Millionaire Alfred Borden (Walter Connelly) has problems. His business, Amalgamated Pump, is facing bankruptcy and his family ignore him; on his birthday, he finds himself alone. Walking through the park, he meets Mary Grey (Ginger Rogers), an unemployed young woman. Taken with her forthright attitude and good nature, he invites her to dinner – a meal that ends up with Borden sporting a black eye and Mary staying in his guest room.
When he sees how her presence affects his family, he persuades Mary to take a job pretending to be his lover. He starts to go out with her every night, and neglects his work – forcing his feckless son to take over running the business. Eventually, his wife realises that she has to stop running around with young gigolos, his son proves to have business skills and his daughter abandons her life of frivolity to take up with the fiercely socialist chauffeur, as Mary’s influence extends beyond the subterfuge.
This is a charming, gentle comedy that hides some surprisingly barbed political commentary. While the slogan-spouting chauffeur feels like a dry run for Joe Dallasandro’s character in Blood for Dracula, much of the film’s dialogue is unchallenged attacks on the idle rich in a nation of fifteen million unemployed, and the condemnation shown is pretty biting. It’s unusual to see such left wing ideas so openly expressed in an American film from 1939.
Ginger Rogers is charming as the agent provocateur, and Gregory La Cava directs Allan Scott’s sharp script fluidly. It’s not a laugh-a-minute comedy by any means, but 5th Ave. Girl nonetheless has plenty to make you chuckle. In some ways, it resembles a less whimsical version of Harvey, with a stuck-up family finally being liberated by an outside force, and while the ending seems a little too rushed, the film is otherwise rather good.