she could run amok in overalls, cracking her gum and blowing bubbles. On screen, she came off as a little more refined than her friend Lucille Ball, but a little more meat-and-potatoes than say, Irene Dunne, her costar in Roberta. I'm not running down Ms. Ball or Ms. Dunne – they were both wonderful comediennes, too. But this is why I enjoy picturing Ms. Rogers playing the Grapefruit. It’s improbable, because she was too classy, and because old time stars didn’t go that far out on limbs (the studios didn’t let them). But it’s not impossible to imagine, if you’ve seen the kind of high jinks she pulled in movies like The Major and the Minor or Monkey Business. Ms. Rogers could have puffed up her cheeks and played a grapefruit with great good humor.  Unluckily, the lady died in 1995, so she’s lost her opportunity.

Watch what I’m watching:

Stage Door (1937) Highest Recommendation

Roberta (1935) Highly Recommended

The Major and the Minor (1942) Highly Recommended

Monkey Business (1952) Recommended

Creative Commons License
Starring Ginger Rogers by Rosa Frank is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

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