Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Just for Fun ~ Fabulous Footwork Quiz

Let's dance in the new year and celebrate great choreography in the movies. Can you guess the owners of these famous gams? Bonus - Name the movie in which they are dancing.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

New Year Reflections ~ Life's a Banquet

I'll be honest. Auntie Mame (1958) is not part of my annual holiday lineup. I prefer to save this film for a day when life has got me down, and I "need a little Christmas," as Mame of the musical version would say, "Right this very minute!" Maybe subconsciously I know this is how Mame would intend her film to be used--should characters be able to hop the fourth wall and converse with their audience.

Nonetheless, this year Auntie Mame (Rosalind Russell) keeps popping into my head. I desperately wanted to finish an email reminder to read over Winter Break with Mame's famous line, "Life's a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!" I refrained, knowing that most parents and students would not get the reference and might focus too heavily on the "sucker" part. Here, however, I can share the line and know my readers will delight in the line as I do. Mame's advice is wise--there is so much to learn if only one opens his/her mind (or for the purpose of my email, opens a book) and applies his- or herself.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Hope in the Night
Remember the Night (1940) and I met quite by accident. One might think between my affinity for Fred MacMurray, admiration for Barbara Stanwyck, and passion for all things Christmas, I would have discovered this holiday film years ago. Alas, I happened to flip on the channel, and there it was, waiting for me. Kismet. 

At first I questioned the premise. An attorney (Fred MacMurray) taking home a thief (Barbara Stanwyck) over the holidays? Really? Who would do that? But as I continued watching, the film pulled me in. There is a much deeper message than the surface summary would have you believe. The story is about the difference between being on the wrong versus the right side of the tracks, and what that can do to one's spirit.  

Sunday, December 7, 2014

I Feel Pretty - The Musical Side of Beauty

Keeping with last week's theme...

Movies have also taught us that glamorizing oneself is part of the fun of womanhood. Being a musical-lover, I can think of several films in which young women joyfully sing about the benefits of being a female--and a beautiful one at that. 

Here are three that come to mind:

West Side Story (1961) - "I Feel Pretty"

Flower Drum Song (1961) - "I Enjoy Being a Girl 

Bye Bye Birdie (1963) - "How Lovely To Be a Woman" 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Beauty for Sale

Watch any television program with a high female demographic or flip through a magazine intended for women, and you will be bombarded with countless ads peddling beauty wares. The desire for immortality is as old as Ponce de Leon's search for the Fountain of Youth, but the added emphasis on female beauty is what has survived to current times. 
 From far left (clockwise) - Virginia Mayo, Ann Blyth, Gene Tierney, and Judy Garland

Attaining the idealized vision of beauty is not an easy process, no matter what the age (although the time to get ready seems to correlate with how old you are). There is much work to be done. Plucking of eyebrows, manicuring of fingertips, pedicuring of toes. Straightening of curly hair. Curling of straight hair. Mascara. Lipstick. Blush. Bronzer. Moisturizers, cleansers, anti-aging serums. Creams. Creams to tighten skin, creams to get rid of bags under the eyes, creams to prevent acne. And let us not forget the diets. Atkins diet. South Beach diet. Anti-carbohydrate diet. If all else fails, there are also body shapers: corsets, girdles, and spanks--oh my!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Kicking off the Holiday Season ~ Holiday Inn

It's Thanksgiving week which means the countdown to Christmas has begun (although if commercials and store decorations are any indication, the shotgun was fired the day after Halloween). While some might hum and hah like Ebenezer Scrooge, I am one of those silly souls who can't wait to switch the station to 24/7 holiday music, deck the halls, and compile the holiday movie viewing list. Since Christmas movies in November can transform my hubby into a humbug, the first film of the season must be carefully chosen. This means the flick cannot be strictly classified as a "Christmas" movie. The answer to this conundrum: Holiday Inn (1942).
What better way to kick off the holiday season than by watching a cinematic celebration of the year's holidays?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Fools for Scandal

The real scandal may have nothing to do with them.
I love Carole Lombard, Paris, quick witty dialogue, and light fluffy comedies. When I saw Fools for Scandal (1938) come across my Facebook feed, promising all of the above, I thought I had a sure winner. DVR set to record. Unfortunately this movie fell flat. Very very flat. Old champagne flat. I'm usually much easier to please. (Yes, I see messages in movies, but that does not interfere with my enjoyment of the films.)

