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.


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