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Vivacious Lady (1938) - Plot Summary Poster

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Summaries

  • A professor marries a nightclub singer, much to the consternation of his family and friends back home.

  • On a quick trip to the city, young university professor Peter Morgan falls in love with nightclub performer Francey Brent and marries her after a whirlwind romance. But when he goes back home, he can't bring himself to tell his conservative, ultra-respected family about it.

  • Assistant biology professor Peter Morgan falls in love with and marries nightclub singer Francey while he is in New York to fetch his wayward cousin home. On returning to the small town university run by his dictatorial and conservative father his courage fails him when he has to announce things. Some of the activities of his new bride do not make it any easier.


Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • Peter Morgan (James Stewart), a professor at Old Sharon University, was sent to New York to bring black sheep cousin Keith Morgan (James Ellison) home. When he finally found Keith, he also found Francey Brent (Ginger Rogers), a show girl performing in the club where Keith had became a regular.

    It was love at first sight for Peter and Francey. After spending a night touring New York, they were married and headed back to Old Sharon and Peters conservative scholar family.

    Raised to be submissive to an authoritarian father and sickly mother, Peter decided to have Francey stay with Keith while he tried to figure out the best way to announce his marriage. Peter planned to formally introduce Francey to the family and now ex-fiance Helen (Frances Mercer) at the university prom, but before Peter spoke with his parents, a cat fight broke out between Francey and Helen. Francey had to leave the party early but she did meet Peters mother Martha (Beulah Bondi), and sensed that her mother-in-law has a side that is hidden from her husband.

    Keith arranged for Francey to enroll as a student so the couple could spend more time together. After numerous frustrating attempts to be together, Peter finally broke the news to his father. Still unable stand up to his father, he agreed to keep his mother in the dark for the time being.

    Meanwhile, Francey had left such a good impression with Martha that she went to visit her. Francey thought Peter had finally told his mother the truth but gave Martha a real shock. Martha returned the favor by letting out her secret, that she doesnt have heart disease, she just pretended to be unwell whenever she didnt want to hear her husband bellow and preach.

    At this time Keith arrived to pick up Francey, and upon knowing that all secrets are out, the three had a little celebration by teaching Martha the most popular new dance in New York.

    Disapproving and determined to end his sons indiscretion, Peter Morgan Sr. (Charles Coburn) decided to handle Francey - and found his prim and proper wife twisting her hips and kicking up her legs. Convinced that Francey is a vile influence, he told Francey that if she does not divorce his son, he will fire Peter.

    Knowing that he was unable to stop Francey, Keith went to the university and told Peter Jr. what happened. Furious with the liberty his father had taken, Peter purposely became inebriated before teaching a class attended by inspectors, told his father off, and resigned.

    Finding himself abandoned by both his wife and son, Peter Sr. finally came around. The father and son rushed to the station but the train had already left.

    Inside her compartment, Francey was about to sit down and cry her heart out when she realized that Martha is in the next compartment. As the mother and daughter-in-law tried to cheer each other up, the train came to a sudden stop.

    Peter Morgan Sr. and Peter Morgan Jr. had parked their car in front of the railway track to stop the train. Peter Sr. put away his pride and high morals to win back his wife, and Mr. and Mrs. Peter Morgan Jr. were finally able to start their honeymoon.

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