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Whatever You Do - Don't Disgrace the School!
movingpicturegal23 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Melodramatic film that basically tells the story of a girl who gets out from under the thumb of her wealthy, thoughtless, overbearing yet absent mama (Billie Burke) and under the influence of her new chums at Crockett Hall, an exclusive finishing school for young ladies ("the choice of first families for fifty years"). Virginia Radcliff (played by Frances Dee) is a gentle and sweet young lady who wants to follow, with all her heart, the set of rules put before her on her first day of school - no smoking, no drinking, no locked doors - and NO lipstick. Her wisecracking roommate, Cecilia (Ginger Rogers) aka "Pony" (she's just goofy about horses) thinks the "prissy" rules are just there to please the parents - and soon a couple of other gals are brawling on the floor of their room over a bottle of liquor! When Pony gets the girls out for a "weekend party" at a hotel by tricking the headmistress into thinking they are being escorted by her "aunt" (seedy actress who gets paid 5 bucks for the job) our good girl goes bad - she decides to get herself "tight" for the first time and they are soon boozing it up with a couple of shady fellows. But when Virginia can't handle her drink (or her creepy date) - the good-looking hotel waiter comes to her rescue, she's smitten, and is soon sneaking out of the school to see this guy. But trouble soon brews when our girl gets herself into another sort of "trouble" after her fellow meets her at the school's boat house - Virginia is soon butting heads with the snooty school headmistress who is mainly worried about the school's reputation.

I found this to be an enjoyable, interesting film that starts out pretty light, but the story becomes much more serious towards the end. The trouble - pregnancy, is never mentioned being this was released in 1934 - they do everything but say the word to imply what is going on here though. The film features lots of top-notch performances that help keep the action rolling along - Frances Dee is excellent as the innocent good girl, Ginger Rogers is really fun to watch (as usual), and Billie Burke is in this film all too briefly, playing the sort of scatterbrained character that is typical for her. The school itself is actually introduced as a character known as "The Snob". And watch for a young Anne Shirley (aka Dawn O'Day) as a younger schoolmate, an innocent the older girls consider a pest - especially amusing is her scene where she asks Pony to borrow her brassiere. Quite a good film.
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watchable but perhaps over-earnest film about personal freedom and institutional hypocrisy
Fogo2 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
A posh school that makes a big show of its moral codes, and party girl students like Ginger Rogers: there's a genre expectation here of a comedy pitting those two elements against each other - plucky students, goody two shoes students, stuffy teachers, cheeky classroom answers, flashlights under blankets, dormitory windows with trellises or trees to facilitate sneaking in/out. This isn't what the film is, although it plays with those expectations.

For a start, it turns out that the institution and the party girls get on fine with each other. Rogers' character sees through the institution's preaching as a front for the "genteel racketeering" of extracting exorbitant fees from rich parents, and she understands that the school doesn't care what she does (or what sort of risks she runs) as long as she's sneaky about it and keeps up appearances.

This comfortable arrangement is disturbed by Frances Dee, whose moral code the other characters find hard to categorise because it doesn't seem to forbid any particular behaviour or make a big thing about how moral it is - instead it's something along the lines of being true to oneself and living up to one's commitments.

Both the institution and the party girls mistake her initially for a goody-two-shoes, so the institution approves and the party girls like Rogers disapprove. As the film develops, Rogers recognises that Dee's moral code is something to be admired and relied on, and Dee breaks the false dichotomy between a party girl and a goody two shoes by being curious, open minded, and willing to try anything once, but defining her own boundaries and being assertive about maintaining them. This independence soon enough confuses and confounds the school authorities, who crack down aggressively and vindictively on her attempts to find her own happiness.

The best thing about the film is Frances Dee, who projects a sense of poise, patience, and decorum that's appropriate to the role (then again, some of the impression of poise and patience is probably accounted for by the fact that she's a timeless beauty who one doesn't feel in any hurry to look away from). The earnestness of her character can be tiring to watch - she's a serious, thoughtful young lady who meets a serious, thoughtful young man, and they have a serious, thoughtful relationship. Perhaps more could have been made of Rogers' character for cheekiness and dancing and comic relief, but that may say more about my own expectations for the film. My surprise at the twist the film took can probably also be attributed to my own expectations of the film and the character - thinking about it in retrospect, it's almost true by definition that serious, thoughtful people who follow their own moral codes are likely to do things that defy one's expectations - it's known as freedom.

