|Forever Female (1953)
Run time: Approved | 93 min | Comedy
Director: Irving Rapper
Writers: Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein
Stars: Ginger Rogers, William Holden, Paul Douglas
A tangy backstage comedy with Rogers as an over-the-hill actress and Holden as a playwright with a hot, new play about a young ingénue, which keeps getting rewritten for the too-mature Rogers. Young Pat Crowley waits in the wings!
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This is reminiscent of the theatrics in "All About Eve" but with a sympathetic, light comedic twist to it. There is Ginger Rogers as Beatrice the mature, aging actress who is intent on impressing everyone with the idea that she is 29, no more, no less, and capable of taking on the new female role that’s in the works. It doesn’t go over too well with a young actress named Sally, played by Pat Crowley, who is willing to charge into every obstacle on her way to ‘reaching the top’ as an actress. She is very adept at changing her stage name to suit the occasion and meet the needs of the day.
It is great seeing Paul Douglas in top form, here as Beatrice’s "ex" yet still devoted to her and her career, but sometimes he does reach the limit of his patience with her. One wonders what other fine, maturer roles he may have had in his career but unfortunately his life was cut short through illness.
William Holden as Stanley the playwright is, as ever, one handsome leading man. He gets entangled emotionally with the two actresses, not sure what to think or which way to turn.
This is an age-old comment of the times that’s still prevalent in society, of women’s role in life being most appealing when young but having no place when they reach "a certain age." I think these days society is more accepting of the mature, older woman, thanks to woman’s lib activity of past decades as well as some outstanding actresses who have influenced opinions and flourished in their senior years, such as Angela Lansbury, Maureen O’Hara, Lauren Bacall, Joan Collins and Kate Hepburn.
This film was made in the shadow of ALL ABOUT EVE, and paints a more benign view of that film’s central situation. Ginger Rogers plays a leading Broadway star, who retains a close relationship with her former husband (Paul Douglas), and works closely with playwright William Holden (possibly a softer build-up for his play director in Bing Crosby’s/Grace Kelly’s THE COUNTRY GIRL). Pat Crowley, a younger woman of some acting talent, is trying to break into the circles that cast and produce Broadway plays (she is doing mostly off-Broadway work). The relationship of these four characters are the basis of this comedy.
There are differences between the situation here and the situation in EVE. There was more of an atmosphere of the theater and it’s traditions in EVE (because Joseph Mankiewicz writes literate scripts, and was determined to show what goes on behind the stage curtains). But there Bette Davis has gotten trapped into a lonely greatness on stage, and she turns out to be willing to vacate her pedestal if she can have a human life with Gary Merrill. She just does not like the way Anne Baxter is trying to replace her in her parts – Baxter’s underhanded methods are despicable. Crowley is not Baxter. She genuinely admires Rogers, and just wants entry (which she may get through Holden). It is just that Rogers is still clinging to her youth – Holden is her last chance for such a cling when they go out together. But even Rogers realizes that she is beyond the point of return. In fact, towards the end of the film the audience and Holden and Crowley discover that Rogers actually gives herself a long summer vacation where she can wear softer, easier clothing and eat as much as she wants to. In the end she accepts that the scepter is passed, but she still has her old husband/friend/and continuous argument partner Douglass to play with.
This is a very good film that manages to entertain even though one of the characters was atrociously written. The film begins with a cocky young playwright (William Holden) being discovered. Although he's managed to offend a famous Broadway star (Ginger Rogers), he's also impressed her with his talent and good looks. The problem is that she wants to star in his play–even though she is WAY too old for the part. Even though they re-write it for her to play a character 10 years older, she still is too old for the part. But he wants the play to be produced and he's also in love with her. What's he to do?! And, what's he to do about Sally Carver–a spunky young actress who would be perfect for the part?
While Holden, Rogers and Paul Douglas all did great because they were real professionals and their parts were well written, I couldn't say the same for Pat Crowley (who played Sally). Although her character was supposed to be very eager and raw, she often came off as annoying and obnoxious. Her constant use of the word 'Siamese' and brash persona really turned me off–as I am sure it did for the audience. It's surprising, since the studio appeared to be grooming her for stardom–and the film's credits point out that she's a new discovery. But, if you can block out her character (at least until she evolves into a REALISTIC person later in the film), you will see a cool film–one that gives Rogers a chance to stretch herself and play a riskier role–an actress whose vanity is getting in the way of common sense. Well worth seeing.
In Forever Female, Ginger Rogers is a Broadway star, still at the top of her game, but not realizing that the times are a changing. Like Norma Desmond she won't believe that there's nothing wrong with being 50 unless you try to act 25.
As this is a comedy, the consequences are not quite as tragic as they are in Sunset Boulevard. Forever Female is however Ginger's reality check.
New playwright William Holden has written a play that's got Ginger excited, a great role for her, maybe 10 to 15 years ago. She insists the role by revised from a 19 to 29 year old. She hasn't lost hold on reality that much.
There's a young ingénue on the scene who might be right for the part and she proves it in a way you have to see Forever Female to find out about. That would be Pat Crowley who was 'introduced' here. Though she never became the bright star of tomorrow, she plays a kinder, gentler Eve Harrington here. Pat Crowley's greatest success would be in the television version of Please Don't Eat the Daisies in the part Doris Day did in film.
All this is proving quite amusing to Rogers's ex-husband and producer Paul Douglas who has some of the best lines in the film.
There's nothing earth shattering about Forever Female, but it did no harm to any of the folks associated with it and still has some laughs for today's audience.