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Ginger Rogers’ Exhibit Honors the Life and Work of a Star
She helped invent the modern film. She redefined 20th century womanhood. She was a triple threat with legs for days. She even owned a ranch. At this past Monday, October 24’s opening of the “Ginger Rogers: A Retrospective of her Life and Work” exhibition at Mugar Library, presented by the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, testaments to the versatility, beauty and talent of Ginger Rogers literally surrounded viewers. The event began with words from the evening’s speakers—Emmy, Oscar and Golden Globe-winning actress Angela Lansbury and journalist-turned-film historian Nick Clooney.
Beginning the opening remarks at a little after six o’clock, Clooney addressed the question on every young lady’s mind: yes, he is George’s father. After chiding about his accomplishments being outshined by his spawn, Nick prepared the crowd for the words of Angela Lansbury, who helped amass the collection of artifacts.
When Lansbury took to the podium, she beamed with pride at the diverse crowd gathered in honor of Ginger. “I see people of all ages,” she smiled. She said she was surprised to see the number of young people in the audience and was thrilled to see that Ginger’s work continues to touch the younger generation. Lansbury said that Ginger, “made the single most important impression” on her life as a young child. She chronicled Ginger’s life from her modest Kansan upbringing, to her vaudeville premiere at fourteen, to her career partnership with Fred Astaire. Lansbury shared some little known facts about the star. Ginger was a lifelong Christian scientist who never touched alcohol to her lips and was a dedicated Republican. In her personal life, Ginger Rogers married and divorced five times. Although she never had a single child, one could argue Ginger’s career was her child. She appeared in 73 movies and 20 stage performances. Ginger earned herself a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a Kennedy Center Lifetime Achievement Award. She passed away April 25, 1995 at the age of 84.
The exhibit itself is a marvel. It is located in the Richards-Frost room directly to the left upon entering Mugar Library and features an array of artifacts from Ginger’s personal and professional lives. The perimeter of the room features glass displays centered on various movie posters. There are notes and correspondences between Rogers and her mother and friends. There’s even a pair of roller skates worn by Ginger during a March 1937 skating party she hosted and a personal tennis racket. Beaming and bright in a case of its own stands Ginger’s Academy Award for her performance in “Kitty Foyle.”
The opening of this exhibition took place on what would have been the 85th birthday of the founder of the Archival Research Center, Howard Gotlieb. His intent was to establish exhibitions reflecting the life and industries of various notable people. Gotlieb would surely have been proud to celebrate his birthday with the opening of such a vast and beautiful collection commemorating the life of a truly distinguished individual.
The “Ginger Rogers: A Retrospective of Her Life and Work” exhibition is located in the Richards-Frost Room on the first floor of Mugar Library. It can be viewed from Monday to Friday between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
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