Remembering Ginger Rogers on Her Centennial
- Friday, July 15, 2011
On-screen, Ginger Rogers dances with Fred Astaire, gliding and swirling and leaping in joyful motion across their 10 films like Swing Time (1936) and Carefree (1938).
She elicits laughs in the many comedies she made, inviting audiences to share her joy in adventures like disguising herself as a child aboard a train (The Major and the Minor, 1942), and cavorting with monkeys alongside Cary Grant (Monkey Business, 1952). And Rogers’ joy even shone through her dramatic films—such as her Oscar-winning role in Kitty Foyle (1940)—in the form of a serene sort of grace mixed with a flinty sense of confidence that she could do what’s right, no matter what.
In 73 classic movies spanning Hollywood’s entire golden age, Ginger Rogers became known for her joyful spirit.
Rogers, who died in 1995, once said: “The most important thing in anyone’s life is to be giving something. The quality I can give is joy. This is my gift.” Now, as fans celebrate Rogers’ centennial (her 100th birthday would have been July 16, 2011), it’s a good time to remember the source of all that joy: a relationship with Jesus Christ.
“Her faith was what was most important to her,” said Rogers’ former personal secretary and close friend Roberta Olden in an interview with Crosswalk.com. “It taught her the truth with a capital T. As long as you know the truth about yourself and about God, you can do just about anything, because you reflect what he gives you. She knew that it was God’s gift of goodness that shone through [her performances].”
Offscreen, as well, Rogers became known as a clean-living movie star. She attended church regularly, modeled a strong work ethic, took care of her mother, refused to drink alcohol, and spent far more time on tennis courts than at Hollywood parties. She tried to set a good example of a healthy lifestyle while surrounded by many others who were caught in destructive lifestyles, Olden recalled. “If someone wanted to follow her example, she would be glad for that.”
However, Rogers’ joy in the midst of the Hollywood scene didn’t come easily. While her image lit up movie screens in darkened theaters for audiences, she sometimes struggled to fight the darkness of Hollywood’s pressures with the light of Christ in her own life.
“Although she had a glamorous Hollywood life, she also went through some struggles,” said Olden.
Hollywood fame ushered many pressures into Rogers’ life. She had to sacrifice privacy. Fame and fortune hunters tried to use her to achieve their own desires. People who were hostile to faith mocked her Christian beliefs. After her marriage to true love Lew Ayres (star of the popular Dr. Kildare movies) broke apart under the stress of their career demands, she endured several marriages to husbands who were unfaithful to her. She never had the children she’d hoped to have, since her work was so consuming.
The pressures got to be so intense that Rogers even had to fight off suicidal thoughts. “She said to me that if it hadn’t been for her faith, she probably would have jumped off the Hollywood sign because of the pressures,” Olden said. “She was very genuine; a straight-talker. She didn’t sugarcoat things.”
However, Rogers drew the strength she needed to overcome Hollywood’s pressures by asking the Holy Spirit to renew her mind so she could think about each challenge from the right perspective, said Marcia Castle Durham, who attends the Christian Science church Rogers attended in Medford, Oregon, near where Rogers owned a ranch she escaped to for respite between movies and other work.
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