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In Person

In Person(1935)

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teaser In Person (1935)

By 1935, Ginger Roger's status as a box-office draw had been confirmed by the first several of her co-starring RKO musical vehicles with Fred Astaire that had charmed Depression-era audiences into the theaters and whose appeal endures to this day. Still, the actress was desirous to prove that she could carry a film in Astaire's absence, and the studio obliged by granting her the lead in the musical comedy In Person (1935). While the overall results are slight, the scenario did give free reign to Rogers's comic gifts, and her devotees should find this rarely-seen effort worth their while.

The action begins at a posh San Francisco hotel, where guest Emory Muir (George Brent) plays good Samaritan and rescues a veiled woman (Rogers) driven into a faint when a nearby car accident attracts a large crowd around her. Recovering when alone with her benefactor, the mystery woman introduces herself as "Clara Colfax," and lifts her veil to reveal a mousy dark wig, bottle-bottom glasses and improbable buck teeth. Over hearing Emory's conversation with his judge uncle (Grant Mitchell) regarding the family mountain retreat, "Clara" wheedles an invitation, which Muir grants against his better judgment.

"Miss Colfax," as it develops, is in fact movie star Carol Corliss, who's had a phobia of crowds since a near-trampling by zealous fans, and is presently dodging publicity commitments she doesn't wish to face. Her ruse begins to fall apart when Emory surreptitiously catches her swimming sans disguise; on a trip for provisions, he uncovers her identity with the aid of a fan-magazine photo. On his return, the temperamental star decides to drop the pretense and reveal the truth; to her great shock, Muir asserts that he never heard of her, and demands she begin pitching in with the household chores.

There're several more machinations involving Carol's shrink (Samuel S. Hinds) and an overbearing co-star (Alan Mowbray) before she can face her fears and sort out her growing feelings for Muir. Screen writer Allan Scott drew from a novel by the pioneering investigative journalist Samuel Hopkins Adams, whose comic prose had been the basis of Columbia's recent overwhelming success with It Happened One Night (1934). The songwriting team of Oscar Levant and Dorothy Fields was engaged to deliver a trio of numbers -"Out of sight, Out of Mind," "Don't Mention Love to Me" and "I've Got a New Lease on Life," and Astaire choreographer Hermes Pan was called upon for the dance sequences.

In her autobiography Ginger: My Story, Rogers had understandably vivid recall of the location shoot at California's Big Bear Lake. Director William A. Seiter required her to do a thirty-foot underwater swim, even after she pointed out how the crew members were floating their beers in the lake to keep them chilled. "Even though it was August, that mountain water was COLD!!...During the take, as I swam underwater, my bathing trunks were slowly sliding off. It was all I could do to keep them from coming off altogether. If the camera had picked that up, the Hays Office would have had something to criticize!"

Rogers further acknowledged that both Astaire and Katharine Hepburn had taken a pass on In Person before she accepted. "Those negative opinions never bothered me. If I read a script and could imagine myself playing the role, I was interested...Kate Hepburn was right; she would have looked idiotic with the false teeth that the plot required. Neither Astaire nor Hepburn had my absurd sense of humor, which made it simple for me to look ridiculous, and I did look ridiculous in this film." Time noted how RKO's publicity department studiously kept all images of Rogers as "Clara" under wraps until the opening of In Person.

Producer: Pandro S. Berman
Director: William A. Seiter
Screenplay: Allan Scott; Samuel Hopkins Adams (novel); Glenn Tryon (uncredited)
Cinematography: Edward Cronjager
Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase
Film Editing: Arthur Schmidt
Cast: Ginger Rogers (Carol Corliss, aka Clara Colfax), George Brent (Emory Muir), Alan Mowbray (Jay Holmes), Grant Mitchell (Judge Thaddeus Parks), Samuel S. Hinds (Dr. Aaron Sylvester), Joan Breslau (Minna), Louis Mason (Sheriff Twing), Spencer Charters (Parson Calverton Lunk).

by Jay S. Steinberg

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