Add a Review

  • Just finished "The First Traveling Saleslady" and I want to thank this site for a much more complete synopsis of the movie. I first clicked on Movie Tome and it didn't even list Ginger Rogers nor Carol Channing in the cast!! Watched it with my father (83) and my wife. We all found it to be a nice, enjoyable movie. Not as much singing as I expected with the two female leads and Ginger Roger's speaking voice was unusual (and I've seen a lot of movies with her from all those she did with Astaire as well as "The Major and the Minor"). Sounded like she was trying to do a match for Channing? Anyway, although you pretty much knew Barry Nelson would get here in the end making it rather predictable, it was cute, clean, and a lot of fun. I'd recommend it to anyone who's not overly critical and looking for relaxing, fun movie.
  • Mild comedy starring Ginger Rogers as a corset shop owner who goes broke and becomes a traveling saleslady in 1897 Texas. But because she owes money she ends up selling barbed wire. Very strange premise but a decent cast and a few good lines here and there save this one.

    Rogers' modeling assistant is none other than Carol Channing, in Hollywood after her smash success on Broadway in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. And she's not bad at all. Channing does a quickie song called A Corset Can Do a Lot for a Lady and she's hilarious, altering between her trademark Channing voice and some basso sounds that sound like Bea Arthur. Too bad the direction--as usual--cuts away from her to show the man behind the desk. Musicals always did this--cut away from the performer to show the audience.

    James Arness is the rancher. Barry Nelson is the car owner. David Brian is the steel man. Clint Eastwood is the cavalry man. Robert F. Simon is a henchman.

    What helps sink this is the overall cheap look and bad color. Rogers would star in 2 more films and then appear only sporadically. Channing would not appear in a film for another decade but would win an Oscar nomination for it--Thoroughly Modern Millie. And this is NOT Channing's film debut as is often stated. She had appeared in Paid in Full in 1950. But this was Eastwood's first screen kiss---with Carol Channing!
  • This film is an interesting time capsule. It was made in the late 1950s, and it shows some stars who are on their way up, and one who is on her way out. An unfair thing to say to Ginger Rogers, but this is not one of the films (like KITTY FOYLE, her movies with Fred Astaire, THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR, or ROXY HART) that people remember her for. Ginger would still be making films until 1965, her last one an Italian comedy with Ray Milland, but they were all lesser efforts - although she did deliver good performances.

    But three (no, make it four) of the stars actually were on their way up - or seemed to be. They are Clint Eastwood, Carol Channing, James Arness, and Barry Nelson. It was the sixth or seventh movie Eastwood had appeared in, and (I believe) the first one where he 1) had substantial dialog to give his film persona a real character, and 2) he was one of the male leads and was paired with the second female lead whom he romances, kisses, and marries. This is Ms Channing, playing "Molly", Rogers closest friend and partner in the saleslady business. Channing's character actually has better lines (at times) than Rogers did - funnier ones too. She is no budding feminist, but a rationalist (when she and Rogers are threatened for selling barbed wire in cattleman country, she suggests - reasonably - that they leave). It might strike a modern film lover as incongruous that Eastwood and Channing go off together at the end of this film, but in reality it's not so odd. Channing was always a greater Broadway star than Hollywood star (her best screen role would be in THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE, where she was Mary Tyler Moore's eccentric aunt who trounces Bea Lillie). She did not make more than a dozen or so films in her career. She is not more than five or six years older than Eastwood, and their pairing together is not so unlikely as it seems (the pairing of Nelson and Rogers is more unlikely). She too landed this role because her career (like Eastwood's) was on the rise - she just having won Broadway laurels in GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES as "Loralie Lee". Ironically, that performance was not captured by her on film, but Marilyn Monroe performed it. Also ironic is her pairing as Rogers' friend, as one of Channing's later hit performances was as Dolly Gallagher Levi in the original HELLO DOLLY, and she was replaced in it by Rogers.

    James Arness had been in films since the late 1940s, appearing in several John Ford films like WAGON MASTER, John Wayne films like ISLAND IN THE SKY as well as THEM and some other science fiction movies. But in 1956, the U.S. public was getting used to Arness in the television western hit GUNSMOKE (as Marshall Matt Dillon). That role of a lifetime (literally) made his name and career - he was on the way to super stardom. So his performance as Joel Kingdom, ostensibly the villain of the film, is balanced by his sense of humor and his interest in possibly marrying Rogers.

