Primrose Path (1940)

Joel McCrea and Ginger Rogers in Primrose Path (1940)

Prostitution on The Primrose Path

"Primrose Path" is one of those movies where the back story rather than the movie is more interesting. Oh there is nothing much wrong with this romantic, drama about a young girl from the wrong side of town trying to hide her family from her husband and it has a nice mix of drama with romantic light-hearted fun. But the real interest is that here we have a movie from the strict 1940s which has prostitution in it and that whilst adapted from a play the original novel it is based upon had steamy sex scenes.

Ellie May Adams (Ginger Rogers - The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle) is a tough tomboy with no interest in boys and loves her often intoxicated father as well as her mother who disappears for weeks at a time with various men. It is because that her family live in the less than popular Primrose Hill and have a reputation that when she meets Ed Wallace (Joel McCrea - Ride the High Country) she hides the truth from him even when they get married, telling him she was forced to leave because her parents thought he wasn't rich enough for her. But when the truth comes out it jeopardizes everything especially Ellie's marriage to Ed.

Joan Carroll as Honeybell in Primrose Path (1940)

Now I am sure when "Primrose Path" came out it must have caused a bit of scandal because Ellie's mum is a woman of ill repute, a god time girl who disappears for weeks on end to return laden with gifts for the family. We also have Ellie's father, a scholar and a drunk who spends the entire movie either drunk or remorsefully hung over. And without giving anything major away things become so desperate in the Adam's shack, because that is about what the home is that Ellie even considers following in her mothers footsteps. It is this side, the representation of prostitution and alcoholism which is where the movie is most interesting.

Now that doesn't mean that "Primrose Path" as a movie is any less entertaining, the story of Ellie trying to hide the truth about her family from Ed and the ramifications of him learning the truth delivers plenty of drama. And whilst not a romantic comedy there is a playfulness to the movie as well, be it from Ellie's initial meeting with Ed when she is a tomboy to the way her little sister Honeybell expects all visitors to come with gifts for her. But whilst a pleasant mix of drama, romance and fun it is not amazing, I suppose in a way the prohibited times of the 1940s forces some of the spark out of the movie as the sex side is toned right down and for once I wouldn't mind if someone did an update and remade "Primrose Path".

But whilst the storyline didn't blow me away the performance from Ginger Rogers did as she humorously played Ellie as a tomboy, tough but also sexually naive. But she also blossoms into a smart and sassy woman when she marries Ed which makes it such a wonderful character and one which continues to evolve further. In fact whilst Marjorie Rambeau delivers fun loving as Mamie and Joel McCrea delivers the conflict when Ed discovers the truth "Primrose Path" is very much a movie which rests on Ginger Rogers's shoulders.

What this all boils down to is as a movie "Primrose Path" is entertaining with some nice performances but doesn't leave a huge lasting impression. But when you consider that we are talking about a movie from 1940 which deals with the subject of prostitution it becomes more interesting in the way it handles the subject.