But the Siren can't lie to Emma. The performance that really did change my life wasn't deep and wasn't even a star turn, though certainly it was meaningful to me. It was Ginger Rogers as Anytime Annie in 42nd Street. I saw this movie as a kid, probably chopped up on TBS, source of many of my cinematic touchstone viewings. I must have been well under 10, too young to catch a single double-entendre. Still, Ginger fascinated me. That tart tongue, that supreme self-confidence, the way she took any obstacle from the Depression to a catty costar and rolled right over it. I love almost all of Ginger's early tough-tootsie characters, but 42nd Street was the first one I saw and it holds a special place for me. (I am happy to note that it recently charmed Siren favorite Tonio Kruger as well.) Over the years I saw the movie again and again, and here are the lessons it carried for me:
1. People used to dress a lot better, especially starlets. The Siren defies you to look at any modern-day picture and tell her she is wrong. For a time in the 1930s Ginger had one of the best figures in Hollywood. She loved clothes and she wore each ensemble with dash. Which leads into
2. With the right attitude, even an odd outfit can be carried off. When Anytime Annie enters, she is wearing tweeds and a monocle.
And, in the modern parlance, she rocks them.
3. Bad girls have more fun. Does this even need elaboration? Here's how Annie is introduced:
Andy Lee: Not Anytime Annie? Say, who could forget 'er? She only said "No" once, and then she didn't hear the question!
And here we have Ruby Keeler, as insipid ingenue Peggy Sawyer:
Chorine: You, uh, looking for somebody - or just shopping around?
Peggy: Could you tell me where I'll find the gentleman in charge?
Chorine: First door to your left, dearie!
Which woman would you like to hang out with?
4. Dealing with male lechery? Mock it. The Siren read one reviewer who was so offended by the scene in which the chorus girls have to show off their legs to the producers and director that he compared it--unfavorably--to a scene in Takeshi Miike's Ichi the Killer where a prostitute gets her nipples sliced off. The Siren suggests, politely (because she is a little afraid of this guy) that he is missing an important element of the scene. That would be Ginger and Una Merkel (as Lorraine), rolling their eyes as soon as the director moves down the line, not taking any of it seriously for a minute. You know they are thinking it beats stenography, which at the time also attracted a fair share of wolves (check out Joan Crawford dealing with Wallace Beery in Grand Hotel). In Showgirls, Elizabeth Berkley and the others stand around tremulously, like Irish setters on point, waiting for that magic bit of male approval. Ginger and Una know they're attractive, they know they will make it through, and they also know the men are drips. Which brings us to
5. See an opportunity for a wisecrack? Grab it.
Chorine: Park Avenue.
Annie: And is her homework tough!
Lorraine: ...I always said she was a nice girl. And she's so good to her mother.
Annie: She sure is. Do you know that she makes forty-five dollars a week and sends her mother a hundred of it?
Annie: [to chorus girl] It must have been hard on your mother, not having any children.
Music director: Get some feeling into it, willya?
Annie: Whaddya want me to do, bite my nails?
6. What's going on at the margins is often more interesting than the main event. Ginger and Una in their upper berth, sarcastically commenting on the newlyweds, are the best part of "Shuffle Off to Buffalo":
Matrimony is baloney
She'll be wanting alimony in a year or so
Still they go and shuffle, shuffle off to Buffalo.
When she knows as much as we know
She'll be on her way to Reno
While he still has dough
She'll give him the shuffle, when they get back from Buffalo.
7. Sisterhood is beautiful. Watch as Annie and Lorraine adopt Peggy, for no apparent reason, and Lorraine holds up three fingers to indicate they need three parts:
Annie: (to Peggy) Stick with us girl, and you'll come in on the tide.
Later, when cast in the lead due to a fortuitous relationship with porky "angel" Guy Kibbee, Annie gives up the part because Peggy supposedly has a better chance of saving the show. Here we have the movie's most glaring logical flaw, though. The Siren cannot look at Keeler without thinking of lines in a much-later show-business satire: "She can't act, she can't sing, she can't dance. A triple threat." Keeler wasn't a patch on Rogers, and something about the former Ms. McMath's face in this scene shows she knows it.
8. Men are wonderful, but they aren't necessities. Annie, sending Kibbee out to walk her Pekingese and rushing back onstage, showed the Siren that there are plenty of different ways to a happy ending.
Wow, Emma's blogathon was an absolute roaring success. The Siren is including all the links in her post, because ALL of the links are so well worth reading. Get a long cool glass of something and settle in front of the screen. The final roundup:
Kendra at Jake Weird on Michael Caine in Sleuth
Catherine from The Mixed Up Files of Catherine on Bette Davis in All About Eve
Adam from All Things Film on James Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life.
Anna at Verging Writer on Sally Field in Norma Rae.
DL at Cellar Door on Samantha Morton in Morvern Callar.
Sen at Les montreurs d'images on Robert Redford in All the President's Men.
Becci at The Sacred Ramblings of Becci on Emmy Rossum in The Day After Tomorrow.
Marius at Blog by Cosmo Marius on Marco Hofschneider in Europa Europa.
Dave over at Victim of the Time on Jodhi May in The Last of the Mohicans .
Kayleigh at Shiny Happy Blog on Audrey Tautou in Amélie.
Vertigo's Psycho from And Your Little Blog, Too on Shani Wallis in Oliver!.
RC at Strange Culture on Stéphane Audran in Babette's Feast.
Beautiful.Adam at DVDPanache on Joseph Cotten in The Third Man.
Rant1229 from The 400 Obscure Passions of the 8½ Personas on Erland Josephson in The Sacrifice.
Nathaniel R from the Film Experience on Marni Nixon in West Side Story.
Mr. Movie Geek at Movies to Movie Geek No Kamikakushi on Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Adam Carson Keller from Crumb by Crumb picks Geena Davis in Thelma and Louise.
Jose at The pathetically normal, pop culture obsessed, life of Jose on Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire.
StinkyLulu goes for Anne Meara in Fame.
Piper from Lazy Eye Theatre on Daniel Day-Lewis in Gangs of New York.
Luke at The Musings of a Movie Maestro on Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge!.
Lylee from Lylee's Blog on Jane Powell in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
Cal from Shake Well Before Use on Henry Fonda in 12 Angry Men.
As Cool as a Fruitstand on Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation.
Erich Kuersten from acidemic-film on Jon Voight in Runaway Train.
Cinefille from For Cinephiles by a Cinefille goes for Katharine Hepburn in The African Queen.
Bob Turnbull from Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind looks at the entire cast of Network.
Damian at Windmills of My Mind on Liam Neeson in Schindler's List.
Arden at Cinephilia picks Mark Ruffalo in You Can Count on Me.
Midento from when i look deep in your eyes selects Ninón Sevilla in Aventurera.
Glenn Dunks from Stale Popcorn on Drew Barrymore in Scream.
Peter Nellhaus from Coffee Coffee and More Coffee on Sean Connery in From Russia With Love.
Kimberly from Cinebeats on Barbara Shelley in Dracula: Prince of Darkness.
Chris from Drunken On Celluloid on Robert de Niro in Raging Bull.