    The fourth figure was Barry Nelson. Nelson is an interesting person. He was a capable performer, and he did have one real good comic lead part in MARY, MARY. But while respected in the industry, Nelson never made it with the public. He was good looking but not striking (Arness has a more rugged handsome appearance, which stood him well in GUNSMOKE and other western roles).

    Upon some reconsideration one can add a fifth figure - David Brian. A good looking man, who always looked like he had just left a hefty Board Room conference with fellow company directors, he gave some excellent performances in his career as good guy (he ends up with Joan Crawford in FLAMINGO ROAD) or bad guy. But like Nelson, while he was always employable he never caught on with the public. Here, he too is interested in Rogers. He reluctantly agrees to her selling the barbed wire in Texas, but he does so because when she fails he plans to marry her. All this does in the end is lead to him and Arness having a fistfight, but both discovering that Nelson has outmaneuvered them with another sigh of progress - Nelson's horseless carriage.

    It is a sweet little film, but no more than that. My favorite moment comes in the hotel sequences. Rogers and Channing trick Arness into giving up his use of the PRINCE OF WALES suite in a cattle town hotel. They are looking forward, after dinner, to sleeping in this fancy room. They find a bald, bearded fat man snoring in the bed. It turns out it is Prince Albert Edward (the future King Edward VII) who has come to town after all, and has a running right to the use of the room.
  • One of the final RKO radio films produced in the last leap of faith in 1956. THE FIRST TRAVELING SALESLADY is a very enjoyable light comedy. What sets it apart from TV shows like PETTICOAT JUNCTION or films like OKLAHOMA both of which it strongly resembles is the A studio production values which allow the film to take on a lavish western look more akin to CALAMITY JANE. It is a jalopy western set in the horseless carriage days of 1899. Ginger Rogers was 43 and Carol Channing was 35 in production and given the mature age of both and the feminist slant of the story, it makes for a liberating tone for a film of the mid 50s. It is well worth looking at the last 20 films made at the RKO studio in this period by RKO TELERADIO PRODUCTIONS who revived the label after Howard Hughes trashed it. All 1955-58 RKO films are very well made, above the prior years of Hughes. TRAVELING SALESLADY is beautiful to see and has visuals cluttered with style and color. I thought it quite lavish in some scenes with overstuffed furniture and antiques that must have helped see unloved props get a final airing. In widescreen and technicolor it must have resembled GIGI or THE MERRY WIDOW. The most hilarious scenes to really really lap up involve a very young Clint Eastwood (25 years old) kissing Carol Channing! Fantastic! They elope together in the last reel! The railway station Ginger arrives at earlier at is the same as seen in OKLAHOMA, the last big musical distributed by RKO; Their very last film a minor but snazzy musical was THE GIRL MOST LIKELY also beautifully produced. Shame they gave up, but their films of the time, terrific as they were and modern in tone, just did not include respectable profits to continue. All other studios big and small had at least one blockbuster in this period, but alas RKO and Republic did not and folded.
  • In this day and age of R rated movies with blood and sex and violence, isn't it nice to have a little foolishness and fun in beautiful color. Enjoyed the costuming. Loved seeing Clint Eastwood in his youth. Loved seeing Carol Channing as well. James Arness before Gunsmoke was fun. It was just a fun movie for a rainy Sunday afternoon.The movies with Doris Day, Ginger Rogers, and others at the time brought relaxation and escape. Reality movies like we see today are too real. Our lives are real enough.To go back to a time that was relaxing, funny, and not real is a good break. Nothing wrong with reality movies, but movies like this are a chance to take a breath, smile and enjoy with the whole family.
  • jotix10028 November 2005
    This was Ginger Rogers last movie for the studio in which she was a star, RKO Radio. In fact, most of the interest in watching this weak attempt at comedy is the cast that was put together for the film. Director Arthur Lubin seems to have been directed by remote control and the screen play Devery Freeman and Stephen Longstreet supplied was not interesting. It's a mystery how this film was made, at all.

