Saturday, March 3, 2012
Ginger Rogers Film Review #22 - Finishing School
Run Time (approximate): 73 Minutes
Directed by: George Nichols Jr. and Wanda Tuchock.
Assistant Director (Second Unit): Edward Killy.
Executive Producer: Merian C. Cooper.
Associate Producer: Kenneth MacGowan.
Screenplay / Writers: Laird Doyle, David Hempstead, Wanda Tuchock and Louis Weitzenkorn.
Based on the Play "These Days" by: Katherine Clugston.
Cinematography by: J. Roy Hunt.
Art Directors: Al D'Agostino and Van Nest Polglase.
Editor: Arthur P. Schmidt.
Sound Recorder: John L. Cass.
Musical Director: Max Steiner.
Music Recordist: Murray Spivack.
Composers (Stock Music): Max Steiner and Roy Webb.
Makeup: Mel Burns.
Costume Design: Walter Plunkett.
Still Photographer: John Miehle.
Special Effects Supervisor: Harry Redmond Sr.
Special Photographic Effects: Vernon L. Walker.
Also Starring: Frances Dee (as Virginia Radcliff), Billie Burke (as Helen Crawford Radcliff), Bruce Cabot (as Ralph McFarland), John Halliday (as Frank S. Radcliff), Beulah Bondi (as Miss Van Alstyne), Sara Haden (as Miss Fisher), Helen Freeman (as Dr. Hewitt), Marjorie Lytell (as Ruth Wallace), Adalyn Doyle (Madeleine 'Maggy' Kelly), Anne Shirley (as Billie (as Dawn O'Day)), Irene Franklin (as Aunt Jessica - Pretender), Ann Cameron (as Miss Schmidt), Rose Coghlan (as Miss Edith Garland), Caroline Rankin (as Miss Weber).
UNCREDITED CAST: Margaret Armstrong (as Edith, the Maid), Eddie Baker (Bit Role), Joan Barclay (as Student), Jane Darwell (as Maude - intern's receptionist), Arnold Gray (as Desk Clerk), Theresa Harris (as Evelyn - Mrs. Radcliff's Maid), John David Horsley (as Interne), Claire Meyers (as Student), Frank Mills (as Cabbie), Jack Norton (as Drunkard), Susanne Thompson (as Student), Edith Vale (as Student).
Ginger's Character: Cecilia 'Pony' Ferris.
Approximately 13 Minutes and 3 Seconds (17.9% of the film).
GingerTunes: none...well, they all sing for a few seconds about getting plastered, but...that doesn't really count...
Gingery Goodness Factor (GGF) - (1-10): 6.5 - OK, here's the deal...there's a fine line between a character being sassy, and just being swarthy... and unfortunately, this one falls into seedy territory. My personal opinion is that Ginger really just wasn't right for this role, but...as usual, she makes the most of it. But I just have trouble 'buying' Ginger as a 'party girl'...y'know? And yeah, she turns out to be a bud to the lead character in the end, but she never really seems to 'regret' that lost weekend... and, it's funny that Ginger got good reviews for this one for being 'wild'...well, again, she DID play the role quite well...which ultimately is the mark of a great actress, right? Any role, Any time, Any place... so maybe I'm just a bit too touchy about it, I don't know... guess I just don't like the ROLE... don't hate the playa, hate the game, right? OK, rant over.
Film Quality (1-10): 8.0 - WB Archive Collection - Typical level of restoration - not too bad - I actually did the caps from a TCM copy from awhile back, as most of the WB Archive DVDs do NOT play in my computer...which is a bit weird, but they are heck-bent on curbing any 'copying' of anything...eh, that's fine, but...if I bought the DVD, I should be able to check it out wherever, right? OK, second rant over... looks like this is shaping up to be a rant-filled review, y'all...
Huey's Review for GINGEROLOGY: The first 'official' 1934 film Ginger partakes in sees her in a supporting role, which is never 'optimum Ginger' (although Anytime Annie came pretty close in 42nd Street), but overall she does pretty well for what the role requires...now, here's the rub... I just DON'T care for the role, y'all... not much at all. More on that later... well, we've already hit that in the GGF section above, so...anyway...
As for the movie proper, we begin with Miss Virginia Radcliff (played well by Frances Dee) being shipped off to...finishing school... by her ditzy ma (played quite convincingly by future Good Witch of da South, Billie Burke), who is a proud alumnus of (but NOT a very good selling point for) Crockett Hall, and wants her daughter to follow in her squirrely footsteps.
