Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Primrose Path (1940)



“We live not as we wish- but as we can.”

            Everyday I wake up wishing I did not have to struggle to earn money and keep up with payments. I wish I could win the lottery or write a bestselling novel so I will not have to worry about my school loans (the heavy burden in my life right now). I wish I had a real job working in a museum instead of working a part time I did not want but unfortunately wound up with. Everyone that struggles through the days and has sleepless nights worry about the future lives not as they wish but as they can.
            In Primrose Path, Ellie May Adams (Ginger Rogers) wishes she could live a better life. She does not exactly say so but you can tell she does not want to be living in a bad neighborhood with a prostitute for a mother who spends her nights in the city with rich men, a pushy annoying grandmother, a younger sister, and a drunken father with no job. Ellie May wears a sad straight face knowing there is nothing she can do about her situation.
            Ellie May decides to go down to the beach one day to collect some clams for dinner since the family has no money to buy a decent meal. As she walks along the highway a man in a tow truck stops to offer her a ride. At first Ellie May is skeptical but she relents and accepts the ride. The man, who goes by the nickname Gramps, takes her to a small café for some food. Working behind the counter is a handsome, charismatic man named Ed Wallace (Joel McCrea). Ed tries his hardest to get a rise out Ellie May to make her smile and be happy but her home life has made her tough and unbreakable. Ed offers to take her home but she refuses to tell him where she lives. While driving his motorcycle with the side seat Ed does all sorts of tricks to get Ellie May to laugh or have some emotion and all she does is stay mad and tightened up. One of the things Ed does is grab Ellie May’s face and kiss her. She slaps him back.
            That night Ellie May gets all dressed up to go out. She tells her mother she is confused how she felt about Ed’s kiss. Mamie encourages her daughter to go out and find Ed and to have a good time. Ellie May finds Ed at a bar dancing with some of the looser girls Ed hangs around with. She tells him she loves him but he just throws it back in her face. She walks to the end of the pier and he follows and kisses her again.
            Ellie May has not been home for months. She and Ed have gotten married and she works in the café with him. The two are like a comedy act with the customers and the customers eat everything they say and do up. Back at her old home, her grandmother is worried about her but Mamie is not she knows her daughter is somewhere better off. Mamie and her friends are heading into the city for the night. They stop at the gas station at the café where Ellie May and Ed work. Ellie May knows it is her mother in the car but does not say anything. A customer mentions he knows Mamie Adams and that she has a reputation. Ellie May says something to the man without revealing her secret and gets upset. All the male customers are angry with the man thinking the guy said something mean to her and throw him out.
            After that episode Ellie May tells Ed about her mother… in a way. She takes Ed home to meet her family but that does not go over to well and he winds up leaving her.
            Ed tries to go back to Ellie May but her nasty grandmother who for some reason does not like Ed tells him Ellie May left for San Francisco with another man.
            For months Ellie May is at her house. Something happens to her mother where she dies and Ellie May takes it upon herself to try to get a job like her mother. She has the man she is with, her mother’s friend and business partner, and another man to the place where Ed likes to go with his women friends. Ellie May makes Ed jealous all dressed up and with another man. Before the man Ellie may is with leaves Ed talks to him about her. As they are driving back Ed’s motorcycle can be heard behind them. The man has the car pulled over so Ellie May can go to Ed.
            The couple goes back to her house with groceries and some money. Ed lays into the grandmother as if to say she is not bullying them around anymore he is around and the authority.
            So needless to say a happy Hollywood ending is shown.
            Ginger Rogers and Joel McCrea were excellent together. This was their second film together they had made Chance at Heaven in 1934. Rogers was perfect in this role because the character was snippy and snarky and those were the types of characters she was awesome at playing. Rogers wrote in her autobiography that this was a role she wanted to make because it was something different for her and allowed for her to stretch her dramatic muscles. To really get into character Rogers dyed her hair brunette and kept it a secret until the premier of the film and did not wear any makeup in it. Rogers looked great. The more I see Joel McCrea the more I love him. He was so unbelievably handsome. McCrea is such an underrated actor he was so good I have yet to see a film of his where his acting is not good.
            The supporting cast was very good. Marjorie Rambeau, who played Mamie, was nominated for an Academy Award for her role.
            I thought it was an interesting coincidence that Ginger Rogers had worked with both Joel McCrea and his wife Frances Dee. Rogers had made Finishing School with Dee after she had made Chance at Heaven with McCrea. Rogers wrote that at the time she was working with Dee both of them had found their dream men- Rogers had found Lew Ayres and Dee had been getting serious with McCrea. While they were on the set of Finishing School they would gush about Ayres and McCrea. The two men also happened to be good friends.
            Primrose Path is a very good film. I liked that Ellie May does eventually get to have a happier, better life with Ed. She struggled for some time but came out stronger. Definitely see Primrose Path for Ginger Rogers’s and Joel McCrea’s performances and for the well written story.