    Unfortunately, the film doesn't offer much to Ginger Rogers in the way of an colorful role to play. She was a much better actress that deserved better than this Rose Gillray, the corset maker turned barb wire saleslady. Barry Nelson is the man who believes in the future of the automobile and whose path to California keeps meeting Rose in the most unlikely places. Ms. Rogers and Mr. Nelson don't show much chemistry between them, and probably this is where the film fails, something than with another director, could have been solved, but which Mr. Lubin ignored.

    The film offers performances by Carol Channing, a Broadway star that never made it big in the movies. She plays Molly, Rose Gillray's assistant. In fact, she has the best lines in the film. A young Clint Eastwood is seen as Lt. Jack Rice, a member of the Rough Riders that Rose and Molly meet at the hotel. James Arness, another television idol, plays the rich landowner Joel Kingdom. Lastly, David Brian, an actor that tended to be seen in heavy roles, makes a good appearance as James Carter, the barb wire manufacturer.

    This is a film to be watched as a curiosity.
  • Take dancing queen Ginger Rogers; pair her with dizzy queen Carol Channing, and you've got one of the oddest teamings in film history. Ginger and Carol must have had some laughs over this one years later when Ginger prepared to take over the role of Dolly Levi from Carol on Broadway in "Hello, Dolly!". This is one of RKO's last films, and how sad it must have been for Ginger to return to the studio that made her a star when it was on the verge of becoming the property of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. She had not made a film there in ten years, so it must have brought back some long- forgotten memories.

    The film is a period comedy about corset saleswoman Rogers who wants to make it in a man's world by selling barbed wire after previous salesmen were either lynched or run out of town. Channing is her pal, a ditzy gal who sings the show-stopping "A corset can do a lot for a lady" to advertise their colorful girdles. (With this song out there, why "Que Sera Sera" won best song in 1956 makes no sense to me!) Together, they join forces to take on the men of the wild west, especially brauny James Arness. Then, there is Barry Nelson as the wisecracking man who keeps crossing Ginger's past. Serious dilemmas arise: will Ginger and Carol emancipate the west from cattle barons like Arness who refuse to allow barbed wire onto their lands? Or will they end up lynched or thrown out of town with their corset stays between their legs? Which man will Rogers choose, Arness or Nelson? And then, the most important question: will Clint Eastwood (as Channing's beau) ever crack a smile? All these questions end up being answered in a trial that would make Frank Capra jealous.

    OK, so "The First Traveling Saleslady" is no "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town", or even a "Mr. Winkle Goes to War". But its the type of comedy that older leading actresses like Claudette Colbert, Irene Dunne, Rosalind Russell, and Rogers were being given towards the end of their career. The comedy isn't classic, but it isn't low. It produces smiles, a few groans, and one or two major chuckles. If you compare this to most other RKO features of the mid 1950's, its barely better or worse than the others. Rogers and Channing, sadly, did not photograph too well; the men were much luckier.

    I first saw this as a teenager, and really enjoyed it. As a young adult, I got some amusement out of it, and recently thought, "What the heck did I find so amusing?" So I must admit, the more sophisticated you get, the less you will laugh. In a sense, too, it's ahead of its time on the subject matter of women's lib, even if how it tells the story is extremely silly. References to David Belasco and Carnegie Steel are smart and sassy.
  • Back at the turn of the last century Ginger Rogers and Carol Channing strike a blow for women's equality by stepping into a man's profession. They become traveling salesladies.

    Now that's not a profession truly open to women. If you remember The Music Man and that famous scene of all the salesmen talking to the rhythm of the train wheels or Elmer Gantry where Burt Lancaster hung out in all kinds of disreputable places before he started selling religion it is clear that this is a male preserve.

    But if you sell things like corsets back in the days when women really wore them I guess it could be tolerated. But Rogers and Channing in The First Traveling Saleslady take on a real challenge. They're going to sell barbed wire in Texas. Rancher James Arness is going to stop them selling the wire David Brian's company makes. Both of them would like to make Rogers though. But a funny thing, Barry Nelson in that new horseless carriage contraption keeps showing up just when Rogers and Channing need help.

    As for Channing she's got an admirer in newly returned Rough Rider Clint Eastwood in one of his early screen roles. As for Channing she never quite made it on the big screen so this is a rare opportunity to see a unique performer. Pity she never did do one of her noted stage roles for movies.