After meeting with the Queen Bee of the joint, Miss Van Alstyn (Beulah Bondi), Virginia is introduced to her roommate, none other than Miss Cecilia Ferris, better known as 'Pony'. After the niceties, Pony debriefs Virginia in short order regarding the way things work at Dear ol' Crockett... mainly, that anything goes, as long as it doesn't make the papers. As a result, Pony and her cronies (hey, that rhymes...yay me! ...er, I mean, 'ROCKONDUDE!!!') immediately begin to rifle thru Virginia's belongings, and unearth a bottle of something potable...which is a bit weird in and of itself, in that it's obvious Virginia knows coming in that no drinking or smoking are allowed... but anyway, to make it even weirder, instead of popping the top on the sauce, she chastens the gals, and proceeds to christen the fireplace with the bottle... I guess she was trying to 'honor the code' of the place.
Well, that feeling wanes in pretty short order when Pony and the gals rig up what can be best described as a 'Lost Weekend' with a bunch of wormy and swarthy dudes that neither Ginger or Miss Dee would be caught dead with in real life. We (thankfully) lose track of Pony's whereabouts the following morning, but we DO see Virginia stagger out with the goofball she was hooked up with barking at her. This is where the leading man comes in, in the form of Ralph McFarland (Bruce Cabot - you know, the cat who saved Fay Wray from that REAL big hairy thug from south of town...) - who, as a waiter for the flophouse they are in, can't help but get involved when the goofball tries to get tough on him, and Ralph drops him like a three-foot putt.
Well, the aftermath of all that results in a hungovah Ginnie being driven home by the chivalrous Mr. McFarland...and of course they fall in love, or something purt near like it...
Meanwhile, back at the Hall, Chief Van Alstyn is fixing to dole out 'reprimands' to Virginia, as her ride home dropped her at the front gate, which was a BIT too 'indiscreet'.
Well, time passes, and it's time for Christmas break... Virginia's folks have other plans, thus she is relegated to staying at school, although Pony tries to get her to join her at the Ferris residence... but the Boss Lady shuts that down.
Well, wouldn't ya know it, Mr. McFarland somehow finds his way onto the campus, and he and Miss Radcliff generally have a 'Lost Weekend' of their own... which of course is discovered by the Headmaster Lady... and that's pretty much as far as I need to go... let's just say that there's a pretty good reason Virginia doesn't want to get that checkup at the infirmary Van Alstyn is requesting for her....
Favorite Ginger Moments: oof, this is a tough one... Ginger has her cute moments in this one, but not as often as I'd like to see... I dig the 'undercover' scene (I'll leave those pics for the 'after review' post this weekend...), although I cringe to see an electric light totally under flammable blankets...that's a code violation, Ginger! ...hmm...maybe there's an angle for the proceedings here that I am QUITE familiar with, and the telegram pic below fits right in...
But I generally think Ginger is at her cutest when they are in class, and she is just writing notes to pass...that's just so cool... could you imagine being in a class with Ginger in it? I'd NEVER pass that class, y'all...nevvvv-ah... Well, here's a mish-mosh-mash-up of parallel universe moments as only your addle-brained author (who, BTW, IS a Certified Building Official) can bring you...
"...Now Pony, please bring Virginia here up to speed on all the building code changes..she's here representing the Sheboygan Chapter of Building Code Officials..."
"...Sure, Ms. V-A... I was just testing this protective helmet for use in a tornadic situation..."
"...by the way, do you know where the 2x4 launcher is?"
"...now look, I know from reading your profile that you are a voracious chain smoker, but listen, these things are instruments of destruction!"
"...Let me demonstrate...why, just lighting one requires an open flame, which is generally prohibited by code without a permit..."
"...Now look, for example, if you have to open your steamer trunk, holding a snipe in one hand makes it quite difficult...excessive force employed may dislodge the embers onto the highly flammable floor covering they have here, and BOOM! You have an inferno..."
"...So, honestly, the best place to use these are in the middle of an empty parking lot, at least 50 feet from any structure..."
"...Oh, HEY! I forgot about how they also trip carbon monoxide detectors, too...you know those are required by code now..."
"...And if you ever DO set the place on fire, and believe me, the way you suck thru those Chesterfields, it's GONNA happen... ya gotta know how to 'stop, drop and roll'..."
"...and also remember, if the doorknob is hot, then the fire is right outside your door...but unfortunately you'll always be on the same side of the blaze, Puff Mama..."
...this was some short little passage in the film with all the dames out hopping around and flailing in the garden...some sort of 'pre-code zumba', complete with little see-through outfits...not that I'm complaining about any of that...and heck, that's completely legal by code...well, unless they are trying to operate a barbecue grill, which would not be wise with loose clothing on...
