Kitty Foyle (1940)

Ginger Rogers as Kitty Foyle in Kitty Foyle

Ginger Kitty is Just Perfect

To call "Kitty Foyle" a chick flick would be harsh but in a way it is with it's storyline about a Philadelphia girl who finds herself dealing with love, social snobbery, harsh real life and so much more. But it is in many ways one of the most powerful chick flick's you could watch, taking an almost cliche romantic element and turning it into a compelling drama as we watch the life of Kitty unfold and the burning final question, which man in her life will she chose hanging over us. And whilst a compelling drama it is also a compelling performance from Ginger Rogers which saw her win an Academy Award, showing that she was as good as a dramatic actress as she was as a dancer having previously mainly pleased audiences in the fun Fred & Ginger musicals.

As a young woman living in Philadelphia, Kitty Foyle (Ginger Rogers - Lucky Partners) meets and falls for Wynnewood 'Wyn' Strafford VI (Dennis Morgan) a member of a well to do family. And whilst he feels the same about her the traditions of his family constantly cause problems as Kitty is middle class. It eventually causes their romance to end and Kitty to move to New York but she can't get Wyn out of her head even when she starts seeing Dr. Mark (James Craig) and she constantly finds herself drawn back to Wyn despite knowing nothing can ever realistically come from it.

Ginger Rogers and James Craig in Kitty Foyle

Now it has to be said the first 5 minutes of "Kitty Foyle" is either going to be interesting or bemusing as we get a potted history of women at the turn of the 20th century where eventually they technically became men's equals through suffrage. It serves a purpose to establish what the situation is for woman when we meet Kitty but it is also kind of bemusing and out of place in style almost having a silent movie feel about it. Anyway it's just the intro and if like me find it bemusing the good news is that it is soon over.

As for the main story well "Kitty Foyle" is one of those movies which starts near the end as we meet Kitty who has a decision to make, marry the idealistic Dr. Mark or head off as the other woman with Wynnewood Strafford VI. And she finds herself forced to contemplate that decision by her conscience which appears in the form of her reflection in a mirror and leads us back to the start, to Kitty as a young girl living in Philadelphia with her Pop. And this leads to her first meeting with Wyn who she goes to work for and ends up dating.

Now what follows is basically the romantic trials and tribulations of Kitty as she grows from an idealistic young woman to one whom whilst wise to the world also has an innocence and fragility to her. We watch as her relationship with Wyn has its ups and downs because they are from different social classes often leading them to go their separate ways but often returning to each other. And when they are not together there is the idealistic Dr. Mark who court's Kitty despite knowing that part of her always will be in love with Wyn despite their troublesome history. All of which builds to where we basically enter the story with Kitty having to decide which of her suitors she will choose.

In a way the actual storyline is almost a cliche with the troublesome relationship caused by a class divide although rarely does it deliver a cliche scene. In fact I can't think of one single cliche scene but plenty of power scenes such as Kitty's return to Philadelphia to set up a Department store and finding herself serving Wyn's new wife. There are plenty more and each of them has a significance on Kitty's life and turning her into this woman who is strong yet also fragile.

But alongside the drama of these power scenes director Sam Wood also introduces minor moments of lightness such as the amusing first date between Kitty and Mark as he shows up at her apartment and plays cards with her instead of taking her out. In fact the initial meet cute between them is just as amusing allowing Ginger Rogers to show what a fine comedic actress she was. But these light moments never spoil the power of the story and the drama, just bringing the right amount of relief to make it fun as well as dramatic.

A big reason why "Kitty Foyle" is such a good movie is down to Ginger Rogers as whilst Dennis Morgan as Wyn and James Craig as Mark both deliver solid characters everything feeds off of what Ginger delivers as Kitty. And it is Ginger who takes us on this wonderful journey delivering the frivolous side of her character as an idealistic young girl to the toughened woman. In many ways the character played to Ginger's strengths because there is a lot of "the girl next door" about her, homely but also sexy, sweet but also feisty and Ginger is so comfortable and natural at delivering this. But she comes into her own during the emotional power scenes, the realisation that Wyn can never escape his socialite family or the harsh reality when tragedy strikes. But more significantly it is Ginger who keeps us guessing right up until the last moments as to which man she will pick, almost playfully toying with us as she delivers her last lines as she leaves a message with the doorman for the beau she declines.

What this all boils down to is that "Kitty Foyle" is a very pleasant movie about a woman made for women which is as entertaining and appealing for men. It may have a storyline which sounds like a romantic cliche but fleshes it out with powerful drama and a performance from Ginger Rogers which quite rightly won her an Oscar. It may now be over 70 years old but "Kitty Foyle" is one of those rare movies which doesn't feel dated and tackles romantic drama which is still an issue now.