Friday, 10 July 2009

Primrose Path (1940) Week 3 - (delayed by another 3 :S)

Primrose Path

A bit of trivia! This is the first film in which Ginger has dark hair, after her long bout as a blonde from The Tip Off (1931) onwards! There is in fact a lovely anecdote in her autobiography about her decision to dye her hair brunette in order to look younger, and her struggle keeping it secret from the press pre-realease, which involved turban wearing!! Ginger begins here her run of playing significantly younger characters, with Ellie May Adams.

It's an interesting film, as it tackles a lot of moral issues, but has to tread lightly to avoid breaking the Hays Code. It was banned in several states after upsetting local censors, and had it not, many critics suggested that Ginger might have been nominated for an Academy Award, though ultimately it didn't matter! Ginger is the daughter of a hooker and a drunk. Her grandma was also a prostitute, and her refusal to join the family trade is pivotal to the plot. Dressing childishly and doing her best to support her family without selling herself, she meets a Ed Wallace (Joel McCrea) who comes from a more respecatable family, who own a small diner. She falls for him, but lies about her family, a decision which comes back to haunt her and breaks up their marriage.

The grandma and younger sister are both well acted, and really horrible characters, both conniving and unpleasent, their scheming was a slight distraction from the film as I genuinely wanted to punch them both for large sections of the film.

Other than this, I really I enjoyed the movie. It was in many ways, Ginger's first opportunity to do any dramatic acting, and she really shines. Also, its one of those "struggle to survive" type movies which leaves you feeling fulfilled and sort of wholesome (this sounds kind of wierd but I hope at least one person understands what I'm trying to say :P!). The relationship between Ellie May and Ed is very cute, I especially love the scene where he's painting the boat - you'll know the one I mean if you've seen it!

Ginger says; "Joel McCrae was my handsome leading man and I always loved working with him. The supporting cast was equally wonderful...Primrose Path provided me with my first substantial dramatic role... (I) went happily in to the role of Ellie May Adams, which gave me an age range to play as well as an opportunity at character development."

Rating (Ginger scale)
Plot - 18/20 (fairly solid, based on novel "February Hill"
Importance of Ginger - 18/20
Characters - 16/20 all convincing if exaggerated and in some cases annoying!
The Ginger Factor - 18/20
"X" Factors - 17/20

X factors include - Strong plot line, Some really good acting, convincing romance, weepy moments (for me at any rate!), good scripting, I enjoyed the amusing banter between the cafe staff and customers! NOthing outstanding but consistenly high standard!

Overall - 87
Grade - A
Position in my collection 15/60
Note! I got to the stage where I'd seen enough of Ginger's films to order them by score so have added this in as a little (probably useless extra! 60 is how many I've seen!)


  1. i saw Primrose Path once several years ago and i thought the same thing you did, that a couple of those people really needed a punch in the mouth!!! i need to see it again though, i'm sure i have it on tape somewhere around here...
    i used to not like Joel McCrea all that much but over the last few years I've changed my tune about him. the same thing has happened with Victor mature as well.
    gotta love the "struggle to survive' flicks! they sure made a slew of 'em at Warner bros in the 30's! is primrose an RKO film??? - Paulie

  2. It was indeed an RKO film, I'd never thought before that most of this type of film were Warner brothers. Being a relative newcomer, I tend to look for actors, directors, producers and wardrobe, but not pay huge attention to studios! I like how films make up yourmind about an actir but can just as suddenly change it. There was a chain mail type thing on here before called 180 degrees or something about a film which made you have a turn around in opinion about an actor. For me, The AFrican Queen for Kate Hepburn managed abou 40 degrees, but I still dislike her :S
    Definitely re-watch Primrose Path if you get the chance, I enjotyed it more second time round.

  3. OMG watching movies by studio is almost as fun as watching by actor or director (and almost the same!) I took a course last semester called "Music at RKO". That's actually how I got in to Ginger, because we watched the Gay Divorcee and Top Hat. It was really interesting to watch the movies chronologically while learning about the history of RKO's successes and (mostly) failures.

  4. What a great blog! Please contact me at and let me know if I can link to it from mine.

    Have you seen all of her movies yet? Are there any you're trying to get hold of? I saw Once Upon a Honeymoon a while ago, and thought it was very interesting.

    All the best,

  5. This is one of my favorite films of all time! I completely understand what you mean about how you feel after you watch it ;)

    And seriously, I wanted to punch that grandmother the whole time too! Boy was she annoying. And I felt so bad for her dad, he was such a sad character...

  6. is there another link for this online?? The youtube one is removed and I really want to watch it!