    A pity a lot of talent gets wasted here in The First Traveling Saleslady. It's not a really bad film, but it is a mediocre one.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is a lightweight but fun comedy with a seasoned (44) Ginger Rogers, who in 1897 is billed as the first traveling saleslady, selling corsets with steel reinforcements. Having trouble selling corsets in the conservative new west, because the townswomen protest, she overhears a big steel boss lamenting the fact that his barbed wire salesmen keep getting shot and killed. Undaunted and seemingly willing to face any challenge, the bigger the better, Rose Gillray (Rogers) steps and convinces a reluctant boss to let her sell barbed wire.

    (Most cattle owners, especially the smaller ones, wanted a good way to pen in their cattle. But the big ranch owners who wanted to preserve open spaces and free grazing were against it, and tried to convince everyone that the cattle would cut themselves up with barbed wire.)

    This is a comedy all the way and Ginger Rogers is in fine form. Her voice and delivery of lines reminded me of Lucille Ball who most of us know from more contemporary TV series. But the movie, in Technicolor, is especially enjoyable to see so many stars when they were younger, plus a mature Ginger Rogers.

    SPOILERS FOLLOW. Down in Texas the local biggest rancher and town boss Joel Kingdom (James Arness) had Rose and her assistant Molly (Channing) locked up as a way to preserve their status quo. But after Rose's friend and admirer Charles Masters (Barry Nelson) bailed them out, Rose enlisted the help of a traveling marshal, and got a trial set up to settle the issue. In a somewhat hokey scene, with barbed wire protecting the court house, the townswomen drove a large herd of cattle towards the courthouse and showed that the cattle would stop at the barbed wire and not cut themselves up. Barbed wire sales boomed!

    Clint Eastwood was around 25 here, in his first movie role that had any continuity through the story, as Lt. Jack Rice, a member of the Roughriders. When Molly first meets him she swoons for him, and eventually they end up together. Joel Kingdom tries to neutralize Rose by getting her to marry him, and be his housewife, but she will have none of that. The movie ends with Rose and Charles off towards California in a sputtering motor car, soon to be married, and musing about what sales opportunities she can find there.
  • A dull little situation comedy made at the end of RKO's reign, and it looks desperate -- the patently false production values, the cheesy Americana, the mid-century niceness that dates so many '40s and '50s movies. However, and I can say this with authority: It's the only movie you will ever see where Clint Eastwood ends up paired with CAROL CHANNING. The Fifties were strange times, children.
  • The title role of "The First Traveling Saleslady" is played by Ginger Rogers. She portrays Miss Rose Gillray, a woman who sells corsets like she is a missionary selling salvation. But circumstances require that she make a change of vocation and she becomes a traveling saleslady peddling barbed wire to Texas ranchers. Talk about a challenge! She is assisted by Molly Wade, played by Carol Channing. I don't think audiences would have been familiar with Miss Channing when exposed to her in this role. She plays the part with energy and displays her unique vocal talents fully.

    I am a fan of Miss Rogers, but I was disappointed by her performance in this silly comedy. When she first spoke, I questioned if the character was supposed to be drunk. I think she was deliberately changing her voice to create her character, but I am not sure. The portrayal is uneven--like the entire film. There were moments I enjoyed and others that had me scratching my head in perplexity.

    Clint Eastwood (as Lt. Jack Rice) appears in one of his first credited roles as a fresh-faced Rough Rider who instantly falls for Molly. Barry Nelson plays an entrepreneur (Charlie Masters) who might be an intermittent love interest for Rose as he literally comes into and out of the film repeatedly.

    The film contains some interesting content regarding a "Purity League" that safeguards the morals of society and some mentions of Women's Rights, particularly Women's Suffrage.

    There are some cute references to how the country has changed, like the mention that traveling over the road at 12 MPH is thrilling.

    James Arness portrays Joel Kingdom, owner of most of Texas it seems. When he is on screen, he has a strong presence and he energizes those scenes.