What went wrong? Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe it was the lack of chemistry between Lombard and her co-star Fernand Gravet (or the fact I was expecting Robert Montgomery--I swear the pic looked just like him--and got Gravet). Then there was that awkward attempt mid-movie to become a musical although no characters had spontaneously burst into song up to nor following that point.

To stay on the sunny side of the street, I did find one interesting nugget in my viewing. For being made after strict enforcement of the Hays Code, the movie is rather suggestive regarding two of the female characters in the cast: Lady Paula Malverton (Isabel Jeans) and Jill (Marcia Ralston). In hindsight, the foreshadowing is present before the camera first presents the ladies together. The main characters, Kay (Lombard) and Rene (Gravet), walk into the restaurant where Lady Paula is giving a party, and this is the act on stage:

Notice the woman dressed in traditional male attire 
among the other women who are dressed in beaded gowns.

At first glance of the table, Jill appears to be a male character. Her hair is slicked back and her outfit is distinctly masculine in nature. Lady Paula discusses how she has taken Jill to Paris and is paying for her French lessons. 

Jill's style remains masculine throughout the picture. At Kay's masquerade party, she again can be mistaken for a man:

Lady Paula leads Jill to another room away from the party. 

Among the ladies in the spaghetti strapped and backless gowns, she is dressed in a short sleeve, buttoned up shirt, black vest, and long pants.

Lady Paula discusses Rene's finer points. 
Jill appears amused and Kay surprised.

After the party breaks up, the two women leave together. Lady Paula, however, wants to go back into the house to investigate Kay and Rene's true relationship.

Jill looks worried. Afraid to lose her friend to Rene perhaps? Maybe to Kay?

The next morning, the city is aflutter with gossip (thanks to Lady Paula) that Kay is living with a bachelor. The ladies gather to ply Kay with questions:

In walks Jill, her masculinity exaggerated by the fact that once more she is surrounded by the ultra-feminine gals.

The remainder of the movie focuses on the main characters, leaving Lady Paula and Jill to their devices off-screen, which honestly would have been more interesting. 

While I would not recommend watching Fools for Scandal for entertainment purposes, it would be an interesting view if only to see how Hollywood treated lesbianism under Breen's watchful eye.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

'60s Career Girls and Marriage

And now it is time to wrap up my Career Girls and Marriage series (although the more I watch, the more I want to add--I may need to revisit in the future). 

Onto the 60s, a tumultuous time of conflicting identities:
  • Wheeler Dealers (1963) - In this film, career women are presented as two types: the ones who work in order to find a husband and those who work because they find fulfillment in their job. Molly Thatcher (Lee Remick) is one of the latter while her roommate Eloise (Patricia Crowley) is of the former, working uptown where it is easier to bag a husband. Molly, on the other hand, works downtown where a girl has to be "twice as smart to get half as far." Interesting observation of the glass ceiling. Molly wants to be a respected business woman, but her working environment is less than conducive to her desires. Although she is unaware of it, her bosses are trying to fire her with the rationalization that hiring a female employee was just an "experiment" anyways.
    She belongs to a lunch club, which is full of women who want to move up in the world, yet is managed by men. Apparently the men have not received the memo as they prefer to discuss facts about bobby pins and kitchen appliances as opposed to the facts and figures of Wall Street.
    Molly challenges the club's male speaker; she is insulted that women are not being taking seriously in the work world and are considered emotional and "excitable." What a rally cry! The irony, however, is that the women are portrayed as emotional and excitable at the very time she is delivering her message. One step forward, two steps back. To top things off, Molly is relentlessly pursued by the rather handsome Henry Tyroon  (James Gardner...sigh...) who has plans to make her his girl. Along the course of the way, she informs him (and us) that she prefers to be admired for her intelligence, not her beauty.
    She also explains that even if she got married, she would hold off on having a baby because that would end her career. Wow--a different reality back in the '60s! (Yet, I can't help wondering how far we have come. Some hypothesize that motherhood still has a negative effect on career advancement.*)
    Molly can predict Henry's every move and successfully resists. Almost. In the end, her plans change. Molly is going to marry Henry and move back to Texas with him.
*See Sarah Hoye's (CNN), Jayita and Murali Poduval's (National Institute of Health), and Lisa Quast's (Forbes) articles for more info on this topic.

