Thursday, January 27, 2011
By Wood Soanes
May 4, 1932
There are almost as many ways of getting into the show business as there are actors, but Ginger Rogers, who is gracing the stages of the Paramount this week may lay claim to the adjective unique in her history.
She became an actress because her mother, Helen Rogers of Fort Worth, drama critic, was adamant in her decision that daughter should not get her golden locks stained with printer’s ink – and the staff of the Record, since defunct – the paper, that is to say, not the staff – agreed heartily.
It seems that Ginger’s idea of a perfectly swell way to pass the time was to stroll into the Record office armed with her ukulele and annoy the editorial staff at edition time with tunes and near-tunes. And when the instrument was wrested away, she practiced the Charleston.
So it was with a sigh of relief that the members of the fourth estate who were on the record payroll learned that Ginger had not only entered herself in a Charleston contest but that she had won the first prize and was about to make an appearance on the stage strutting her stuff.
And about this time Mother Rogers began to have serious qualms of conscience. Maybe the newspaper racket wouldn’t be so bad after all in contrast to the stage. Unfortunately for domestic peace, and fortunately for the theatergoers, Daughter Rogers had, and still has, red hair.
“I really believe I would have given in,” she confided in this cubicle yesterday, “but the fates have decided against me.
“Having won the contest, I became more or less public property. I danced at the first ‘personal appearance’ and when I tried to evade the subsequent ones, I was told that I must appear whether I danced or not. When I appeared, I danced and that was that.
“I might have remained a dancer had it not been for the interest Ed Lowry took in me. He was one of the ace masters of ceremonies for the Skouras chain in the east and it was he who taught me how to ‘sell’ a song, how to routine my dances, and how to get over comedy. Now my problem is to convince producers that I am a better comedienne than an ingénue.
“I worked on the Skouras chain for a long while, mostly with Lowry and Paul Ash, and then went into a musical revue called ‘Top Speed.’ I was hired as a dancing comedienne and thought that I was launched on a career. Imagine my disappointment when the next role I got was as leading woman in a musical comedy.
“Now leading women are all right, on the stage and the screen. You have to have them, of course, to give the tenors something to look at when they sing. But usually they are a pretty namby-pamby lot and it isn’t much fun playing them.”
The talk then shifted to the differences, distinctions and preferences of stage and screen. “If I had my choice, it would be the screen,” the youthful star replied. “One of the chief satisfactions of acting is to have an opportunity to play a variety of roles – that is particularly true of the younger player who can only find by trying many things which is best suited.
“In Hollywood, especially if you are on contract, it is not uncommon to play a different role every six weeks. On the stage, if your vehicle is any good and you always hope it will be, you are in the same role for an indefinite period, and much can happen to you in six months or a year.
“I was on a contract for a time at Paramount and more recently became a free-lance player. I was relieved of the contract at my own request because I felt that I could go ahead faster alone. It was a mistake because the studio I first went with in more important roles was taken over by another studio and I was lost in the shuffle.
“Mother and I have established our home in Hollywood now, however, and when this engagement is over, I plan to return there and start my career anew. I have enjoyed the present season but it is hard work. I don’t believe the public realizes what a try these four-shows-a-day are on the actors. Since we started on tour I have spent most of my waking hours in the theater and have been catching my meals on the fly, mostly sandwiches.”
Miss Rogers is an attractive little red-head, intelligent, pleasant and a ready conversationalist. She will be at the Paramount in “Girl Crazy” until tomorrow night giving way to the old maestro Ted Lewis who is bringing in his band for a week on Friday.