    As a whole, this film drags at times and often seems a parody of the type of film it is. It feels like the direction is most to blame.
  • As is elsewhere mentioned, this was to have been a vehicle for Mae West. It's interesting to wonder what that might have been like. Ginger Rogers and Carol Channing provide an off beat duo for what is essentially a screwball comedy based on a wacky premise. Miss Channing was still trading on her Lorelei Lee persona and Miss Rogers was trying to expand her versatility as an actress rather than as Astaire's dancing partner. The summary constitutes the plot. It's amusing and the pairing works very well. Opposites do attract and Channing's brass is a perfect foil for Roger's class. The youthful Barry Nelson gets the not quite so youthful Ginger and a swell time is had by all. In this same vein, Phyllis Diller knocks out a stellar performance in "The First Travelling Sales Lady" which has belly laughs as opposed to the fun here. In this age a corset may take some explaining to many under sixty but the idea is fresh for the time it was made. Possibly Channing's best film having lost both "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" and "Hello Dolly". In both cases she was not thought to have the "star power" needed. A shame, really. But this, with her role as "Muzzy" in "Thoroughly Modern Millie", gives one the idea of her charm and dazzling stage presence. Though completely G-rated, the innuendo is there and slyly delivered. Children might be slightly bored but is a family film. Adults will be convulsed.
  • hkmart327 November 2005
    Was that Bob Hope I glimpsed as an Indian whom Ginger Rogers encounters out in front of the hotel when she arrives in the West? I didn't get a good look, but could swear it was him mugging. This is an easy film to relax and enjoy, if you don't expect too much. Carol Channing is a hoot, especially when she is singing. (I think she improved some by the time she did Hello, Dolly.) Clint Eastwood has come a long way since this performance. And I don't think I've ever seen James Arness in anything outside of Gunsmoke. The movie is full of strained jokes and unlikely coincidences, all contrived to make the best of an obviously limp script and a cast of stars. Watch it if you have a couple of hours to kill.
  • After many years of making wonderful films, RKO closed its doors and was sold to Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball...becoming Delilu Studios. Sadly, its final production was "The First Traveling Saleslady"...an inconsequential piece of fluff starring Ginger Rogers. Apart from it being the studio's last film, there really isn't much to recommend it and making bland pictures like this in the 1950s led to the studio's demise.

    The film is about a lady who is trying to make a go of her corset company and later a barbed wire company. And, to help make a go of it, Rose (Rogers) goes on the road to market the products. Not surprisingly for the turn of the century, she encounters hostility from many of the men in the field as well as a bit of romance. And, along for the ride is Carol Channing who is mostly annoying in the role of Rose's friend and business partner. Oddly, Channing's love interest in the film is played by Clint Eastwood...in his first credited movie.

    I am pretty sure by now you realize that I was not in love with this film. Too often, I found myself bored by it and found the story uninvolving. Additionally, while Ginger Rogers could be amazingly good in films, here she seems a bit out of her element...and perhaps it was made worse by Channing who seemed out of place in so many ways. All I know is that I found myself wanting to just turn it off after a while and cut my losses. A sad finale for RKO...and perhaps my score of 4 is a bit charitable.