"...Hey, ya got a white dot on yer chin... what IS that, Clearasil?"
"...Our teacher has very nonchalantly moved her file cabinet directly in front of the second egress door for this space..."
"...I'm sure our local Building Official will be quite interested in that...think I'll make a note of it..."
"...So this is Kate the Great's 'stand-in', eh?"
"...Ol' Katie's staging area on the back-lot is about to cave in on itself, and is teaming with asbestos...I better make a note of that also...I'm gonna need more paper..."
"...Next time you see your buddy Hepburn, tell her I'm condemning her dressing room the first chance I get...you better start stepping in line, too, sister..."
"...You wouldn't believe it! There were bare wires hanging out of the ceiling, no door on the breaker panel, and they had, like, EIGHT things plugged into ONE wall receptacle!"
"...I immediately summoned the local electrical inspector, of course... he deemed the place inhabitable on the SPOT, Jack..."
"...So, THAT's why you can't have any openings in a set of bannisters that a four-inch sphere can pass through..."
"...Cause otherwise, some kid, or just some dolt passing by, can get their head stuck in 'em..."
"...I can't wait to get to the Final Action Hearings...I want to see how the proposal on PVC piping in return air plenum spaces fares...of course, PVC hasn't been invented yet, but hey, it's always good to be prepared for future trends, right?"
"...HEY! Who's going to make the final arguments for that proposal?"
"...I'LL do it... You know, I worked at UL for a few years, so I can wade thru all that technical data without much trouble...AND, most of the dudes on the committee are partial to blondes, anyway, so...well..."
"...Ready for the big Code Hearing show, Ginny?"
"...don't worry kid, as long long as you keep your testimony under 90 seconds, and bat those honkin' brown eyes of yours, you'll do fine..."
"...But don't drag out things with personal interjections, like, "My Aunt Gertrude got her head stuck in the air vent, so that's why we should require grating over the openings..."...they don't wanna hear that...they want REAL technical data and test criteria..."
"...and WHATEVER you do, DON'T mention how the proposed change will affect construction costs... the opponents are just WAITING to jump on that hot potato... and money talk usually flat-lines ANY proposal..."
...Ginger spewing water out of her mouth...how cool is THAT? Well, for most folks, it would be a bit weird, but...this is not most folks we're talking about, y'all...
...and the next quarter-second shot of Gingerspew (that just DOESN'T sound good...even with the word 'Ginger' in it)...
"...Hey, how are you voting on the proposal requiring diaper changing stations in public restrooms? Most folks are waiting for the test standards to be quantified... AND, they're proposing them in MEN'S rooms as well...can you imagine a MAN trying to change a diaper?"
...Now, Ginger would kill me for this, but...her hair is so cool here...I won't even TRY to explain it...
...quite a prolific wad of golden locks she has there, albeit not uniformly arranged as of yet...STILL very cool!
"...Hey, we gotta move this couch - it can't be in front of an operable window! A kid can jump right up on it and bounce right out!"
"...Listen, kid, you better make sure all the doors in this joint are readily openable without the use of a key or special knowledge or effort...you're wandering around here like you don't even CARE!"
"...that scofflaw's gonna kill us all before it's all said and done...I've GOT to get her to realize code compliance isn't only smart, it's the LAW..."
"...OK, OK, maybe I've been harping on the code stuff a bit too much lately...let's just chill out a bit before the hearings start..."
"...Oh, hi, bellhop dude..."
"...Cool! A tele...for Miss Ginny..."
"...I told that cat that they need those little 'you are here' placards on the back of this door, clearly showing the exiting paths in the event of fire..."
"...What's the deal, Lucille? Bad news from the fam?"
...blame this cap for the whole 'theme' here, y'all...
"...Well, maybe yer Pa can get that mandatory chimney cleaning and inspection proposal passed thru before Christmas..."
"...but, don't cha SEE, Ginnie? It's up to US to get these motions passed here! ...WE are the next generation of code enforcement!!!"
"...maybe that kid will NOW get serious about the gravity of these hearings, and how they affect future generations..."
"...I...I can't believe what they're doing in there... total disregard for occupant safety..."
"...now I see, Pony... code compliance ISN'T an option... I've been so foolish!"
"...don't worry kid...you saned up just in time... too bad it always takes a potential tragedy for folks to see the light, code-wise..."
"...Look, take my Building Code, double-check the sections dealing with it, and filibuster for awhile... meanwhile, I'll step out and try to get some backup before they take the vote...I know just the guy, and he's a BIG dog in this field..."
