Forever Female (1953) w/Ginger Rogers

If All Above Eve were told as a zany comedy, this film might be it. Forever Female (1953) follows the career of a  (Shall we say "mature?") Broadway actor named Beatrice Page (Ginger Rogers) who refuses to give up a new role that is too young for her.

Enter a somewhat younger and less-experienced actor named Sally (Pat Crowley) who pursues Beatrice's job and her man - the playwright Stanley Krown (William Holden). She also gets some mild interest from Beatrice's ex-husband, the producer of the play, E. Harry Phillips (Paul Douglas).

It's not unlike many such stories about life in the theater, the short lifespan of a woman's stardom in the theater because of her age. However, coming as it does only three years after a similar story that won the most Academy Awards ever, at the time, it seems Paramount Studios was riding a trend made popular in recent years by All About Eve (1950) from Twentieth Century Fox Studios.

The director of the movie, Irving Rapper, encourages Ms. Crowley to be energetic to almost frightening proportions. Phillips takes in all this boundless youth and says, "Who are you? Or might I ask, WHAT are you?" You know that puzzled look Cary Grant has anytime Katharine Hepburn  says anything in the screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby?  In Forever Female, Stanley and Phillips look befuddled any time Sally widens her eyes and squeals out her lines. It's hilarious. She's meant to be weird.

The odd bit is that the story tries to give Stanley and Sally a tender love story which doesn't quite work for the character. She's ambitious, crafty and -like Eve Harrington in All About Eve- is only concerned about herself and her career.

When she chases a powerful guy, you're not exactly sure of her motives. Is this meant to be genuine or a career move?  As Stanley and Sally dance, the violins swell, and Sally seems so heartbroken over the guy as he rejects her. Sally flees the scene sobbing, like an actress who has been given perfect dramatic direction. Is she really crying or is this emotional manipulation?

Beyond the story promoting Sally as an up-and-coming new star, this film was meant to launch the actor herself, veteran Broadway performer Pat Crowley, into film stardom. The ingenue gets a stand-alone credit at the beginning of the film, then another one just before the words "The End" pop up.

In the trailer for Forever Female, words immediately splay across the scene, "Paramount gives a little girl a great, big job." Crowley is the first person you see, seated with her back to the camera in a director's chair with her name on the canvas. She turns to camera, gives a perky greeting, introduces herself, brushes her name with her elbow and introduces the movie.

"Well, the odd part is you know all the stars," she says, "and you don't know me from Adam. Well, maybe from Adam because I'm a girl. And that's what Forever Female is all about - girls and, naturally, men. Well, of course, that's what everything is all about, but in Forever Female we've got a new slant on it."

The slant isn't new at all, and that's fine. The trailer emphasizes the romance in the story to induce movie-goers to buy tickets - there are more people interested in romance than in a Broadway career, perhaps.

However, the film itself is most definitely about working on Broadway (though we spend more time out of the theater than in it). As much time is given to Sally's new career as is given to Beatrice's long one. There's some space given to Stanley's writing career and his angst about compromising his play to get the best actor in the role.

Pat Crowley did well in this, her first film. The star would have a prolific career in movies and television (including the hit TV shows "Please, Don't Eat the Daises" and "Dynasty"). She still performs today.

The next year after Forever Female, LIFE Magazine would make the budding film star its cover girl in the March 29, 1954 edition. They also tried to make this show biz veteran relatable to its readers.

The magazine follows her around a California apartment complex, stating that, when she's not making films, she babysits for the neighbors, likes to hang around the community pool, does her own laundry. But these common domestic scenes are interrupted when the actor says about her career, "I was going just as big when I worked in New York." Then you're knocked back in a world of a very knowing, capable performer who seems slightly frustrated with being the new kid in town.

Forever Female is a delightful backstage romp. The three big names are fun to watch. Paul Douglas as the producer is an anchor, a rock in this film about angst-ridden artists. William Holden mostly gets some wonderful reaction shots as everything seems to go wrong for the character. Ginger Rogers makes an interesting little speech about the trials of aging women in show business. At the end of which she briefly stares accusingly at the camera (and therefore at the audience. Well done.). And Pat Crowley's  broad theatrics work well for the part, especially when her character is expressing ambition.

Watch Forever Female (and other fine films) in its entirety at the official Paramount Youtube channel called The Paramount Vault.


  1. Java, I've never seen this movie, and you make it sound interesting. It does have a great cast. It doesn't seem, however, that the studio's hopes for Pat Crowley ever came to fruition. Interesting bit!

    1. Becky, from what I can tell, Crowley had some fame but perhaps not the kind the studio was looking for. She's a prolific performer, rarely out of a job since childhood, and seems to enjoy her work.

      The recurring role on Dynasty intrigues me; I'll have to look it up. Thanks for stopping by.

      --Java aka Deborah

  2. I very much liked Ginger's character in this movie. She felt "real" to me, full of quirks and insecurities. "Forever Female" is my earliest Marion Ross sighting. A fun little film and it is interesting to watch the promotion for Pat Crowley.

    1. Yes, "real" is a great description, Caftan Woman!

      I'm reading the play on which FOREVER FEMALE is based - ROSALIND by James M Barrie (author of Peter Pan).

      In the play so far, the Ginger character is an actress who deceives people in various ways until she finally confesses. Another character says, "Is there nothing real in life?" She replies, "Everything is real, except [my age]."

      The character is trying to find reality by faking. She has lots of complicated issues.

      Thanks for commenting.

      -- Java aka Deborah


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