    By the way, this film was parodied on "Green Acres" in the episode entitled "The Old Trunk".
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Arthur Lubin's entertaining but sophomoric comedy western "The First Traveling Saleslady" casts Oscar-winning actress Ginger Rogers are a corset salesperson in the Old West. James Arness and Clint Eastwood co-star. Initially, our heroine Miss Rose Gillray (Ginger Rogers of "Kitty Foyle") with the help of her friend Molly Wade (Carol Channing of "Skidoo") establish the Gillray Corset Company in New York City and persuade sell to theatrical producer Martin Schlessinger (Fred Essler of "G.I. Blues") stage a revue with ladies in their corsets. Schlessinger likes the idea, especially after Rose hints that if he doesn't want to that she can find another producer. Just as Schlessinger had feared, the ladies of the Purity League form a picket line to protest what they consider to be scandalous apparel, and the police shut down the show. Drowning in debt, Rose refuses to sneak out of town as one of her employees suggests, and she goes directly to see one of her biggest creditors, James Carter (David Brian of "Flamingo Road"), who owns the Carter Steel Company. Steel is an integral part of all corsets. When she tries to see Carter, he brushes her off while he complains to Teddy Roosevelt (Ed Cassidy of "Boss of Rawhide") that he cannot make any headway selling barbwire in Texas. The biggest cattleman in Texas, Joel Kingdom (James Arness of "Flame of the Islands"), refuses to buy it, and salesmen who try to sell it often wind up hanged. Rose exploits this predicament as an opportunity to eliminate her debt to Carter, and she argues that she can sell all of Carter's barbwire. Carter admires Rose's spirit, but he thinks that she is biting off more than she can chew. Nevertheless, Rose sneaks out of New York with Carter's barbwire hidden in boxes with her corsets stenciled on them. The primary objection that Kingdom and everybody else in Texas raise is that cattle will suffer being hemmed in by the barbwire. At one point, Kingdom has the local sheriff incarcerate Rose and Molly. Throughout the picture, Rose repeatedly encounters a man in a car, Charles Masters (Barry Nelson of "The Shining"), and he usually complicates matters for her. He crashes into her horse and buggy, and they wind up riding to her New York corset headquarters with Rose's horse pulling Masters' broken-down car. A running joke between them is Charles' ridicule of Rose's feminism. Ultimately, these two cross paths with each other again and again, while Rose brushes off the amorous advances of both Carter and Kingdom. Meanwhile, when they arrive at a hotel in Kansas City where the Cattlemen's Association has convened a meeting, Molly meets a handsome army lieutenant, Lieutenant Jack Rice (Clint Eastwood of "Star in the Dust"), who is recruiting men for Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders. Mind you, the cattlemen abhor the idea of barbwire because it will hurt their livestock. Eventually, Kingdom has our heroines locked up. Later, after he learns about Molly being thrown in jail, Lieutenant Rice rides in like the cavalry to save the day. Everything concludes with a jury trial to champion the idea that barbwire won't harm cattle. Rose calls on Mexicans to testify at the trial. She wants to prove her point that cattle aren't harmed by barbwire.

    "The First Traveling Saleslady" is no great shakes as westerns go, but it is definitely amusing fluff.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This may well, as Ginger Rogers liked to say, have finished RKO, where not only herself and Fred Astaire, but Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant and others enjoyed early success. This is nothing if not bizarre; six well-known names and no two even close to suggesting they're in the same movie. In Rogers case there is not an iota of chemistry between her and 1) Barry Nelson, her leading man - in the sense that they wind up together and 2) Carol Channing, her co-star and team-mate in a 'female buddy' movie. Channing and Nelson were both more comfortable on Broadway and both found success there. Here, Channing has the only number in the film proper (there is a title song sung over the credits) and though she brings it off it's a stand-alone item rather than an integral part of the plot. But if Channing and Rogers are mismatched Channing and Clint Eastwood, who actually share a kiss, borders on the grotesque. Add Jim Arness as a heavy and you have a real curio.
  • One of the final RKO radio films produced in the last leap of faith in 1956. THE FIRST TRAVELING SALESLADY is a very enjoyable light comedy. What sets it apart from TV shows like PETTICOAT JUNCTION or films like OKLAHOMA both of which it strongly resembles is the A studio production values which allow the film to take on a lavish western look more akin to CALAMITY JANE. It is a jalopy western set in the horseless carriage days of 1899. Ginger Rogers was 43 and Carol Channing was 35 in production and given the mature age of both and the feminist slant of the story, it makes for a liberating tone for a film of the mid 50s. It is well worth looking at the last 20 films made at the RKO studio in this period by RKO TELERADIO PRODUCTIONS who revived the label after Howard Hughes trashed it. All 1955-58 RKO films are very well made, above the prior years of Hughes. TRAVELING SALESLADY is beautiful to see and has visuals cluttered with style and color. I thought it quite lavish in some scenes with overstuffed furniture and antiques that must have helped see unloved props get a final airing.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    One of the last films to be made at RKO Studios, THE FIRST TRAVELING SALESLADY can boast a startling cast but very little else. Its star, Ginger Rogers, was only slightly exaggerating both ways when she said that she'd been there at the studio's beginnings and was there at its end. She's the saleslady of the title, selling barbed wire in Texas in the year 1897 while throwing her voice. I don't believe that they stole this plot idea from anywhere. Carol Channing is Ginger's buddy, a model (of corsets, not barbed wire dresses) who sings the only song in the movie while playing the traditional comic sidekick. James Arness is the villain who's not all that villainy, really, and seems to be having more fun playing the role than he ever did while playing Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke for 20 years. Barry Nelson is around as an automobile inventor and love interest for Ginger, but most attention will go to Clint Eastwood in a small role as a cavalry officer who's smitten by...Carol Channing! With Channing, Rogers and Arness in the cast, genuine idols of stage, screen and television respectively, what audience of 1956 would ever have guessed that Clint Eastwood would wind up the biggest idol of them all? Perhaps Clint himself had an inkling, as he flashes more smiles in his small role than he did in pretty much the rest of his career.