"...If those idiots see me, they'll probably try to drag ME in for testimony!"
"...HU!!! This is Pinky...ya GOTTA get down to this hearing el PRONTO!...they're trying to take the entrapment avoidance devices for Jacuzzis OUT of the Code!!! that's right...TOTALLY out!!! ...yes, you can drive the Duesenberg...just don't leave the top down again!"
"Ginger Rogers' role is much more acceptable. As Miss Dee's roommate, Miss Rogers is the unconventional type. Regarding the school's rules and regulations, Miss Rogers says 'you can do anything you like, as long as you don't get caught.' Miss Rogers proceeds to break the rules, wisecracking all the while, and classes as the picture's one and only comic." - Variety
"Ginger Rogers plays a madcap young lady in her usual vivacious fashion." - Los Angeles Times
"To Miss Rogers fall most of the snappy lines in the piece, and a couple of her nifties panicked the paying guests." - Regina Crewe
"Ginger Rogers (as usual) nearly walks away with all but the scenery." - Modern Screen
From GINGER: My Story: "Then came Finishing School, back at RKO. [...after Twenty Million Sweethearts at Warner...look, I'm just going in the order Ginger lists them in the back of her book...and remember, even when Ginga's not accurate, she is RIGHT! right? OK, then...] Frances Dee and I had major roles. I was dating Lew, while Frances was romantically involved with Joel McCrea. Since Lew and Joel were very good friends, Frances and I shared a great deal of girl talk throughout the off-screen moments of the film." ...also, this: "One of my first recollections of Lucy (Ball) was during the film Finishing School. The hairdressing department was right next door to the makeup room. My hairdresser had just finished fingerwaving my hair for the first shot that morning. There was a small pass-through opening with a wooden panel closure that slid up and down. I came around the makeup room door just in time to see Lucy lift up the panel and angrily toss her porcelain coffee cup through the opening into the hairdressing room. Mel Burns looked at me in surprise and shrugged his shoulders, as if to say "I don;t know what that's about either." Kate Hepburn (there's that name again...) was there too and wondered what had happened. Maybe it was her way of saying, "I'm here too, you guys." she made believers of us all, though Lela knew it far ahead of anyone else. I was immeasurably grateful that Lucy got the chance to prove that talent in her television series."
--- 'Finishing School' made the Catholic Church's 'condemned film list' for 1934...ouch.
--- One of Pony's Cronies, Adalyn Doyle (who played Madeline 'Maggie' Kelly), was formerly a 'stand-in' for Katherine Hepburn.
--- The application form for Virginia was noted as 'accepted on 9/11/33'...weird how an arbitrary date in 1933 means quite a bit more 80 years later...
--- The play the film was based on, These Days, was the 1928 Broadway debut of Miss Katherine Hepburn (there's that name again...).
GingerFilm Ranking: #16 of 23. Yeah, just below 'Chance at Heaven', which is a wee bit better just because there's lots more GingerTime IN it, and just above 'Broadway Bad', as the role of Flip Daly isn't that different than this one, as the 'sidekick' with questionable morals... and yes, I know, looking at the list, ol' Anytime Annie is near the top...and wasn't SHE a bit 'questionable' herself? Well, sure...BUT, there's a difference...hard to explain, but...just watch them both and you'll see...
After Twenty-Two Reviews:
#01 - Rafter Romance
#02 - Professional Sweetheart
#03 - 42nd Street
#04 - Flying Down to Rio
#05 - Sitting Pretty
#06 - The Tenderfoot
#07 - The Tip-Off
#08 - Queen High
#09 - Young Man of Manhattan
#10 - You Said A Mouthful
#11 - Carnival Boat
#12 - A Shriek in the Night
#13 - The Thirteenth Guest
#14 - Don't Bet On Love
#15 - Chance at Heaven
#16 - Finishing School
#17 - Broadway Bad
#18 - Gold Diggers of 1933
#19 - The Sap From Syracuse
#20 - Suicide Fleet
#21 - Follow The Leader
#22 - Honor Among Lovers
#23 - Hat Check Girl***
*** - Not viewed or reviewed due to unavailability.
Up Next: Twenty Million Sweethearts... Ginger gets a bit more 'traditional' in this role, as the object of Mr. Powell's affection (Dick, not William...never really thought of that, but those Powell dudes were all over the place...kinda like Hepburn...Kate (Ever heard that name in this post?) or Audrey?) ...anyway, she plays a singer at a radio station, where DP is trying to break into the biz...and wooing Ginger as well. Ginger's rendition of 'Out For No Good' alone will finish off Finishing School...
Until then, as always...