I remain at a loss to explain how Ginger Rogers performance in Sam Wood’s Kitty Foyle (1940) earned a Best Actress Oscar over Joan Fontaine’s tour de force in Hitchcock’s Rebecca.
Does Ms. Rogers give a bad performance? - decidedly not.
Katherine ‘Kitty’ Foyle (Rogers) is the product of an era when working women were a novelty. The film spoofs that – even then – bygone era through rose colored glasses. Fast track to contemporary (at least for 1940) life – a woman doesn’t get any consideration or even a seat on the bus.
Kitty is a struggling working gal – albeit living in fashionable clothes in her equally fashionable apartment and with narrowly a care in the world. Hers and the film’s biggest dilemma is which man she should choose – self-centered rich beau, Wynnewood Strafford VI (Dennis Morgan) who merely toys with her affections or flirtatious doctor, Mark Eisen (James Craig) who has offered his hand in marriage and only seems to have Kitty’s best interests at heart. Well…duh? Like, who would any woman pick?
Still, Kitty’s heart goes flip and flutter-up each time Wynn bats an eye. Though she’s less of a cliché around Mark, there’s really nothing to suggest that Kitty will choose either before the final fade out. RKO Pictures spent a lot cultivating a story they thought would appeal to their primarily female audience – and to the tune of $869,000 they were surely not disappointed.
Yet the film continues to feel flat in spots – the machinations of ‘will she or won’t she’ reaching their most entertaining crescendo after Kitty confronts Wynn’s stuffy parents and family – declaring her independence. Overall, the best that can be said of this film in retrospect is that it does not expect too much of its audience. Rogers delivers a rather par for the course performance, but the rather impressively mounted film has mood, setting and atmosphere on its side – all three undoubtedly proving winners.
Warner Home Video’s transfer is another treat. Picture quality on this DVD is remarkable. The gray scale has deep solid blacks and fine tonality throughout. Whites are generally clean. Age related artifacts are kept to a bare minimum. This is a wholly visually satisfying transfer. The audio has been cleaned up and is presented in its original mono at an adequate listening level. Extras are weak – two short subjects from the vintage.
FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)