  • The Thrill of It All (1964) - This week brings us two James Gardner movies (double sigh). During my first viewing, I thought, Oh I like this one--a light, fun movie with a working mother at its center. I still enjoy the movie. I can relate--as I imagine many working moms can--to that torn, guilty feeling of not always being there to for all the little moments in our children's lives. At the same time, I can understand why Beverley Boyle (Doris Day) enjoys her job. She is her own woman, able to contribute to the household fund for the first time. As an added bonus, she gets to communicate with other adults.
    The last straw... Source
    While she revels in her new spot on the financial food chain, her husband Gerald (James Gardner) becomes more and more irritated with her career. She is neglecting her duties on the home front such as having his dinner ready and saying good night to the children. The situation escalates until finally both decide it would be better for her to give up her career and solely be a mother and wife. She seems pretty pleased with the decision. In fact, the ending implies that she is going to have another baby. (Because babies solve all major conflicts at home, right?)  
  • Sex and the Single Girl  (1964) - This movie chronicles the fictional version of Dr. Helen Brown (Natalie Wood), a psychologist who has written a book about being single and living like man; i.e. sex with whomever and whenever you wish, and the rat, Bob Weston (Tony Curtis) who is trying to secretly publish an article documenting what kind of woman she is. (Remember, the message goes that there are two kinds of women--those who do and those who don't.) Bob is not the only one who desires this knowledge. Helen's co-worker Dr. Rudy DeMeyer (Mel Ferrer) also indicates that he is dying to know her type and essentially tells her that he hopes their elegant evening together pays off. So if a guy provides a nice date, you have to put out? Wowzers--this is a message for further exploration! (Not to mention how he keeps coming on to her after she has clearly expressed disinterest in his advances... Sexual harassment in the office, anyone?) Helen is full of contradictions.
    She declares, "Married! I don't want to be married! I've got work I care about much more." Yet she believes that
    men have the "opportunity, challenge, and responsibility" to marry as this is the only thing that sets humanity apart from animals. By the end of the flick, Helen rocks a stuffed animal as though it was a baby and realizes, "I don't want to be a single girl!" She gives up her practice to marry Bob. The sentiment of the movie can be summed up in two quotes: 
    A tongue-and-cheek statement by Gretchen (Fran Jefferies), Bob's girlfriend (if you can call her that--she is more of a booty-call), "I wouldn't give up my career for marriage, kids, and happiness." True happiness lies in marriage for women. 
    Acted with mock enthusiasm, Bob announces to a co-worker, "You may have power, money, and sex. But I've got love!" Bob's declaration is part of a joke. Love is not what men want. Marriage is a trap. Just ask his neighbor, Frank Broderick (Henry Fonda), who regularly dodges objects thrown at him by his ever jealous wife Sylvia (Lauren Bacall).

And with that, the series on Career Girls and Marriage is concluded--for now. Thank you for reading! Please feel free to comment or email me with titles of movies that deal with career and marriage. I would love to explore this topic further and welcome anomalies to the standard Hollywood message.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Messages from Cat People

Cat People (1942) was an unexpected success. Despite its limited budget and initially being panned by some illustrious critics (The New York Times' Bosley Crowther for instance), the film was a huge hit with audiences. This fluke had critics rubbing their heads, so they went back and watched the movie again. The film proved itself and--to use a term from the genre--it rose from the dead in the eyes of the critics, prompting their praise.

What had the audience caught that the critics had missed? 

