Thursday, July 16, 2009

Happy Birthday Ginger!!!

It's here!
I'm sure you guys have heard these stories thousands of times, but here's a brief overview of her life.
Ginger was born Virginia Katherine McMath in Independence Kansas on July 16th, 1911. Her mother Lela was separated from her father, and she was raised largely by her grandparents while Lela was traveling to New York and LA, trying to make enough money as a writer for her daughter to join her.

Eventually Ginger (a nickname developed when her cousin could not say Virginia, and called her "Ginya") did join her in Fort Worth, TX, where Lela landed a job with a newspaper. Through her mother's work reviewing theatrical productions, Ginger caught the performance bug, and entered a Charleston contest, which she (of course) won. She went on to win the state Charleston contest, and began touring the Southern Orpheum circuit. Ginger no doubt made several stops through my town, Tulsa Oklahoma. Tulsa was an oil boom town that boasted two Orpheum theatres. Neither are standing today, but eventually I will make my way over to the Historical society to look for a program of "Ginger and the Redheads".
Vaudeville lead Ginger to Broadway, where she won a lead role in "Top Speed" and the Gershwin musical "Girl Crazy". Ginger was the first to expose the world to such classics as "Embraceable You" and "But Not For Me". She was an instant hit in New York, and began making small pictures in New York with Paramount, and then RKO Pathe pictures. After the closing of Girl Crazy, Ginger left New York for Tinseltown, and the rest is history.

After her stint with Fred, Ginger went on to act in both serious dramas and hilarious comedies. Ginger even won an Oscar in 1940 for Kitty Foyle, beating Bette Davis for the Letter, Katharine Hepburn for The Philadelphia Story, and Joan Fontaine for Rebecca. Many consider the results of the best actress race to be one of the biggest upsets in Oscar history.

Ginger with James Stewart, a former boyfriend and fellow winner in 1940.
Ginger continued to make great films through the 40s, and a couple of good ones in the 50s (though some in the 50s were total DUDS!). After leaving the business with the Jean Harlow biopic "Harlow" in 1965, Ginger retired to the "Rogers Rogue River Ranch" in Oregon. Here's the view from the Rogers Rogue River Ranch Roof (say that 5 times fast!)

To sum up this post, here are two rare old "Merrie Melodies" cartoons from 1937 and 1940 respectively. Both feature caricatures of Ginger.

Both of these cartoons use a clip from the very end of "The Gay Divorcee". I love the attention to detail-the fact that Ginger never touches the second chair, just like in the movie.
Have a great day!!

1 comment:

  1. Ginger's the best and I appreciate the lovely tribute you've given her here. Nice post.