For Reel

Professional Sweetheart (1933)
March 8, 2014, 7:26 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: William A. Seiter
4 Stars
Professional SweetheartGinger Rogers’ first film at the studio that would make her a star was this Sturges-worthy satire–a send-up of sham radio personalities, but moreover a socially-conscious comedy about a country in transition. Four men meticulously help construct the image of Glory Eden (Rogers), America’s “purity girl” that would restore the image of a distinctly pre-war brand of virginal, conservative decency. As they champion their “product” in front of a gossip columnist (ZaSu Pitts), Eden bemoans that she wants to “sin and suffer”, though now she’s “only sufferin’.” Her desire to have sex is met when she is appointed a white-bread American man (Norman Foster) from Kentucky (or, as an all-time great title card reads: “Home of the Purest Anglo-Saxons”) to marry on air. The pre-Code era is a fascinating one to look at through the lens of feminism (films like Female and The Divorcee are major touchstone women’s pictures), and Professional Sweetheart fits the trend in its consideration of how real women contrasted from what the media portrayed. More than once, Eden complains that she wants to be like the other girls, implying that it is actually the custom for ordinary girls to sin–a major statement in a time when on-screen sinners were typically afforded some reprimanding. The picture loses some steam in the latter half, but the sharp, consistently funny writing from playwright/newspaperwomen Maurine Dallas Watkins (of Chicago fame) and the delightful Rogers fully in her element shouldn’t be missed.

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