Many point to Jacques Tourneur's direction and how he is able to instill fear in the viewer sans blood and gore. Indeed the film is rather silent, forcing its audience to strain their ears to hear the dialogue. This makes the clicking of heels or low growl of a panther all the more adrenaline inducing. In America's Film Legacy, Daniel Eagan also credits editor Mark Robson for some of the suspense: "By altering the tempo of cuts, by juxtaposing wide shots and close-ups, Mark Robson builds tension out of thin air. A sudden noise becomes the equivalent of a shriek" (359). The audience keeps waiting for something to pop out of the shadows, but nothing ever does (that would have cost money). The fear is psychological.

Resisting her sexual urges...
This may be why Cat People is considered a landmark film today, but there is so much more to the movie than new scare tactics. At its center is Irena (Simone Simon), who fears passion will turn her into a deadly panther. Through the course of the movie, we are taught that female sexuality is dangerous and should be repressed. As long as she resists her urges, her husband Oliver (Kent Smith) is safe. Passion can rear its ugly head in more ways than consummation of marriage, though. Jealousy of her husband's properly repressed co-worker Alice (Jane Randolph) causes her transformation--always implied, never seen to maximize suspense. The message is twofold: female sexual repression is good while female jealousy is bad. 

The other Cat Woman (Elizabeth Russell) - Source
Messages about assimilation into American culture also emerge in Cat People. Made during the beginning stages World War II, Irena represents those whom Americans feared. As much as she tries to belong, Irena is marked with the scarlet "O," that of otherness. She is from Serbia, from a little village with customs her husband and his co-workers cannot understand. She speaks with a distinct accent and is acknowledged as "sister" by a fellow foreigner (Elizabeth Russell). When her husband's friends laugh at this strange woman, it is Irena at whom they are laughing, although they may not realize it at the time. Irena is an outsider. She does not and cannot belong. She dies, leaving behind the foreign form Oliver and Alice cannot understand.

Statue of King John slaying a cat - Source
Cat People also covers psychiatry in its messages. Dr. Judd (Tom Conway), the psychoanalyst, becomes the King John figure, purging the city of sin by curing sick minds. He also carries a sword of sorts: a blade within his cane (much like the one Ballin Mundson uses in Gilda). Dr. Judd eventually uses the blade to slay the cat-version of Irena, but he is unable to save his life. Had he truly listened to Irena during their psychoanalytic sessions instead of focusing on his own righteousness, he may have still been alive. His death represents the American public's lack of faith in psychiatry.

The success of Cat People was a pleasant surprise for RKO. Its use of sound, camera angles, and film cuts gives the movie a haunted feel and makes it a fun pick for Halloween. However, it is the messages that gave the movie double appeal to audiences who questioned female sexuality, foreign residents, and psychiatry. 

[Side note: You can catch Cat People on TCM Friday, October 31st at 8 am PST.]

Works Cited

Eagan, Daniel. America's Film Legacy: The Authoritative Guide to the Landmark 
     Movies in the National Film Registry. New York: Continuum International
      Publishing Group, 2010. Print.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Image of Rita Hayworth

It's mid-October, Hispanic Heritage Month, and the perfect time to take a quick break from my Career Girls and Marriage series to celebrate Rita Hayworth. She is the birthday girl of the month, born October 17, 1918 (see the getTV Rita Hayworth Blogathon hosted by Classic Movie Hub for a list of wonderful reviews devoted to Hayworth). She is also one of the first Hispanic actresses to make it big in Hollywood although her widespread popularity did not come until after her Hispanic heritage was washed away.

If you are interested in a detailed account of Rita's transformation, you should stop by Backlots and read Lara Gabrielle Fowler's Rita Hayworth and the Loss of Hispanic Identity. (It is a fabulous read!)  

I am fascinated by how Rita Hayworth's all-American, sexy image is engrained into our public consciousness. Maybe my experience is unique, but for a long time my understanding of Hayworth was limited to her on-screen image and commentaries about her sex appeal to American G.I.'s. In fact, the first time I heard someone (probably TCM's Robert Osborne) talk about Rita's Hispanic heritage, I did a double-take, thinking they were discussing Rita Moreno. I have a feeling I'm not alone. In Being Rita Hayworth, Adrienne McLean observes that while the Hollywood publicity machine promoted Rita's "Latin heritage" and "ability as a dancer," they also glorified "her good looks [...] the result of much manipulation" (39). A quick internet search will demonstrate the number of images the powers-to-be presented to reinforce Rita's new American-ness.  

