The film begins with a montage about the evolution of women and their role in society. It shows men giving up their seats on buses for women to sit down instead of stand; a woman falling in love, getting married and having babies; “But this was not enough” one title card proclaims as it shows the women rallying for their right to vote in Main Street, U.S.A. Then we are back on the bus, with women having to fight for a seat instead of being offered one. We are then swept to 1940 when Kitty Foyle emerges as the modern woman leaving the department store from where she works to see her boyfriend, a hardworking pediatrician “Dr. Mark Elsen”, played by James Craig.
The film’s plot unfolds when Mark proposes to Kitty on the same night an old lover “Wyn Stafford VI”, played by Dennis Morgan, arrives to take her to South America, away from his rich family and forsaking responsibilities to his wife and child. Kitty must choose for the last time who she must be with forever. In a series of flashbacks we see Kitty grow from fifteen to twenty-six, falling in love with ‘Wyn’ and Mark, subsequently marrying ‘Wyn’ for a brief period, losing their child in childbirth and returning to work in a department store. The film projects the two categories of men women will run into their entire lives. The “Wyn”’s of the world who charm them into sweet escapades and lovesick dialogue only to finally succumb to what everyone expected them to, assume their responsibilities left elsewhere, despite the feelings they continue have for their lover. Then there are the “Mark Elsen”’s who are hardworking, honest and always in the background, waiting. While the ‘Wyn”’s project the “knight in shining armor” cliche, the “Mark Elsens”’s are the real “knight in shining armor”’s. Of course, you can tell which one she ultimately chooses in the end.
Initially, Ginger Rogers turned down the role because of the objectionable material she found in the book. With taking the Hays Code and Rogers into consideration, screenwriters Dalton Trumbo and Donald Ogden Stewart dramatically changed the film from Christopher Morley’s novel. The blatant sexuality and the abortion Kitty Foyle chooses to have in the book was taken out of the story all together. Instead, Kitty loses the baby in childbirth and the film takes the direction of a romantic love triangle. Ginger accepted the role after these parts were replaced and it would have been a shame if she did not. Already a triple-threat in singing, dancing and acting, in “Kitty Foyle,” Ginger proves she is also an actor’s triple threat. She is charming, poignant, and stunning when portraying Kitty’s trials tribulations in her life. Ginger makes everyone clearly see why Kitty Foyle was such an admirable figure in 1940 and still should be amongst today’s society.
On top of being the highly grossed picture in 1940 for RKO Studios, “Kitty Foyle” was nominated for four Academy Awards including “Best Actress” for Ginger Rogers. That year it was stiff competition for this category as Katherine Hepburn was nominated for her portrayal as “Tracy Samantha Lord Haven” in “The Philadelphia Story” (1940), the performance which put her back on the Hollywood map. Despite all of the predictions of Hepburn winning, Rogers took the statue home. There was a general outburst of shock from fans and studios alike but Hepburn made a quick speech to reporters in light of Rogers’ win, “I was offered ‘Kitty Foyle’ and I didn’t want to play a soap opera about a shop girl. Ginger was wonderful, she’s enormously talented, and she deserved the Oscar.”