Because everyone is rich, it's harder to symphatise with their troubles (one wonders what Depression audiences made of being expected to feel sorry for the poor lonely girl who gets a $1000 cheque and a $2500 mink coat for Christmas instead of the company of her vacuous parents), and it requires suspension of disbelief not to expect that whatever trouble they get into, they'll be gotten out of it.

Some of the commenters mention some ambiguity in the way the film gets a certain subject past the censors, but it's clear that the filmmakers didn't intend any ambiguity and that an adult audience of the time, familiar with the conventions, wouldn't have had any hesitations or doubts in understanding what was going on.

It would be over the top to characterise the film as making any grand statements, but its observations about institutional codes and "genteel racketeering" are quite accurate and apply to more than fictional finishing schools - in a scene that hasn't dated at all, Dee's character is brusquely dismissed from a posh soiree for failing to pretend not to notice that the person she is being introduced to is a family member of a white collar criminal.
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Worth a Closer Look
dougdoepke30 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
No need to repeat the plot. The year is 1934 and class issues have bubbled to the surface thanks to the Great Depression. The movie itself is not especially riveting, but does provide some interesting insights that I suspect are still relevant. The girls' school amounts to a confining etiquette center where upper-class girls learn the little social markers that will separate them from commoners. In short, the school consolidates ("finishes") the girls' elite status by teaching the rules that define their class and how the girls should behave within them. Above all, one unspoken lesson is that those untutored in the rules, namely common people, now stand as social (economic) inferiors. (Consider how the help is treated.) At the same time, the school presents itself almost like a prison—after all, among these girls, a good reputation upon marriage is crucial, implying among other desirable traits the absence of a rebellious streak.

But, of course, as the movie shows, sex is the great equalizer. Animal spirits have a way of breaking down even the most rigid artificial barriers. Pony (Rogers) and her friends typify this biological reality; at the same time, the screenplay comes up with an unexpected twist—at bottom, the school lets the girls get away with these unchaperoned weekends so long as the school's reputation remains unaffected. In short, the school cares more about the business end than it does its stated mission. I suspect this cynical angle comes from a real life experience of one of the writers.

In terms of the story, Virginia's (Dee) character is very well conceived. At the movie's outset, a rather uncaring Mom (Burke) abandons Virginia to the school's care. Right away we see that Virginia is a dutiful girl wanting to do the right thing and we're sympathetic. She's ready to obey the received rules, but, more importantly, she also has an instinctual sense of right and wrong as when she defies the rules by tearing up the incriminating note, thereby winning respect from the other girls. It's that depth of character taking shape that forms the movie's core.

One key event is being accepted by Pony, which amounts to a liberating experience for Virginia. She can now act out some of her suppressed desires, such as getting "tight". But as the school knows, and Virginia discovers, acting out one suppressed desire can snowball. Thus, it's doubtful she would have made the pivotal decision to accompany her social inferior Ralph (Cabot) without Pony's influence and willingness to act instinctively. But, most importantly is how Virginia actually responds to Ralph. In another key scene, she responds to him as a person instead of as a stereotyped commoner as the school teaches. Thus she overcomes one of the school's central and most far-reaching rules. As her relationship with Ralph deepens, the tension between the rules of her elite class and her instincts becomes greater, until the final break when she leaves the school to marry Ralph. By that act, she finally breaks free of the class rules that would otherwise define her, and at the same time, becomes for the first time, her own person. At bottom, the film is about overcoming artificial barriers to discovering one's own freedom. In this case, Virginia must overcome the constraints of her class-bound background.

I expect the movie resonated with audiences then, and still does. One point raised in the subtext is the clash between two foundational principles of American society, namely the occasional clash between capitalism and democracy. Capitalism works to create a class of wealthy asset owners, whose wealth confers privileges not shared by the non-wealthy. That class difference can harden into rivalry when those privileges become discriminatory and are passed onto fresh generations through institutions like finishing schools. If Virginia so chose, she could remain within the confines (rules) of her class and lead a comfortable life. But she doesn't. Instead, she responds to Ralph in democratic fashion, as an equal, along with all that implies. In effect, she thus chooses a democratic ideal over a consequence of capitalism, in a manner I'm sure audiences of the 30's found agreeable, and still do.

