Kitty Foyle (1940)

Kitty Foyle (1940)

“A woman can always tell when a man is going to propose.”

When the daughter (Ginger Rogers) of a working-class Irish-American (Ernest Cossart) is proposed to by a kind doctor (James Craig), she reflects upon her long-held feelings for an upper-crust publisher (Dennis Morgan) who has suddenly re-entered her life.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Cross-Class Romance
  • Flashback Films
  • Ginger Rogers Films
  • Historical Drama
  • Love Triangle
  • Sam Wood Films
  • Strong Females

Sam Wood’s adaptation of Christopher Morley’s novel is notable as the film that brought Ginger Rogers both her first serious leading role, and an Academy Award. Peary doesn’t review Kitty Foyle in GFTFF, but in his Alternate Oscars — where he names Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday as Best Actress of the Year instead — he notes that “Rogers’ victory is somewhat tainted” (given Katherine Hepburn’s New York Film Critics award-winning performance in The Philadelphia Story) “though it’s good that she got an Oscar sometime during her career.” But he adds that “Kitty Foyle and her performance (and her hairstyles) don’t really hold up, especially when compared to her best work with Fred Astaire, or with Gold Diggers of 1933, Stage Door, Vivacious Lady, Bachelor Mother, Lucky Partners, Roxie Hart, The Major and the Minor, Monkey Business, and others.” I’m in agreement with Peary’s assessment — though I would also add that the narrative itself leaves much to be desired. While Rogers’ character is admirably independent, it’s hard to root for either of the men she’s choosing to be with (for different reasons) — and since the entire movie is premised on her deliberation between them, we’re not allowed to focus on, say, her career ambitions. This film is all about the men in Kitty’s life — and that’s not really such a feminist tale after all.

Note: It was interesting to learn, according to Dennis Morgan’s Trivia page on IMDb, that “During the 1940’s, for six consecutive years, Mr. Morgan received more fan mail than any other star (male or female) at Warner Brothers”; he was in plenty of titles, but few were apparently all that memorable.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Ginger Rogers as Kitty Foyle
  • Creative cinematography

Must See?
No, though certainly Oscar completists and Rogers fans will want to check it out once. Listed as a film with Historical Importance and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.


One thought on “Kitty Foyle (1940)

  1. First viewing – in agreement, not must-see.

    It would have been great to see Roz Russell nommed for an Oscar that year – her performance in ‘His Girl Friday’ is one of genuine comic skill and brilliance. But I think Rogers’ real competition was Bette Davis (‘The Letter’) – though Davis had recently nabbed Oscar. (I’m certainly glad it didn’t go to Hepburn – for a film I can’t stand: love problems of the rich… yawn.)

    I’m not sure how much Rogers’ actual performance worked toward the win. The votes may have had something to do with what her character represents: the ability to be tough in weighing emotions to come up with a practical solution.

    In fact, my fave moment comes when Rogers confronts Morgan’s family dead-on: “It takes six generations to make a bunch of people like you – and, by Judas Priest, I haven’t got that much time!”

    Overall… it’s an ok movie – even if the just-about-literal ping-ponging over love gets to be a bit much.

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