Vivacious Lady (1938), starring Jimmy Stewart, Ginger Rogers, Charles Coburn, Beulah Bondi, Frances Mercer
Synopsis of Vivacious Lady
Vivacious Lady – A young botany professor impulsively marries a free-spirited nightclub singer while on a visit to New York, and then the couple try to keep their union secret, with embarrassing results.
Review of Vivacious Lady
In short, Vivacious Lady is a funny, sweet, and very funny romantic comedy. It’s a story of a star-crossed love, between a strait-laced college professor (Jimmy Stewart) and a nightclub singer (Ginger Rogers). After meeting one evening, they get married. But Jimmy’s stodgy father (Charles Coburn), president of the university where he works, is sure to object. And his mother has a heart condition … So the newlyweds decide to hide their marriage until the “right time”.
This basic story could have made for a mediocre comedy – but it’s not. It’s a wonderful comedy, due to the fleshed-out character. The audience actually cares what happens to them. And the acting is fine across the entire cast. It’s a very funny comedy, that I truly enjoyed and strongly recommend.
Cast of characters in Vivacious Lady
- Francey Morgan (Ginger Rogers, Stage Door). A talented nightclub singer and dancer, who impulsively marries a botany professor. She truly falls in love with him, and is willing to sacrifice her own happiness for his. She’s sweet, kind, and the heroine that the audience roots for.
- Peter Morgan, Jr. (Jimmy Stewart, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance). A likeable, quiet college professor. Who works at his father’s university. His controlling father, who doesn’t approve of his son’s marriage. But Peter loves Francey, and won’t leave her – or let her leave him.
- Keith Morgan (James Ellison, I Walked with a Zombie). Peter’s younger brother, who pretends to be Francey’s boyfriend. A likeable fellow, who even “helps” Peter get drunk towards the end of the film.
- Martha Morgan (Beulah Bondi, It’s a Wonderful Life). Peter’s mother, wife of the controlling father. A woman who has a heart condition — when it’s convenient. Once she finds out that Francey is married to her son, she quickly bonds with her. And is driven away by her controlling husband. Leading to both wives being on the same train leaving their husbands in the conclusion. Initially unknown to each other, but the weeping ladies find each other. Just before their husbands find them.
- Peter Morgan, Sr. (Charles Coburn, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes). A stuffy college professor, who keeps his wife and sons under his thumb. Although he doesn’t see it that way, of course. He very nearly drives his wife and son away.
- Helen (Frances Mercer, The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle). Peter’s former fiancee, who is both jealous and bitter. How dare Peter overthrow her for a lowly singer? Which leads to a funny catfight between her and Ginger Rogers.
- Apartment Manager (Franklin Pangborn, Sullivan’s Travels). Character actor in a minor, but funny, role as the apartment manager. Who doesn’t allow men into his apartment for women. So Jimmy Stewart has to keep sneaking in to visit his wife via the fire escape.
- Culpepper (Grady Sutton, The Bank Dick). Another character actor in a funny role, as Jimmy Stewart’s teaching assistant.
- Porter (Willie Best, The Ghost Breakers). Another funny character actor – in a minor role with a major impact. The kindly porter, empathetic, who cries with the weeping women on the train. And unwittingly lets Francey realize that her mother-in-law is in the next car.
- You’ll Be Reminded of Me (1938), Written by George Jessel, Jack Meskill, and Ted Shapiro, Sung by Ginger Rogers at the nightclub.
- Down By the Old Mill Stream (1910) Written by Tell Taylor,Played as background music when Peter and Francey emerge from the canoe
Trivia for Vivacious Lady
- Jimmy Stewart and Ginger Rogers were actually dating during the filming, adding a realism to the onscreen romance.
- This film is one of five times that Beulah Bondi portrayed James Stewart’s mother. The others are: It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Of Human Hearts (1938) and once on his television series, The Jimmy Stewart Show (1971).
- Ginger Rogers recommended Jimmy Stewart for this film, even though they had not worked on a film together previously. The two were dating at the time, and with Rogers being one of RKO’s biggest stars, she got her way.