Sometimes you have to respect a movie for reasons other than the movie itself.
You’re probably thinking, “Next!” But hear us out.
Today we’re looking at the 1944 comedy Career Girl, a “B” movie about aspiring Broadway actresses who live in a girls-only boarding house in New York. This modestly-priced flick stars Frances Langford as a gal determined to hit the Big Time.
If you look closely at our movie, you’ll see that it is a knock-off of 1937’s Stage Door, the designer version of the aspiring-actresses-in-a-girls-boarding-house tale. The MGM A-lister stars Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, and a million other big-name movie stars.
So we, as viewers, have to decide right away that if we’re going to get anything out of Career Girl, we have to pretend the MGM film was never made. But once you shut off that part of your brain, you’ll actually enjoy this charming little movie.
Langford plays a spunky singer who leaves her fiance in Kansas City in an effort to make a Name for herself on Broadway. We learn this in the opening scene as Langford calls her irritated fiance, who insists he come to New York and bring her home:
Irritated Fiance: “Your real career is being back here in Kansas City, being Mrs. James Blake.”
Langford: “If and when I’m ready to come home, I’ll buy my own transportation.” (Ca-lick!)
Langford moves to the budget “all-girls’ hotel” because she doesn’t have a job and she’s running out of cash. Here she meets aspiring actresses and – bonus! – a potential new boyfriend (Edward Norris). She’s presented with opportunities to sing which, of course, is what made real-life Langford a star in the first place.
There are plenty of great lines in this film. For example, when a producer’s secretary (Gladys Blake) brings Langford to the office to meet The Boss, Langford is visibly impressed:
Langford: (looking around) “It’s quite swank.”
Blake: “When you get ‘no’ for an answer around here, you get it with all the trimmings.”
When she finally meets the producer – a man with a grand piano in his office – Langford is persuaded to sing and we realize why she was so famous in real life.
(Digression: Langford is accompanied on piano by Blake’s character, who, apparently, can play any tune at a moment’s notice. Why her boss hasn’t gotten her a gig on Broadway is beyond us.)
Langford has real star power – when her hair isn’t stealing the scene. (See photo, above.) Her singing is impressive, of course, but she isn’t entirely without acting ability. There is a scene where Langford, discouraged by not finding work on Broadway, gives a little speech about how hard it is to break into show business. The scene is surprisingly touching.
Now, our descriptions may not be enough for you to respect Career Girl, so you may have to respect the movie for Langford herself.
Langford was a huge supporter of the American troops during WWII, and was a regular fixture on Bob Hope’s USO tours as he traveled to entertain troops overseas. Rumour has it that during one of these tours, Langford impulsively climbed into a fighter plane that was actually used in an attack on a Japanese ship.
By itself, Career Girl is a forgettable “B” movie but, considering what Langford meant to troops and the American war effort, you can respect it as a film that was trying to give audiences more of what they wanted.
And what they wanted was Frances Langford.
Another review of Career Girl can be found at The Motion Pictures.
Career Girl: Starring Frances Langford, Edward Norris, Iris Adrian. Directed by Wallace W. Fox. Written by Sam Neuman. Producers Releasing Corp., B&W, 1944, 67 mins.