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FIFTH AVENUE GIRL (director/writer: Gregory La Cava ; screenwriter: Morrie Ryskind; cinematographer: Robert de Grasse; editors: Robert Wise/William Hamilton; music: Roy Webb; cast: Ginger Rogers (Mary Grey), Walter Connolly (Mr. Borden), Verree Teasdale (Mrs. Borden), James Ellison (Mike), Tim Holt (Tim Borden), Kathryn Adams (Katherine Borden), Franklin Pangborn (Higgins), Ferike Boros (Olga), Louis Calhern (Dr. Kessler), Theodor von Eltz (Terwilliger), Jack Carson (Sailor in park), Cornelius Keefe (Seal Expert), Manda Lane (Amanda), Robert Emmett Keane (Tommy Hopkins)Alexander D’Arcy (Maitre d’Hotel); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Gregory La Cava; RKO; 1939)
A listless class war comedy set during the waning days of the Depression.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A listless class war comedy set during the waning days of the Depression. Director-writer Gregory La Cava (“My Man Godfrey”/”Stage Door”) misses the mark in this weak social satire of the wealthy capitalists. Morris Ryskind is co-writer. Its far-fetched premise has a millionaire, the Manhanttan industrialist, Tim Borden (Walter Connolly), despondent because his business is facing bankruptcy and his family is ignoring him on his birthday, trying to cheer himself up by watching the seals in Central Park. The elderly Borden converses with the unemployed sassy young adult Mary Grey (Ginger Rogers) and talks her into accepting a dinner date at the ritzy Flamingo Club. He then brings her home to stay in the guest room in his Park Avenue mansion and hires her to pose as his gold-digger love interest. This gets the attention of his inattentive wife Martha (Verree Teasdale) and his two self-absorbed young adult children, the spoiled sportsman Tim (Tim Holt) and the love sick Katherine (Kathryn Adams). The insensitive family thinks their patriarch needs the help of the family psychologist, Dr. Hugo Kessler (Louis Calhern). He recommends going along with the patriarch’s pursuit of the stranger in order to get the family to once again bond without adding more tension. The narrative shows how the poor can be happier than the rich was too dumb to be believed. Also the satire of the capitalists was weak, the acting was stiff (even the usually funny character actor Franklin Pangbor brings no comedy in his role as the butler), and the happy ending seemed unearned. In the end, the industrialist and his wife reunite, the son begins a romance with the innocent but irritable anti-capitalist working-class girl and Katherine elopes with the preachy wannabe capitalist chauffeur (James Ellison).


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”