Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2020) on… Fifth Avenue Girl (1939)

Now we have the 1939 Ginger Rogers comedy Fifth Avenue Girl, also starring Walter Connolly.

On his way out of a business meeting, Alfred Borden (Walter Connolly) is reminded by his secretary that it is his birthday. At home, he finds his wife and children out. At the advice of his butler Higgins (Franklin Pangborn), he goes out to Central Park, where he meets the unemployed Mary Grey (Ginger Rogers). After talking, they go out to dinner at a nightclub. The next day, Alfred wakes up and finds Mary had spent the night in another room. When he sees how the rest of his family is reacting to her presence, he offers her employment as a pretend mistress, in the hopes that his family will treat him better. His wife, Martha (Verree Teasdale), who has been enjoying the nightlife with a playboy friend, now wants to devote her attention to her husband again, although he keeps going out nights with Mary (even though they don’t really do anything). Alfred’s son, Tim (Tim Holt), has been more interested in playing polo than in working at his father’s office, but with Alfred spending more time fooling around than going to the office, Tim is forced to take up the slack, all the while developing feelings for Mary himself. Alfred’s daughter Katherine (Kathryn Adams) has been a party girl, but she befriends Mary in the hopes that she’ll help her get the attention of their communist chauffeur, Mike (James Ellison).

I’ll admit, this was probably the first time I’ve watched this movie since the early part of the decade (when I was originally given it as a gift). The main thing I remembered was that it started off like the previously reviewed Upper World (also starring Ginger Rogers). We have a very busy business executive with little time for fun, who has an event worth celebrating (this time a birthday instead of a wedding anniversary), but nobody at home to celebrate it with. On an outing, he meets Ginger’s character, and they become friends. Admittedly, from then on, this movie differs, and it was on this last viewing that I noticed the similarity to the movie My Man Godfrey (an observation I couldn’t have made previously as I hadn’t seen My Man Godfrey until late 2018). And that is very much the case, as Ginger’s character works for the father of the family (although this time nobody else knows), as she tries to help the family solve some of their problems.

I’ll say it right off: when it comes down to it, I very much prefer My Man Godfrey to this film. Even though both My Man Godfrey and Fifth Avenue Girl share the same director Gregory La Cava, Godfrey was done much better. Some of the family members aren’t as effective, as I would say that Tim Holt doesn’t work as well as the son, and his relationship with Ginger’s character just never quite meshes well for me. And, to a degree, actress Verree Teasdale as the wife manages to remind me a lot of actress Alice Brady from some of the movies of hers that I have seen (although that’s not a complete knock, as I still she is funny enough for the role). Ginger isn’t quite as good as I’ve seen her in other movies, but she’s still good enough for me. And, despite my comments, I do enjoy this movie. The only real complaint I have, though (and I don’t know whether it is the transfer or just my copy on disc), but the movie could use a good restoration if only to help improve the audio, as it sometimes requires me to crank up the sound (and even then, I can’t always hear it clearly, which hurts when there are no subtitles or closed captions). If that alone were fixed, I would probably watch the movie a bit more often. Again, if you can get past some of these faults, there is some fun to be had with this movie, and it certainly merits my recommendation (although at present I would sooner suggest watching it some way where you could have subtitles/captions).

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 23 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Bachelor Mother (1939)Ginger RogersLucky Partners (1940)

Carefree (1938) – Jack Carson – Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939)

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