This is the character Bob Fosse musicalized in Broadway in Chicago. The film version, with Renée Zellweger as "foxy Roxie Hart," took the Oscar for Best Picture of 2002. If you get Turner Classic Movies, tune in at 8pm ET to see Ginger Rogers as Roxie Hart. There will be no order in the court when she gives the jury a look at her gams.
Roxie Hart runs only about 80 minutes. In it, you can see why Howard Hawks would've considered Ginger for Ball of Fire. She is sassy and brassy fun. I loved seeing her Roxie go "billy goat" on anyone who worked her last good nerve. Although this 20th Century Fox film is not a musical, one of the liveliest and most delicious bits in it is an impromptu jail house dance number with Roxie and members of the press. Ginger shows 'em how Roxie does "The Black Bottom." William Wellman directed this comedy.
In the 1980s, the late and gifted actor/playwright Charles Ludlam praised Ginger's work saying that there was "great clarity" about her acting. I agree. She may not have had the acting training of Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn, she may not have had the dance training of Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse, perhaps she didn't have the musical comedy and dramatic range of Judy Garland and Bing Crosby...but she did the absolute best with the talent she possessed.
Look at brassy showgirl Ginger in 42nd Street singing the Busby Berkeley-directed "We're In The Money" number with giant coins over her special lady parts during the Great Depression.
Then look at the sleek and sophisticated Ginger with Fred Astaire in those great original movie musicals Top Hat...
....Follow the Fleet in which they introduced "Let's Face the Music and Dance"...
...and Swing Time, to name a few.
Ginger could whip out a wisecrack with the best of them. She shines in Stage Door as a Broadway hopeful living in a women's boarding house with other wisecracking Broadway hopefuls. That cast included Katharine Hepburn, Lucille Ball, Eve Arden and Ann Miller.
Hits like Bachelor Mother (1939) further proved her top screen comedienne skills.
And then she wins a Best Actress Oscar for her fine dramatic performance as Kitty Foyle. This 1940 story of an independent and hard-working Irish-American career girl in Philadelphia shows us her self-reflection. Will she continue to be in love with the irresponsible trust fund baby who can't commit to her? His rich relatives run his life.
This role fit Ginger's "working class girl with the right stuff" screen image like a glove. It's also a good look at early feminism and social class in America. She earned that Oscar.
Pan must have also been a part of Heaven's pre-plan. Not only was he one of Astaire's closest friends, they almost looked like twins separated at birth. At the time Ginger made Roxie Hart at Fox, Hermes Pan was there choreographing and appearing in musicals starring Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth. Here's Pan with Hayworth in My Gal Sal.
Here's Fred with Rita Hayworth in a publicity photo for You'll Never Get Rich.
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were two definite icons of Hollywood musicals. Ironically, each received only one Oscar nomination in their long careers and each one's nomination came for work in a dramatic film. (Astaire was up for Best Supporting Actor thanks to surviving that 1974 disaster called The Towering Inferno.) Look at Ginger from 42nd Street (1933) to Billy Wilder's The Major and the Minor (1942). What young movie actress today has a diverse line-up of hits like that to her film role credits within a 10-year span? Again...Ginger Rogers is really good as a bad girl called Roxie Hart.
Charles Ludlam was right. Great clarity about her acting.
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