Wealthy industrialist Alfred Borden has problems both at work and at home. His employees at Amalgamated Pump are making demands that may drive the business he has built up from nothing into bankruptcy, and his son Tim has lost a major customer through neglect (he prefers playing polo). On his birthday, when he goes home to his Fifth Avenue mansion, he finds nobody there but the servants. His unfaithful wife Martha, his daughter Katherine, and Tim have all forgotten, are busy, or do not care.
Feeling lonely, he takes the advice of his butler and goes to Central Park, where he meets Mary Grey, a young, out-of-work woman. Seeing that she has only a meager meal to last the day, he invites her to dine with him at a fancy nightclub. They get drunk, start dancing, and are spotted by a friend of his wife. The next morning, he wakes up with a hangover and a black eye, to discover that he had apparently invited Mary to spend the night in a guest room.
Seeing the reaction this elicits from his formerly indifferent family, he concocts a scheme: he hires Mary to pretend to be his mistress. He neglects his company, forcing his son to take up the slack, and Tim comes up with fresh new ideas to save the firm. Meanwhile, Borden and Mary go out every night, supposedly partying to all hours, though they are actually just driven around by the ardently communist chauffeur Mike, whom Borden's daughter is in love with. Embarrassed by the newspaper gossip column items and shunned by her friends, Martha calls in family psychiatrist Dr. Kessler, but he finds nothing wrong with her now-cheerful and carefree husband. She starts staying home, plotting ways to drive Mary out. She has Tim try to buy her off, but that fails. Tim makes no effort to hide his contempt for the interloper, but eventually falls in love with her. Meanwhile, Mary tries to help Katherine with Mike, who does not pay any attention to the girl. Finally, Martha tries to convince Mary she has given up and they should all be friends.
Mary and Borden, continuing their charade, are planning to "go out" again, but Tim has told Borden that Martha would like to talk to him, so Borden stays at home and sends Tim to take Mary out. They end up in Central Park, where Tim spontaneously kisses her. The next day, Mary, upset, wants to leave, but ends up sitting outside the front door, where she is confronted by Tim. Inside, Martha cooks beef stew for Borden – his favorite – and they share a meal together in the kitchen, which reminds them of when they were poor and just starting out. Afterward, they page through an old photograph album, reminiscing about their life together.
Katharine shows up and announces she has married Mike, who has decided to quit and open a repair shop. At first, Martha is aghast, but then Borden reminds her that they started their own marriage about the same way, and she grudgingly accepts her new son-in-law. Mary and Tim come in, and Mr. Borden launches into a scene of telling Mary off. Mary can no longer continue with the charade and tearfully confesses the truth about their arrangement and leaves. Tim, hearing that Mary has been paid to play a part and has no designs on his father, runs after her. Borden then retreats toward his bedroom, but Martha invites him into hers. Meanwhile Tim chases after Mary, finds her, picks her up, and carries her back into the mansion. When a policeman tries to interfere, Mary tells him to mind his own business.
Ginger Rogers as Mary Grey
Walter Connolly as Alfred Borden
Verree Teasdale as Martha Borden
James Ellison as Mike
Tim Holt as Tim Borden
Kathryn Adams as Katherine Borden
Franklin Pangborn as Higgins, the butler
Ferike Boros as Olga, a maid
Louis Calhern as Dr. Hugo Kessler
Theodore von Eltz as Terwilliger
Alexander D'Arcy as Maitre D'
Lobby card: Connelly, Pangborn, Rogers
Lobby card: Connelly, Rogers, Holt
Jack Carson has a small part as a sailor singing to his girl in Central Park.
Production on Fifth Avenue Girl took place from May 20 to June 28, 1939. Retakes took place on August 9, 1939. Principal photography was completed 12 days earlier than scheduled. Working titles for the film were "My Fifth Avenue Girl" and "The Other Half".
Louis Calhern, who played "Dr. Kessler" was originally slated to play "Tommy Hoplins", the role which went to Cornelius Keefe.
As reported in Sheilah Graham's syndicated column of July 27, 1939, the film in previews had a different ending: "The audience did not like the unhappy ending in Fifth Avenue Girl, starring Ginger Rogers, and a new one will be shot when Ginger gets back from Honolulu." According to Rogers' autobiography, Ginger: My Story, she went on vacation to Honolulu after the filming of Fifth Avenue Girl. The original ending had Mary leaving the house and walking down Fifth Avenue.
Fifth Avenue Girl | Encyclopedia.com
Fifth Avenue Girl 1939 Clip
March 7, 2014