Vivian Morris is failing her freshman year at Vassar and her disappointed parents send her to live with her free-thinking aunt in Manhattan. There, Vivian finds the world she was destined to inhabit. She begins a life of independence working at what she loves. She discovers the value of each person even if they live outside the normal conventions of society. She learns to be non-judgemental, thus escaping the norms established by her upbringing.
Vivian’s Aunt Peg owns a building that includes a venue for live theater productions on the first floor. Rooms above are home to eccentric characters who write and perform the nightly shows.
Aunt Peg is delighted with Vivian’s ability to sew and design costumes for the plays that are performed for the neighborhood folks who could never afford Broadway shows. The local theater attendees enjoy the madcap productions that vary little in plot from week to week. With the fear of World War II looming, the chance to escape into fantasy for a short time is welcomed.
Vivian treasures the freedom that comes with being young in New York and not tied to anyone else’s expectations. She enjoys the company of wealthy men in upscale nightclubs. Her youth enables her to avoid the consequences of nights of drinking. Her enthusiasm for a life unencumbered by ladylike restraint is a revelation for her.
Vivian’s period of freedom ends when she is involved in a scandal caused mostly by her naivety and her anger towards an actor with whom she has fallen in love. Walter Winchell, the famed gossip columnist, publishes pictures that destroy her current life and friendships. She goes back to her parents’ home.
Vivian feels completely unmoored when she abandons New York. She misses the freedom she had to love whom she wanted there. She resigns herself to a marriage like one her parents experienced—proper but dull. Financially, she will never really have to work to support herself. Can she settle for this life even after her humiliating experience in New York?
“City of Girls” is a rewarding story that reminds us of the values of loving who we are, loving others different from us, and accepting the joy and sadness in our lives because that is just part of being alive.