Peter Morgan (James Stewart) is a young university professor from Old Sharon, New York, whom on a trip to Manhattan meets and falls in love with a high-spirited nightclub singer named Francey (Ginger Rogers). After 24 hours of knowing each other they marry, and return to Old Sharon, Peter’s snobby fiancée Helen (Frances Mercer), and the university run by his conservative and overbearing father Peter Morgan Sr. (Charles Coburn). As Peter struggles with trying to find a way to tell everyone the news, he soon finds that some of Francey’s activities are not going to make it any easier.
Vivacious Lady is a romantic comedy from RKO Radio Pictures and is one of James Stewart's earliest starring roles, and although neither he nor Ginger Rogers had collaborated on any prior work she recommended him as her leading man for this film perhaps because the two were dating at the time. Four days into the shoot James Stewart became ill, however, when he recovered he left to star in Of Human Hearts (1938). The studio considered replacing the actor, but shelved the production until December of 1937. In the hilarious fight scene between Frances Mercer and Ginger Rogers, Roger’s legs had to be strapped with boards and padded for protection because they were insured for $500,000 and RKO could not afford to have an injured musical star.
Released in May 1938, Vivacious Lady was a success eventually garnering two Academy Award nominations — Best Cinematography and Best Sound, Recording. The film is quite simply a comic gem. The entire cast works extremely well together especially the leads; it is always delightful to see screen legends in their early prime and the chemistry that Ms. Rogers and Mr. Stewart have is very copacetic. As Stewart's parents, Charles Coburn and Beulah Bondi almost steal the show. This is one of five times that Ms. Bondi has portrayed James Stewart's mother — including It's a Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Of Human Hearts — and her portrayal here is especially endearing. A hilarious little gem which is both bright and funny, Vivacious Lady is entertaining from start to finish, a classic romantic comedy in every sense of the word.
Directed by — George Stevens
Produced by — George Stevens
Written by — P. J. Wolfson & Ernest Pagano, I.A.R. Wylie (story by)
Starring — Ginger Rogers, James Stewart, Charles Coburn, Hattie McDaniel
Music by — Roy Webb