|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
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.
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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