The movie itself makes two key compromises that soften the implications. First, Ralph is made a doctor and not merely a waiter. Thus, Virginia marries a professional man and not a menial, which makes the union more socially acceptable. At the same time, however, it weakens the democratic challenge. A more challenging screenplay would not, I believe, make that key concession. The second compromise portrays Virginia's father (Halliday) as a somewhat implausible free spirit. Thus, the man representing capitalist privilege is presented as belonging in some fashion to the democratic camp and not to his wife's or Mrs. Alstyne's elitist faction. This concession fuzzes the line between the two conflicting ideals. More importantly for Virginia, it suggests she will not be banished from the family for marrying outside her class. This allows for a more complete happy ending through the possibility of reconciliation down the line. Nonetheless, the school with all its societal implications remains intact.

The movie itself is not as interesting as the subtext. Despite good work by the cast principals, the direction remains flat and uninspired—perhaps the result of having two directors instead of one. Plus, the effort at not being explicit about Virginia's pregnancy is awkward, to say the least. Nonetheless, no movie that defies censorship by addressing a common human problem can be without merit. The movie may be obscure, but its themes endure.
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Iron Fists and Velvet Gloves at Crockett Hall
Greenster26 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Think about it: a Frances Dee, Ginger Rogers, Billie Burke, Beulah Bondi, Anne Shirley, Jane Darwell, Bruce Cabot film banned by the Catholic Church in 1934 over a theme treated as considerably tame within a matter of decades.

Finishing School (RKO-Radio 1934), produced in January and February of that year, opens with a frame of an application accepting Virginia Radcliff (Frances Dee) to Crockett Hall Finishing School, this dated September, 1933.

For some reason, Mrs. Helen Crawford Radcliff (Billie Burke) neglected to send away her now-young-adult daughter to her alma mater until she decides to embark upon travels with Mr. Frank S. Radcliff (John Halliday), who appears rarely here, while being granted no say in disobeying his scatterbrained society matron, a quintessential of Miss Burke's film career.

Upon her arrival at snobbish Crockett Hall (This institution is thusly billed as a character reminiscent of the Hawthornian Gothic novel), Virginia complaisantly agrees to heed the do's and don't outlined by stern and proper Miss Van Alstyne (Beulah Bondi, made up to appear elder than her current age and less sympathetic than her typical characters although Miss Bondi conveys a degree of likability in developing her character here).

When Virginia is introduced to her new roommate, Cecilia "Pony" Ferris (Ginger Rogers), Virginia expresses surprise that Cecilia, along with the "in-crowd," Ruth Wallace (Marjorie Lytell) and Madeleine Kelly (Adalyn Doyle) not only know the ropes, but pull them at every possible turn.

Young Billie (Anne Shirley, billed as Dawn O'Day) cries to fit in with this "mature" set, but remains largely overlooked (but accepted as a pal to Cecilia--a role which Miss Rogers fans come to admire).

Cecilia sticks up for Virginia, who--to the dismay of Ruth and Madeleine--breaks the bottle of liquor which she had smuggled into Crockett Hall with the notion to conform to Miss Van Alstyne's edict.

But after Virginia accompanies Cecilia and her "Aunt Jessica" (Irene Franklin) upon an outing to the city, the tables turn upon her desires to choose "right" over "wrong."

As she attempts to escape the clutches of a forcible escort, a hotel night busboy, Ralph McFarland (Bruce Cabot), rises to the occasion of returning Virginia unto Crockett Hall, at which point both she and Ralph tread into steaming puddles back at the Finishing School campus, for doing what the viewer realizes is perfectly acceptable conduct.

Dr. Ralph McFarland, an intern at a city hospital, exchanges barbs with Nurse Maude (Jane Darwell) and a milkman in this script resplendent with fast-paced wisecracking (also a hallmark of Ginger's character here) throughout much of this film, which efficiently segues into a subliminal study of Miss Dee's character, whose very mind proves a battlefield between right and wrong in near "Capraesque" fashion.

