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Kitty Foyle

Kitty Foyle(1940)

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teaser Kitty Foyle (1940)

In 2001 Americans have Bridget Jones and in 1940 they had sassy singleton Kitty Foyle (Ginger Rogers), the heroine of author Christopher Morley's 1939 bestseller subtitled "The Natural History of A Woman."

A white-collar career girl sharing a cramped New York apartment with two other struggling bachelorettes, Kitty works as a jack-of-all-trades at an upscale cosmetics store. The story of Kitty Foyle, as scripted by Dalton Trumbo, is told in flashback on the eve of her life's greatest decision: to either marry the respectable but ordinary Dr. Mark Eisen (James Craig) or run away with a dashing member of Philadelphia's upper crust, Wyn Strafford (Dennis Morgan). As she confronts her reflection in the mirror (in homage to her divided nature), Kitty flashes back to her working class girlhood in Philadelphia where the groundwork for such WASP adoration was laid. The young Kitty worshipped the exploits of the wealthy Philadelphia Main Liners, the social untouchables who provided a sharp, glamorous contrast to Kitty's own shabby origins and her coarse but loving Irish father, Tom "Pop" Foyle (Ernest Cossart).

Though the elder Foyle tries to discourage his daughter's fascination with the Main Line, the plucky Kitty can't be persuaded to give up her fantasies of the Good Life. She becomes involved with Wyn, the rich publisher of the magazine where she works. When the magazine folds and it looks like Wyn may only keep Kitty on as a permanent girlfriend, she flees to New York and meets the amiable but broke doctor Mark who almost lets her forget Wyn.

A sterling example of that love, marriage and babies obsessed genre known as the woman's film, Kitty Foyle has hoofer Rogers engaged in the melodrama's perpetual dilemma, torn between two very different men. A fairly racy storyline for 1940, Kitty Foyle flirts on more than one occasion with the subject of extramarital affairs and babies born out of wedlock, though its conventional ending tends to patch over any previous, scandalous details.

After a string of enormously successful musical pairings with fellow fleet-foot Fred Astaire, Rogers eased into drama with films like Kitty Foyle. It was a move that paid off richly when she won the Best Actress Oscar® that year for her performance as the feisty Irish girl at the center of a complicated love triangle.

Though Kitty Foyle has the feel of one of Fannie Hurst's woman-centered novels (Imitation of Life, Humoresque), the screenplay was, in fact, penned by ex-newspaper reporter turned Hollywood scribe Dalton Trumbo. Trumbo's experience in the ink trade no doubt enabled him to pen lines like this exchange between Kitty and Wyn:

"Oh, darling, how did you ever find me?" Kitty coos.

"I just followed my heartbeat," effuses Wyn.

Not exactly the cloying sentiments one would expect to see fall from the leaky pen of a political martyr. The successful screenwriter (A Bill of Divorcement (1940), A Guy Named Joe, 1943) was one of the notorious Hollywood Ten (including director Edward Dmytryk and screenwriter Ring Lardner, Jr.) who were jailed for contempt of court when they refused in 1947 to testify on alleged Communist Party membership in Hollywood before the House Un-American Activities Committee. That implication of Trumbo's Communist allegiances bore immediate fruit. Trumbo's income plummeted from a weekly salary of $3,000 to $0. And the "hostile witness" ended up serving 10 months in an Ashland, KY penitentiary where, despite a blacklist in Hollywood that prohibited his work from being used, he managed to smuggle out scripts to sell. After his release Trumbo moved to Mexico where he churned out 18 scripts under a pseudonym and even - much to the industry's embarrassment - won a 1956 Academy Award as "Robert Rich" for scripting The Brave One. Through the later insistence of Otto Preminger and Kirk Douglas, Trumbo was finally credited for the Spartacus (1960) and Exodus (1960) scripts, thus ending the writer's exile from Hollywood.

Director: Sam Wood
Producer: Harry E. Edington
Screenplay: Dalton Trumbo from the novel by Christopher Morley
Cinematography: Robert De Grasse
Production Design: Van Nest Polglase
Music: Roy Webb
Cast: Ginger Rogers (Kitty Foyle), Dennis Morgan (Wyn Strafford VI), James Craig (Dr. Mark Eisen), Ernest Cossart (Tom "Pop" Foyle), Eduardo Ciannelli (Giono), Gladys Cooper (Mrs. Strafford), K.T. Stevens (Molly).
BW-108m. Closed captioning.

by Felicia Feaster

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