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Ginger Rogers' film career

The actress reviews some of the highlights of her work

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Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

She was one of the movies’ premier comediennes, one-half of silver screen’s most famous dance team, and the first Best Actress of the ’40s (for the drama Kitty Foyle). Now, 45 years this month after the release of her last movie with Fred Astaire, The Barkleys of Broadway, Ginger Rogers, 82, talks about some of the highlights of her film career.

SWING TIME (1936, Turner) ”Of my musicals, I would say this is my favorite. It gave me a role that was not submissive all the way through. It gave me some positive emotions and a character who stood out by herself. I saw that (Fred Astaire) was not including me as somebody he was in love with in the film, so I decided to be in love with him in the story. And that was true in any story I did with him from then on. I decided he doesn’t have to show a love thing for me. I can do it. That was the glue that holds those movies together. As for why those films remain so popular, I think it’s the love of dance that both of us had. I love dancing. Love it, love it, love it.”

STAGE DOOR (1937, Turner) ”I was very much in favor of the director, Gregory La Cava — despite the fact that RKO executives wanted to fire him because of drunkenness. If you show me quality in your work, I’ll stay with you. In the first print of it, I got equal billing with Kate Hepburn, but she made such a stink at the studio that they just (changed it).” [Hepburn’s version is different in her autobiography.]

VIVACIOUS LADY (1938, Media) ”A very cute story: This college professor marries a nightclub singer and then has to introduce her to his family. Very well directed by George Stevens — he could get a performance out of a snail.”

KITTY FOYLE (1940, VidAmerica) ”I think the director, Sam Wood, was terrific, because of his patience and his willingness to compromise. He would say, ‘Do this.’ And I would say, ‘How about us doing it this way?’ And I’d show it to him, and he’d say, ‘Yeah, that sits better.’ That’s one of the performances I’m most proud of.”

TOM, DICK AND HARRY (1941, Turner) ”One of my best comedy roles. Garson Kanin was a great director, the type who would say, ‘Here, let me show you what I mean,’ and he would play the part. And I’d say, ‘Listen, I’m going home — you did it so well, you don’t need me.’ He really was a good comedian, and I found that would really spark me.”

TENDER COMRADE (1943, Turner) ”It was 100 percent comedy (until) it came to my giving birth and losing my husband to the war — then it turned serious. The picture became quite controversial because there was a Communistic quote in it: ‘Share and share alike.’ When (I saw it in) the script, I said, ‘This is too Communistic.’ I knew I was red, white, and blue as the flag of the United States and I wasn’t going to be captured by any phrase, (so) I felt it was a good film despite that.”

MONKEY BUSINESS (1952, FoxVideo) ”It was wonderful working with Cary Grant. He appreciated my sense of humor, and I certainly appreciated his, so we worked like two horses in a team, really in step with each other. This one was directed by Howard Hawks. I appreciated very much his history of good films, but I didn’t receive any special inspiration from him. He seemed more in tune with the male actors. But when I saw the film I was pleasantly surprised. I thought it turned out quite nicely.”

As told to David Everitt

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