P.S. In a dormitory scene, Ginger also performs a song which she has reportedly composed: "Never Hit Your Grandma with a Shovel."
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Frances Dee Had What It Takes!!!
kidboots1 May 2011
Warning: Spoilers
If Frances Dee hadn't been so beautiful and opted for marriage with Joel McCrea, her talent would have carried her far (in my opinion). At the end of "Finishing School" she has a scene where she is contemplating suicide and it is very reminiscent of her work in "The Silver Cord" (1933). "Finishing School" was just one of several features made around this time, in imitation of the arty German feature "Madchen in Uniform" (1931).

Frances plays Virginia Ratcliff, who is enrolled at Crocket Hall, an exclusive finishing school only for girls with families of breeding and inheritance. Of course she finds life at the school a "double standard", as room-mate Pony (Ginger Rogers) gives her the low down - anything goes but "don't get caught". When Virginia is invited by Pony to a "chaperoned" party and finds it anything but, she is rescued from the drunken embraces of a fresh footballer by Mac (Bruce Cabot), a waiter who is working his way through medical school.

Frances Dee reminds one that she could have been a very fine actress. She has several dramatic scenes when she finds herself in the "usual" sticky situation. Bruce Cabot is fine as Mac and surprise! surprise! he doesn't play a jerk but a genuine ah shucks!! kind of guy. Beulah Bondi plays the matron in her usual acidic manner. John Halliday had a thankless role as Virginia's exasperated father. Ginger Roger plays peppy Pony but unlike Dawn O'Day (Ann Shirley) who played Billie, both she and Dee were beyond the proper age to be believable as young debs.

An interesting story about Anne Shirley. She was just about to get her big break in "Anne of Green Gables" but before that happened she had to put up with the indignity of her part in "Finishing School". Anne had been in films since she was a baby and ten years later had still not received that "special" part that would push her out of the supporting ranks. Her pushy mother was convinced a role in "Finishing School" was the film to do it. She was given the role of Billie but as always seemed to happen to her, RKO changed it's mind and offered the part to Mitzi Green. So, once again, Anne, a ten year film veteran was shunted aside and given an extra's part while a less experienced player was given her role.... ...but a week later Green left the film, her father didn't think the role was big enough for his daughter (and it wasn't that big) and Anne was re-instated. George Nicholls Jnr, was assistant director and the next movie he was assigned was "Anne of Green Gables". He remembered Anne's work on "Finishing School" and was sure she would be perfect for the role of the red haired orphan - and she was.

Highly Recommended.
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not terribly enjoyable
blanche-222 April 2007
A great cast can't help this dated look at "Finishing School," from 1934. I decided to watch it based on the presence of Frances Dee and Ginger Rogers, both of whom are always delightful. They are here, too.

Francis Dee plays a young woman, Virginia, who is sent to finishing school at the behest of her shallow mother (Billie Burke). She is turned over to the head of the school (Beulah Bondi) and given a set of rules. When she meets her roommate (Rogers) and her roommate's wild crowd, she discovers that the only one paying attention to rules is her. She agrees to go away for a weekend with Rogers, friends, and Rogers' aunt (an actress playing a role). Then it's a wild time in the city, especially when Virginia meets Dr. Ralph McFarland, who works as a waiter (read: unacceptable job) while doing his internship. They fall in love, but the upper crust at the school, only interested in appearances, attempt to break them up. Alas, it's a little too late for that. And you really have to be sharp to figure out why! I'd like to think this sort of thing has gone out of style, but I have a nagging feeling that it hasn't. Can there really still be places that teach one the difference between a tea and a reception, and how many calling cards to leave when people are not at home? Well, they still do have débutante balls, so maybe there are - but let's face it, "coming out" parties have a new meaning today. We do know that there is still a lot of shallowness in the world, so perhaps "Finishing School" isn't so dated after all.

Bruce Cabot is enjoyable and good-looking as Virginia's suitor, and there is a nice performance from Anne Shirley, who wants to fit in with the older set. Rogers stands out as usual in her supporting role and keeps the pace going. Dee was so pretty and natural, it's a shame she left movies, but hey, I would have done that - and more - for Joel McCrea.