    The movie itself is a mild comedy which is pleasant enough for an hour or so before becoming quite tedious during its final half hour. THE FIRST TRAVELING SALESLADY ranks low on everyone's resume though probably not at the bottom of anyone's. It's a harmless way to while away the time, but that's about it.
  • Selling barbed wire on the road proves unexpectedly challenging for a former corset saleslady and her fashion model friend in this breezy western comedy starring Ginger Rogers. While quite clearly intended as a late career vehicle for the Oscar winning actress, it is the supporting players who come off best here. With all her pro-feminist ranting and raving, Rogers is actually a rather grating presence. Fortunately, Carol Channing is simply delightful as her model friend - full of energy and frequently funny, especially when singing the tune "A Corset Can Do a Lot for a Lady" with bizarre vocal changes throughout. James Arness also leaves an indelible impression as a charismatic Texas rancher intent on stopping barbed wire sales, and the film of course features Clint Eastwood's first true supporting (as opposed to 'bit part') role with a solid ten minutes or so of screen time. Barry Nelson as the 'true' inventor of the modern automobile, however, gets on the nerves just as much as Rogers and the repeated coincidental meetings between them come off as poorly scripted rather than spontaneous or funny. The entire film though has trouble in the humour department with groan-inducing lines such as "I can't understand a word he's snoring". Rogers and Channing apparently both detested the film and dubbed it 'Death of a Saleslady'. With a couple of bright songs, some memorable supporting performances and neat animated opening credits, the film is not as bad as all that, but their contempt for the film is also understandable.
  • Harmless fluff about a corset-selling suffragette (Ginger Rogers) in the 1890s who's forced to take to the road selling barbed wire. Carol Channing plays her showgirl friend. Barry Nelson, David Brian, and James Arness play her potential suitors. Clint Eastwood appears in an early role as a guy for Channing, not Rogers. Middle-aged Ginger looks great and is likable as ever but something is weird about her voice. Pretty distracting in some scenes. Speaking of which, I only recognized the young Carol Channing here because of her distinctive gravelly voice. This isn't a particularly funny comedy but it is pleasant and watchable. Ginger fans will like it more than most.
  • I am a huge Ginger Rogers fan. How that studio let her down. Did anyone else notice that they made her talk different to make her appear younger. She was 45-46 years old. I believe a woman of her age could do anything she sets her mind to do. But was it necessary to change her so much. Her hair was so brassy, voice too high. Who were they kidding. She was a beautiful woman, with a sultry voice. They should of showed the true Ginger and this film would have survived a much better rating. Good to see Clint Eastwood and James Arness. They looked great, even though their characters were fairly weak. Carol Channing what a dud. Who did the hiring of this cast. Her voice is enough to send you. Oh, she may of had the best lines but her acting ability was poor. And she was 9 years old than Eastwood. In real life no man like Eastwood would have anything to do with that Molly character. I hate it for Ginger. Those loyal fans will always remember the true Ginger. The one we miss on screen.
  • LOVEfords27 November 2005
    RKO went out of business after this movie was made and it is no wonder. Carol Channing is a beast; Ginger Rogers, James Arness, and Clint Eastwood are nearly hopeless. It has got to be the direction and the script because all four are good actors - not to mention all of the very good supporting actors that appear. The plot is almost too silly to be believed and I found myself wishing it would end soon, it is embarrassingly weak. If it were a musical it could at least have some irrational premise that might make it worthwhile, but no such luck. Redeeming features: the costumes, and the chance to see a real star (Ginger Rogers) in action, she is a true professional; rising stars like Channing, Arness, and Eastwood. But don't set the VCR to record.