DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

 
PRIMROSE PATH (director/writer: Gregory La Cava; screenwriters: Allan Scott/based on the play by Robert Buckner and Walter Hart and the novel February Hill by Victoria Lincoln; cinematographer: Joseph H. August; editor: William Hamilton; music: Werner R. Heymann; cast: Ginger Rogers (Ellie May Adams), Joel McCrea (Ed Wallace), Marjorie Rambeau (Mamie Adams), Henry Travers (Gramp), Miles Mander (Homer Adams), Queenie Vassar (Grandma), Joan Carroll (Honeybell Adams), Carmen Morales Carmelita), Vivienne Osborne (Thelma), Charles Lane (Hawkins); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Gregory Lacava; Warner Archive Collection; 1940)

"It's an amiable romantic comedy that has pleasing performances by stars Ginger Rogers and Joel McCrea, but little else to recommend it."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

Gregory La Cava ("Gabriel Over The White House"/"Stage Door"/"My Man Godfrey") directs and cowrites with Allan Scott this smart aleck soap opera family drama, that is daring for telling about prostitution during its time but has become dated. It's an amiable romantic comedy that has pleasing performances by stars Ginger Rogers and Joel McCrea, but little else to recommend it.

The film opens with a quote from the ancient Greek dramatist Menander "that we don't live as we wish but as we can."

Ellie May Adams (Ginger Rogers, 29 at the time playing a girl of 17) is the feisty innocent California gal from the wrong side of the tracks, living in a shack in the Mexican shanty-town with her dysfunctional family at Primrose Hill. The teenager's weak-willed dad Homer (Miles Mander) is a college-educated Greek scholar, who degenerated into a slacker drunk but means well; mom Mamie (Marjorie Rambeau) holds the family together by supporting them as a prostitute; granny (Queenie Vassar) is a bitter woman with an acid-tongue and a bad habit of lying, while Ellie May's home-schooled younger sis, Honeybell, is a brat who imitates granny's wise cracks and seems next in line to follow mom's profession.

Hitching a ride from the outgoing beachfront hamburger proprietor called Gramps (Henry Travers), Ellie May ends up having a free meal in his joint before she goes clam digging. In the atmospheric diner she catches the eye of the hunky regular guy Ed Wallace (Joel McCrea) working the counter, who marries her without meeting her family. When Ed does meet the white trash family during a home visit, Homer is drunk and granny is at her nasty worst sabotaging the marriage. This results in Ed abandoning his wife, and Ellie May returns to live with her family after her drunken dad accidentally shoots Mamie and she dies. Unable to find respectable work to support her dead-beat family, mom's prostitute friend Thelma (Vivienne Osborne) acts to get Ellie May started in the business by seeing mom's old sugar daddy Mr. Hawkins (Charles Lane). But before Ellie May can turn a trick, Ed figures out that he still loves his wife and rescues her in the nick of time with the help of mom's generous ex-lover.

Marjorie Rambeau won a Best Supporting Actress nomination. The film received mostly positive reviews, but did a poor box-office because of its controversial subject matter causing the censors to have a field day cutting the pic to shreds.

REVIEWED ON 9/5/2012       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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