Interesting for the cast and as a look at an upper class woman's responsibilities back in the '30s.
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Don't hit your grandma with a shovel...
vert00128 February 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Sound familial advice, indeed, but what I find most interesting about FINISHING SCHOOL is the contrasting character study it gives us between roommates Virginia (Frances Dee) and Pony (Ginger Rogers). Though quickly establishing a close friendship, they possess almost polar opposite personalities. Virginia is extremely high strung, as can be seen almost immediately. She spasmodically breaks a liqueur bottle to avoid breaking school rules even at the price of alienating her new schoolmates. When her boyfriend Mac (Bruce Cabot) is rudely turned away from a Sunday Tea at Crockett Hall, Vergie explodes rather unfairly at a young man to whom she's introduced at the social function. Later at her Christmas rendezvous with Mac, she tearfully asks him, no, she begs him to reassure her that she's really a "good" girl no matter what her teachers (Beulah Bondi) say. And at the end, her predicament drives Virginia to the verge of suicide. She's a girl who takes things very seriously, often too seriously for her own good.

Her friend Pony, on the other hand, shows a devil-may-care attitude towards anything she encounters. School rules to her are not only made to be broken, this is actually the expected behavior from the girls. During their wild weekend in New York, Pony confidently tells her friend to "make the rules" and the football player will listen to them. It's no doubt true of Pony herself, but her innocent friend is completely at sea as to how to handle this aggressive young man (btw, exactly what has happened to Pony when Virginia is molested by the guy?). Much the same happens at the end when Virginia becomes frantic and hysterical at not hearing from Mac for a week while Pony immediately does the obvious and sensible thing by calling Mac on the telephone to explain to him the situation. It's not that Virginia isn't bright enough, it's that she's the kind to let her feelings overwhelm her, something that Pony would never do.

Spoiler alert: I was rather embarrassed my first viewing of this film when I didn't figure out that Virginia was pregnant until she refused to be examined by the doctor (or was she just a nurse?). I understood that she'd slept with Mac in the boathouse that night, but I was thinking that Virginia's rising hysteria was just an overreaction to his apparently dumping her afterwards. Reading a few reviews of the movie told me that quite a few people never do pick up on the fact that she was pregnant. I still feel foolish, but perhaps a touch less so.

It's a little strange to see Bruce Cabot in such a sympathetic role. He does well with it, though the character itself might be described as a bit too good to be true. Ginger Rogers is perfect as the sassy, somewhat rebellious schoolgirl, and is aided by having most of the best lines (though Billie Burke as Virginia's mother gets a few zingers as well), but the movie belongs to Frances Dee, who gives an exceptionally sensitive performance as an emotionally vulnerable adolescent going about the business of growing up. It's an interesting film from near the end of the Pre-Code era.
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Just Another Teen Movie
Maliejandra Kay25 June 2007
Helen Radcliff (Billie Burke) wants her daughter to attend the same finishing school that she did when she was young, so Virginia (Frances Dee) packs her bags and enters a new life of refinement. Miss Van Alstyne (Beulah Bondi) is a no-nonsense kind of a woman who briefs Virginia on the rules of the school and warns her not to step outside of the lines. Virginia agrees, but she never reckoned on having Cecilia (Ginger Rogers) for a room mate. Cecilia makes it impossible not to break the rules, and Virginia takes the heat for it. It doesn't help that Virginia falls for a poor medical school student (Bruce Cabot).

This film starts out strong and ends strong, but the middle leaves a little to be desired. However, this is pure entertainment and escapism, just like the teen movies of modern times. There isn't a whole lot that is shocking about this film except the ending which is the reason why the film was condemned by the Catholic Church. By today's standards, it is nothing, and the twist is so ambiguous that a trained pre-code fan might be the only one that understands it.
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"If you took all the hair off of their combined chests, you wouldn't have enough to make a wig for a grape."
utgard1417 July 2014
Frances Dee plays a new student at a private girls school who gets into trouble with snooty headmistress Beulah Bondi for dating intern and part-time waiter Bruce Cabot. Dee's beautiful and likable. Cabot's his usual wooden self but he cracks a smile a few times. Ginger Rogers gets the best lines and steals every scene she's in. Anne Shirley's fun as a younger girl who, in one amusing scene, asks Ginger if she can borrow a bra. Interesting little drama that gets better as it goes along. I didn't expect the pregnancy angle, given that this is 1934. Granted it's tame by today's standards but, still, for the time it was pretty risqué.
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Francis Dee Shines In A Drama With Something To Say
atlasmb19 July 2014
The first indication that "Finishing School" is worth watching is that the Catholic church placed the film on its condemned list for 1934. But it has so much more than that to recommend it.

