Stanley Krown (William Holden) is a playwright on his way to stage super-stardom. He has a fantastic new production in the works, which reigning Broadway queen Beatrice Page (Ginger Rogers) just might agree to perform in with the help of her ex-husband and big shot Broadway producer Harry (Paul Douglas), who loves the script.
But Beatrice isn’t so excited about the play once she discovers that she’s too old to play the lead role – that of a 19-year-old girl, a role that would have been perfect for her a decade or two earlier. Dead-set on getting that role rather than the motherly role that Stanley crafted for her, Beatrice demands that the play be rewritten to feature a 29-year-old lead.
But even a rewrite can’t solve Beatrice’s problem. Her demands do nothing but send the production into a tail spin, and all the while she must contend with Harry, the very stubborn Stanley, and a young, extremely motivated starlet known as Sally Carver (Pat Crowley) who desperately wants the original 19-year-old lead role.
The premise is quite similar to that of the much more dramatic All About Eve (dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1950), but don’t let that fool you: these are two very different films. If you take the young-versus-old element of All About Eve‘s plot, squeeze some of the hatred between the two women out of the film, extract some of the seriousness about theater as an art, and then throw what’s left in a blender along with a heaping bowl of sugary comedy, you may end up with something similar to Forever Female.
This film takes the same subject matter that made All About Eve such a biting and dramatic piece and puts a light-hearted spin on it. There’s still a whole lot of drama going on between the characters in this film but the mood isn’t dramatic in the least, because the film showcases the humor that can be found in such situations.
Forever Female is all about its characters and the interactions that they have with each other. Much of the humor (with the exception of witty zingers from Paul Douglas) comes not from the dialogue, but from the personalities of these high-strung, stubborn, persistent people.
Many laughs also come from the mannerisms of the actors. In any other premise their mannerisms may seem too flashy, but for the overzealous theater folk they’re portraying, this technique works perfectly and fantastic performances are given all around. This quality is particularly apparent in Pat Crowley, whose character is overeager to the point of obnoxiousness – a fact which is acknowledge not only by the audience, but also by the other characters, who point it out in the dialogue near the end of the film.
Holden and Crowley come close to stealing the show away from Ginger with their fantastic chemistry. Crowley’s character is either truly smitten with the playwright or acting as though she is in order to get a part in the play. I’ve convinced myself that she was genuinely fond of him, not only because Holden and Crowley make such a stinkin’ cute couple but because her actions seem sincere, especially her concern over all of the creative sacrifices he’s making with his play to appease the producers. There’s a bit of a Bea – Stanley – Sally love triangle at play (with the added complication of Harry still being in love with Bea), and while Rogers and Holden do have decent chemistry, it comes nowhere near the “aww”-worthy Crowley/Holden scenes.
This film is nowhere near perfect. There are a couple of plot holes and problems. But overall, Forever Female is so much fun to watch and boasts such lovely performances that I barely noticed any of the small script issues, much less minded them. The score: 4.5/5