Primrose Path (film)

Primrose Path is a 1940 film about a young woman determined not to follow the profession of her mother and grandmother, prostitution. It stars Ginger Rogers and Joel McCrea. The film was based on the play of the same name by Robert L. Buckner and Walter Hart and the novel February Hill by Victoria Lincoln (uncredited for legal reasons).[2]

Primrose Path
Directed byGregory La Cava
Produced byGregory La Cava
Written byFebruary Hill 1934 novel by Victoria Lincoln
Gregory La Cava
Allan Scott
Based onPrimrose Path
by Robert H. Buckner
Walter Hart
StarringGinger Rogers
Joel McCrea
Music byWerner R. Heymann
CinematographyJoseph H. August
Edited byWilliam Hamilton
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • March 22, 1940 (1940-03-22)
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,200,000[1]

Marjorie Rambeau was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.


Tomboy Ellie May Adams (Ginger Rogers) keeps her virtue despite her difficult circumstances. Her alcoholic, Greek scholar father Homer (Miles Mander) is unemployable, leaving her loving mother Mamie (Marjorie Rambeau) to support the family by going out with men. Her ex-prostitute grandmother (Queenie Vassar) sees nothing wrong with their shared profession.

One day, Ellie May warily accepts a ride to the beach from Gramp (Henry Travers). Gramp runs a beachside restaurant and gas station along with wisecracking Ed Wallace (Joel McCrea). Ellie May falls in love with Ed and eventually, after lying to him about being thrown out by her family over him, gets him to marry her. She becomes an industrious, well-liked waitress in the restaurant.

However, she makes a grave mistake when she finally agrees to take Ed to meet the rest of her family. When her lies about her relations are revealed, Ed leaves her. To add to her woes, her father accidentally shoots her mother during one of his drunken, half-hearted attempts at suicide. Before she dies, Mamie gets Ellie May to promise to take care of the family.

When Ellie May cannot find work, in desperation, she finally takes up the family profession. Thelma (Vivienne Osborne), Mamie's friend and co-worker, arranges for Ellie May to accompany her, her current boyfriend, and "Mr. Smith" (an uncredited Charles Lane) on a car trip to San Francisco. On the way, Ellie May gets them to stop at Ed's favorite nightclub, where she bitterly pretends to be what her husband thinks she is. However, after a private talk with a sympathetic Mr. Smith, Ed figures out the truth and takes Ellie May back. He also accepts the burden of her family.



The film made a profit of $110,000.[1]


  1. Richard Jewel, 'RKO Film Grosses: 1931-1951', Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television, Vol 14 No 1, 1994 p56
  2. Hal Erickson. "Primrose Path Plot Synopsis". Allmovie. Retrieved 2008-06-04.
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