The star of the film is Francis Dee, who plays Virginia Radcliff, the teenage daughter of rich parents who send her off to get educated in the finer aspects of life. The mother--played by Billie Burke--seems to have little use for the daughter and is quite happy to "drop her on the doorstep" and retire to her social agenda.

Crockett Hall is an exclusive girls school where exclusivity implies a lack of racial diversity and an emphasis on blueblood backgrounds. At first the school seems like a backdrop for a film comedy about coming of age and the harmless hijinks of young women. But Virginia soon learns that Crockett is little more than a prison where the ridiculous rules of etiquette are but a small part of the personality engineering to which the girls are subjected.

Virginia forges quality relationships with a small clique, including "Pony" Ferris, played by Ginger Rogers. Being a fan of Ms. Rogers, I was pleased to find that by this time in her career she is a fully-formed, competent actress.

As the harsh headmistress, Miss Van Alstyne (played by Beulah Bondi), cracks down on the indiscretions of Virginia--especially the indiscretion of being "too different"--and we find that this teen comedy has morphed into a significant drama. Francis Dee is more than up to the challenge with her convincing portrayal of a woman who is fighting for her sanity and her life. Indeed, she raises Virginia to the level of heroine.

"Finishing School" is a stylish film with great acting. It deals with sophisticated issues and gives the viewer an emotional journey.
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Putting Out A Finished Product...
xerses137 January 2010
As one of the 'BIG FIVE' RKO had to have a constant stream of pictures to meet the demands of their theaters. Typically output was about fifty-plus (50+) features a year and with the Great Depression budgets had to be kept tight. You cannot afford many KING KONG's each year so Executive Producer Merian C. Cooper kept most budgets to $100,000.00 or less. This kept the studio profitable and the staff busy and employed.

FINISHING SCHOOL (1934) is filled with the current stock company of RKO. The story is of a idealistic and naive young women VIRGINIA RADCLIFF (Frances Dee) who goes to her Mother's (Billie Burke) 'Finishing School' and has her eyes opened up. The students led by CECELIA 'Pony' FERRIS (Ginger Rogers) spend most of their time dodging the rules. Principal MISS VAN ALYSTYNE (Beulah Bondi) and teachers like MISS FISHER (Sara Haden) are mainly interested in the appearances of propriety not the substance. Fortunetly VIRGINIA becomes aware of the hypocrisy and with the love of RALPH McFARLAND (Bruce Cabot) and the support of her Father MR. RADCLIFF (John Halliday) breaks free from the School and it's influences. One of those left behind is BILLIE (Dawn O'Day) who four (4) films later will become ANNE SHIRLEY!

Least you think institutions like FINISHING SCHOOL no longer exist, guess again. Just GOOGLE and you will find extensive listing of such schools. Though judging from their 21st Century curriculum's they appear have more substance then just how to serve Tea.
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big names in pre-code film
ksf-223 May 2017
Certainly some big names in this dated film from 1934. Pretty early-on in Ginger Rogers' film career... as well as Frances Dee's. Of course, the biggest name here is really Billie Burke, who not only married Ziegfeld of "Ziegfeld Follies"... but was also Glinda the Good Witch in Gone With the Wind! Here, Burke plays "The Mother" who sends her daughter Virginia (Dee) off to finishing school. Virginia rooms with "Pony" (Rogers), who shows her the ropes. Of course they get into all kinds of mis-haps, but poor Virginia keeps getting caught, and is pretty much ignored by her parents, who are too busy jet-setting with the other rich folk. It's rather dry, bland, and a dated story of the 1930s, showing how the rich folks lived prior to the market crash. Pretty far from anyone's experience today. Virginia meets local med student "Mac", who she hopes will take her away from her tortured life. It's all well done, but such a simple, out-dated story doesn't really hold up with today's world and moral standards. Lots of implied things going on, and we can tell why the film was put on the "condemned films" to avoid by the churches at the time. Made JUST prior to when the film code began to be enforced, and these subjects would be completely avoided. Kind of seems like it got much more serious and deep in the last 20 minutes of the film; up to then, it was all set-up. Originally a play by Katherine Clugston. Good to see Ginger Rogers and Billie Burke, years before their bigger roles.
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Another old-fashioned look at debutantes in the '30s...
Neil Doyle19 September 2007
FINISHING SCHOOL starts with a whimper: FRANCES DEE enters the same finishing school her mother (BILLIE BURKE) attended, a school burdened by rules that most of the girls never follow--including Dee's new roommate, GINGER ROGERS. And it doesn't end with a bang.