In the minds of her adoring public, Rita Hayworth was the all-American pin-up girl whose pose in a sexy black-laced negligee motivated the boys overseas. 

   "the" pic from Life magazine, 1941

Strangely, the image did not alienate her female fans. Was it because anyone who kept the boys inspired was a-okay? Or was it because her musical comedies brought her down to earth? She evoked memories of a simpler time--albeit whitewashed--as she charmed James Cagney in the musical Strawberry Blonde (1941). She hoofed with Fred Astaire in You'll Never Get Rich (1941) and You Were Never Lovelier (1942) and with Gene Kelly in Cover Girl (1944). When the boys returned, they fell in love with her all over again as she played the title character in Gilda (1946).  

Can't wait to do a write up on this noir someday!

How does the saying go? Women wanted to be her and men wanted to be with her.   

So entrenched was her image, the public was aghast when she dyed her trademark fiery red hair to blonde for Orson Welles' Lady from Shanghai (1947). The film's box office failure was partially attributed to her physical transformation.  

Over a half-century later, Rita's sexy Americanized image remains in our memories, but thanks to a growing body of educated classic movie fans, her Hispanic heritage will never be lost. 

Works Cited

McLean, Adrienne. Being Rita Hayworth: Labor, Identity, and Hollywood
Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2004. Print.

This post is part of the “getTV Rita Hayworth Blogathon” hosted by Classic Movie Hub and running during the entire month of October. Please visit getTVschedule to see a full list of Rita Hayworth films airing on the channel this month, and please be sure to visit Classic Movie Hub for a full list of other Blogathon entries.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Paradox of Career, Marriage, & 1950s Movies

After my last post, I came across some interesting tidbits about working women in the 1950s. The info was too good to let pass, especially since we just explored career women in 1950s movies. According to two books I have been jumping between, married working women were more prevalent in the 1950s than in prior decades. Adrienne McLean in Being Rita Hayworth explains that "between 1950 and 1960 more than four million married women took jobs, accounting for 60 percent of all new workers" (17). In "Old Soldiers Never Die: Father's Little Dividend and the Fading Patriarch," Kristen Hatch provides a more specific detail: "In 1951 a third of American women of working age were in the labor force, and the majority of them were married" (46).

What?! I thought. The evidence I found in the movies said otherwise. The message seemed to say that a woman can find true happiness only in marriage, family, and a home.

So I checked the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Sure enough, Hatch's statement regarding the number of working woman was accurate. Per "Labor Force Change, 1950-2050," an article in a BLS journal, "In 1950, the overall participation rate of women was 34 percent" (Toossi 18). This does not, however, indicate how many of the women were married. I continued digging. Another BLS article, "Family Labor Force Statistics" points out that "In 1950, participation rates of wives were much the same as they had been in 1944" (Waldman 17). Contrary to common belief, women did not leave their wartime jobs and crawl back into domesticity.

So why the paradox between movies and reality?

Some might say 34-percent is not a particularly large number, so there is not really a discrepancy. While this may seem like a small amount by today's numbers, I'm sure this seemed like a large percentage at the time. Another thought is that our current understanding of the 1950s woman is derived from Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique which is "flawed by its reliance on a handful of conservative writings" (McLean 16). Since I am not familiar with the "conservative writings" in question, I am not comfortable drawing a conclusion based on this theory.

Another possibility for the paradox lies in the very nature of movies. They are fantasies, often the ideal version of ourselves. Hatch hits upon this in her essay: "Our misconception that this was a time of stability with regard to gender and family life is largely due to the popular domestic comedies of the period, which created a fantasy of the typical American family" (Hatch 46).
Elizabeth Taylor and Spencer Tracy
She further suggests films such as Father's Little Dividend (1951) attempted to preserve an old way of life that was slipping away as women became more financially independent. Whether or not the fantasy was created "to preserve the notion that the typical family is headed by a [male] breadwinner" (49) or the idea that a woman's place is in the home, what remains is a past painted a shade lighter than reality. I am reminded that history is written by the victors and the past is what we create it to be, not necessarily what it actually was. Or in this case, what the filmmakers of the 1950s created it to be. 

