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Warner Home Video presents
"But nobody owes a thing to Kitty Foyle. Except Kitty Foyle."
DVD ReviewThe undertitle for Kitty Foyle reads "The Natural History of a Woman." Viewed in today's society, perhaps a few snickers arise when the opening credits reveal that every important creative role is occupied by a man. This is unmistakably a man's look at the life of a single woman in early 20th-century America, but there also seems to be a surprising amount of understanding and empathy for women working their way through a male-dominated social structure. Sure, in the end Kitty winds up with a man and that will rile some contemporary feminists, but the decision is hers and hers alone.
Dropping her golden locks for a more sophisticated brunette 'do, Ginger Rogers leaves her song-and-dance work of the 1930s and enters into a juicy part as the titular character. Sitting in her apartment, Kitty debates with her mirror image whether to resurrect an old affair or marry another man. Told in flashback, the story chronicles Kitty's life leading up to this fateful night. Growing up in Philadelphia, raised solely by her working-class father (Ernest Cossart), Kitty dreams Cinderella fantasies about someday marrying one of the wealthy Main Liners. Such tendencies run contrary to the women's suffragist movement, which is in full swing as young Kitty heads to school and seeks employment as a typist. Times are tough, though, and the Foyles seem poised to suffer through the Depression alongside the rest of America.
On a lucky day, attractive Main Liner Wynnewood Strafford VI (Dennis Morgan) enters into their humble residence and is immediately smitten with the lively Kitty. Offering her a job at his magazine, Wyn takes a strong liking to Kitty and the two start a forbidden love affair. Destined to failure, their love is cut short by class differences and Kitty's high-spirited behavior. Unable to bear the pains of Philadelphia, she takes off to New York and works in a department store. Through a rather amusing turn of events, Kitty meets Mark (James Craig) and finds herself blackmailed into a date. It turns out, however, that Mark is the perfect man for Kitty, but her love for Wyn still burns strong.
Dalton Trumbo's screenplay, based on Christopher Morley's novel with additional dialogue by Donald Ogden Stewart, works well as a mixture of tender romance and a stirring depiction of women's independence. Kitty is the driving force of the narrative, persevering through many troublesome predicaments with tremendous courage. Its obvious from the beginning which man she'll choose, but that's hardly the point. This is a film interested in character, trying to capture a slice of truth. (Kitty and her roommates live in a realistic New York apartment, not one of those spacious dwellings that only seem to exist in the movies.) There's an honesty to the story that transcends its formulaic elements, creating a touching experience.
Director Sam Wood and his crew craft an entertaining soap opera of sorts, anchored by a strong Oscar-winning performance from Rogers. Her work here is nowhere near the level of Top Hat or Stage Door, but Rogers elegantly steps into the dramatic role. When Wyn tries to buy her off, Rogers' portrayal of Kitty is astonishing. She brings the emotional hurt right into the audience's heart. The role doesn't allow for the same amount of spunk and sexiness that I look forward to in Rogers' work, but she is so moving here that the depth of her performance more than satisfies. The rest of the cast is forced to act in Rogers' shadow, but they turn in fine work. Dennis Morgan does justice to Wyn, making him both charming and dastardly. Craig is good in a thankless role, playing the on-the-level Mark without any sense of self-awareness that could easily unseat the character. Filled with nice turns from Gladys Cooper and Eduardo Ciannelli in minor roles, the whole cast works to bring life to the characters.
Kitty Foyle seems largely forgotten now, probably due to Wood's rather ordinary direction. There's nothing unique or particularly impressive about the production values. The film could benefit from a more striking visual design, but the story of Kitty and this cast are strong enough to overlook a lack of imaginative direction. Besides, a woman's natural history probably doesn't need a bunch of men glossing it up with lighting and editing.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+
Image Transfer Review: The 1.33:1 picture looks good for the most part, though there are some print defects throughout. Additionally, some shots come across as looking a bit soft and faded. None of this is terribly distracting, however. Contrast is quite good and detail is strong.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: The original mono mix sounds awfully good, without any obvious sound distortion or other flaws ruining the experience. Dialogue is crisp and always audible. The overall mix is balanced well between the score, sound effects, and audio recording. This is some nice film preservation work.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 29 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Next is a pair of radio productions of Kitty Foyle. The first is the Lux Radio Theater Broadcast from May 5, 1941 (59m:08s), featuring work by Ginger Rogers, Dennis Morgan, James Craig, and hosted by Cecil B. DeMille. This closely resembles the film, though it does condense some rather nice scenes and eliminate others entirely. The second production, Academy Award Theater Broadcastthe from April 6, 1956 (30m:02s), still stars Rogers as Kitty, but nobody else reprises their work on this one. This second version is so condensed that it hardly seems worth listening to, thanks to the abbreviated running time cutting out all the meet. the film's original theatrical trailer is included.
This is a light, somewhat disappointing special features lineup.
[NOTE: On the disc I reviewed, the Kitty Foiled cartoon loses audio for a few seconds near the end. I don't know if this is just my disc, an error in the product, or the result of the short's audio being lost.]
Extras Grade: C-
Final CommentsWhile not her best work, Ginger Rogers gives a strong performance in Kitty Foyle that makes it all worth your while. Warner's DVD is light on extras, but does justice to the film.
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