BEULAH BONDI is the prissy lady who tells Dee about all the rules. ANNE SHIRLEY is a naive girl who wants to be part of the gang but is rebuffed by Ginger's set.

The dialog is not exactly crackling with gems. "One step lower and I'll be in the movies," says one old gal who deceives the school mistress by playing the good aunt taking the girls to a matinée instead of a wild week-end rendezvous with men. When Dee passes out on her wild weekend, it's BRUCE CABOT, a waiter at the hotel, to her rescue. He pays a passing milkman 12 cents for a quart of milk so Dee can have some breakfast. Oh, the good old days!! Even with some good names in the supporting cast, it never manages to be more than an innocuous treatment of an innocuous theme. Dee is pretty but her acting, as usual, is pretty forgettable. Bruce Cabot does well enough in one of his few likable roles as a young man studying to be an intern while waiting tables on the side. As for Ginger Rogers, at least she adds a little spice as Dee's friend.

Watchable but underwhelming as a feature that probably played the lower half of double bills in the '30s.
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"Virginia's Gonna get Fried!"
LeonLouisRicci26 July 2014
This was Made just a Heartbeat away from the Full Implementation of the Hays Code and it Confronts a Virginal, Pre-Marital Reproductive Concern that would be Totally Absent in just a Year and would be Virtually Gone from Cinema for Decades.

The Third Act is Unimpeded by the Code and Francis Dee's "Situation" is a Result of Her Affair with Bruce Cabot . But that is Only One Facet of the Depression Era Societal Philosophies in this Dram-Com. The Income Inequality and Pompous Personalities of the Ruling Class Elite is Central to this Fine Film.

Ginger Rogers Peppy Character Pony (wanna go for a ride?) is a Welcome Upbeat Relief from the Drama as the Movie is Brutal in its Display of Parental Disconnect and the Regimental and Stifling "Finishing" of Upper Crust Debutaunts. Their Hypocrisy and Hubris are Picked Apart and Pounced Upon in this Scathing Dismantling of the Heartless 1%.
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Pretty silly stuff, but watchable silly stuff
MartinHafer22 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Twenty-five year-old Frances Dee is dropped off at a girls finishing school. All the young ladies are supposed to be about 18 to 20, but like Dee, many look far older. Dee is a nice girl, though she is placed in a room with trampy Ginger Rogers. Despite initially resisting temptation, she succumbs very quickly to Rogers' urging to be a party girl. While on her first and only binge in the big city, Dee happens upon nice-guy, Bruce Cabot. They instantly fall in love and Cabot escorts Dee back to college. However, the dried up old prune who runs the place (Beulah Bondi) decides Cabot is EVIL and forbids Dee to see him again. When Cabot writes her, Bondi intercepts the letters and destroys them! Additionally, all passes are canceled for Dee--even though so far she really hasn't been all that bad.

As a result of virtually being held prisoner, Dee is lonely. And, to top it off, is one of the only girls who is stuck in the school through Christmas--though she is able to sneak away for a tryst with Cabot. How far they go is strongly implied but never directly alluded to--though the intimation is that they did "the nasty". It also seems like MAYBE she was pregnant, but the makers of this film were so deliberately vague in their details that it's all very confusing. In the end, Cabot arrives in the nick of time to sweep Dee off her feet and leave this prudish girls school.

All in all, this film had a lot of silly acting and ridiculous characters. In particular, Bondi was rather tough to believe with her one-woman anti-sex campaign she waged ONLY against Dee. This film is pretty silly and only worth seeing as an example of a sleazy film that is vague and confusing due to its desire to appeal to a very adult crowd AND be acceptable to the censors. It failed pretty miserably on both counts and was banned by the Catholic Legion of Decency.
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