Works Cited

Hatch, Kristen. "Old Soldiers Never Die: Father's Little Dividend and the Fading 
      Patriarch." American Cinema of the 1950s: Themes and Variations. Ed. 
      Murray Pomerance. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2005. 46-49. 

McLean, Adrienne. Being Rita Hayworth: Labor, Identity, and Hollywood 
     Stardom. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2004. Print.

Toossi, Mitra. "A century of change: the U.S. labor force, 1950-2050."  
      Monthly Labor Review May 2002: 15-28. Web. 13 Oct. 2014. 

Waldman, Elizabeth. "Labor force statistics from a family perspective."  
      Monthly Labor Review Dec. 1983: 16-20. Web. 13 Oct. 2014.

Monday, October 6, 2014

'50s Career Girls and Marriage

Not so easy to find is the 1950s career girl. But with a little research, I not only came across a great new book series that I can't wait to sink my teeth into, but also found an awesome example of a '50s career gal. It's an old favorite with a message I missed until I read Sumiko Higashi's essay in American Cinema of the 1950s: Themes and Variations
Froman's career & marriage don't mix.
  • With a Song in My Heart (1952) - This musical biopic chronicles singer Jane Froman's (Susan Hayward) rise to stardom, troubled marriage, and debilitating injury. Author Sumiko Higashi points out that the movie is careful to portray her success as being spurred forward by her husband as opposed to her own ambitions as a career woman. She laments that "she wants 'a real home'" and pities her husband because "'it isn't easy for any man being married to a woman in the spotlight'" (78). She further declares, "If [her career is] going to spoil our marriage, it just isn't worth it'" (78). After she is injured, it is the medical bills--again not her ambition--that prompt her to go back to her singing career. The message is clear: married career women work as a result of external circumstances not internal desire.
Memory triggered, I was able to come up with another 1950s movie with a career gal:
Poor Fred is taken for granted...
  • There's Always Tomorrow (1956) - Norma Miller Vale (Barbara Stanwyck) is a successful fashion designer. She meets up with a former co-worker, Cliff Groves (Fred MacMurray), who is married and has three teenage children. His marriage is in a bit of a rut, making the single and fancy free Norma very attractive. Cliff's wife Marion (Joan Bennett) is not concerned. Marion feels secure in her position, suspecting that Norma most likely envies her domestic life. Sure enough, nothing much comes from Cliff and Norma's brief dalliance, other than Norma's realization that her life is empty without a home, marriage, and children--just as Marion and we could have predicted. 

Join me next week as I complete the Career Girls and Marriage series with an analysis of '60s career girls in films.

Works Cited

Higashi, Sumiko. "With a Song in My Heart: Can This Star's Marriage Be Saved?"
         American Cinema of the 1950s: Themes and Variations. Ed. Murray 
        Pomerance. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2005. 77-81. Print.


Monday, September 29, 2014

'40s Career Girls and Marriage

The 1940s were a unique time for the career girl. From 1942 to 1945, the boys were away at war which left a large gap in the workforce. Campaign posters, such as the one that came to be associated with Rosie the Riveter, encouraged women to take men's vacant spots. Whether or not this caused a switch in career girls and marriage on film is difficult to say. The first movie on my list was released prior to the war while the final film made its debut at the end of the decade. In any case, viewing a married career girl on screen would not have been as big of an anomaly as the decade prior. Although much more subtle, the message that career girls and marriage don't mix continued to be sprinkled throughout the '40s with some revolutionary gems popping up here and there.
  • His Girl Friday (1940) - The decade kicks off with this wonderful exception to the career versus marriage rule. Typically, the woman forgoes a career for marriage. In this movie, quite the opposite occurs. Hilda Johnson (Rosalind Russell) attempts to give up her career as a newspaper reporter to marry the stable--and boring--Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy). However hard she tries, though, she cannot resist the thrill of chasing a good story. In the end, her career wins, and she skips marrying Bruce in favor of Walter Burns (Cary Grant), who would prefer his star reporter to retain that status. Their marriage will not interfere with breaking news stories. An interesting side note: Hildy was originally supposed to be a man. Howard Hawks changed the character's gender after his secretary read the lines, and he liked the way dialogue sounded (TCMDb). This unique union of career and marriage was accidental.
  • Woman of the Year (1942) - Rival reporters Tess Harding (Katharine Hepburn) and Sam Craig (Spencer Tracy) fall in love and marry. Neither give up their career, and it isn't long before Sam feels neglected. Like last week's Ann Carver's Profession (1933), the wife is to blame. When Tess adopts a little refugee boy, Sam objects, explaining that they don't have "the kind of home he'd be happy in" quickly followed by the more direct jab, "Now if you could just spare about ten-percent of [your] heart from the world at large and apply it at home..." Tess may be named "Woman of the Year," but in his eyes she is not living up to the task. He tells her as much on the night of her awards banquet, which she is more concerned about attending than finding someone to stay with the boy. Before she leaves, he comments, "The Outstanding Woman of the Year isn't a woman at all." Ouch!
    Later her aunt Ellen, also a career woman, gets ready to tie the knot and shares with Tess that she would rather be "the prize" than continue to win prizes. That does it. Tess decides to change, to try to become a traditional wife.
    Unlike Ann Carver, there is no melodramatic final scene--this is a comedy after all. Tess fails miserably in her domestic endeavors. Her waffles overflow, her toast pops over zealously, and her coffee bubbles over. Sam decides to meet her halfway. He'll accept her as long his last name makes the title: Tess Harding Craig. The final gesture of "launching" her PR guy informs the audience that he wears the pants in the family now. Tradition has (somewhat) prevailed.
  • Mildred Pierce (1945) - I would be remiss if I did not mention this well known celluloid career woman. Unlike the other ladies in this category, Mildred Pierce (Joan Crawford) works in order to provide for her daughter Veda's (Ann Blyth) every whim. At one point, she even marries so her daughter has the social connections she (Veda) so desires. The movie is more a portrait of a self-sacrificing mother than a career girl who loves the work she does. Once Veda no longer needs her mother; i.e., goes to the big house, Mildred reunites with her first husband, and there is a sense that she will not be returning to the business world.

  • June Bride (1948) - When Linda Gilman (Bette Davis) crosses paths with her ex-beau Carey Jackson (Robert Montgomery), she tells him to forget she's a woman. She is now a career focused woman and wants no part in love. After all, he walked out on her three years prior. The message: a career woman is a bitter, scorned woman. How to cure it? (Because, the message reads, careers must be cured out of women.) True love, of course. The result is an enjoyable film filled with witty banter as Carey chases Linda, trying desperately to win her back. In the final minutes of the film, Linda has (surprise!) a change of heart and is determined to get Carey back. Up to this point, she has remained true to her career even while tinkering with love during moonlit moments. But then she offers to not only follow him wherever his stories take him, but also to do no more than carry his bags behind him. Somehow I can't image Bette Davis or her successful magazine editor character stooping so low. Message delivered nonetheless.
  • Adam's Rib (1949) - Amanda (Katharine Hepburn) and Adam Bonner (Spencer Tracy) are wife and husband lawyers who are able to have both successful careers and a successful marriage. The film chronicles a difficult time in their relationship as they take on opposing sides of a court cases. They push through with some laughs and lots of love (including one very memorable love pat, which brought to light the issue of whether or not it is okay for a husband to hit his wife even in jest) to demonstrate that a career girl can have a successful marriage. 

Going through the list of films this week, there are a few examples of women who were able to have successful careers and be happily married. Hildy (we assume), Tess, and Amanda. (Shout out for Rosalind Russell's and Katharine Hepburn's strong women roles!) Being a mother--and a working one at that, I couldn't help but notice something, er, someone missing from the equation: children. I wonder, would all have ended well if these women had a brood to raise at home? Or would we see a shift in the message--career and marriage can occur from time to time, but never with children? Another message worth exploring later down the road.

Join me next week as I continue to explore Career Girls and Marriage during the 1950s.