Cover Girl (1944)

2016 #168
Charles Vidor | 103 mins | TV | 4:3 | USA / English | U

Cover GirlRun-of-the-mill musical starring Rita Hayworth as a Brooklyn showgirl who finds fame after accidentally landing a prestigious magazine cover because the editor was in love with her spitting-image grandmother.

Gene Kelly co-stars as the owner of the low-rent joint she used to star in, and provides two decent dance numbers: the first alongside Hayworth and Phil Silvers, the second alongside himself, double exposure allowing his shop-window reflection to leap into the street.

Otherwise the songs are forgettable, despite the fact it won an Oscar for its score, and the predictable story is allowed too much leeway by the running time.

3 out of 5

Brigadoon (1954)

2010 #93
Vincente Minnelli | 104 mins | TV (HD) | U / G

“Oh dear,” is surely the initial reaction to Brigadoon. The Scottish accents are appalling, the costumes and setting gratingly twee, the Highlands recreated entirely on a soundstage. I wonder if many Americans visited Scotland in the wake of this film expecting to find such things? If they did, I imagine they were sorely disappointed.

But, importantly — and thankfully — it does grow on you as it goes on. The ill-conceived cast, costumes and studio-bound setting begin to pale under the charm of Gene Kelly and the machinations of the plot. Even the Scottish accents, though consistently dreadful, eventually become less irritating. The casting of Kelly and Cyd Charisse resulted in several musical numbers being dropped and a greater emphasis placed on dance. As I think has become apparent in some previous reviews, I’m not the biggest dance fan, but luckily Brigadoon contains no extended sequence to rival those I dislike in An American in Paris or Oklahoma!. Instead, the routines remain at the kind of length where I can still afford them some appreciation, and they are worthy of that.

The reveal that Brigadoon is a village stuck in time, only emerging from the fog for a single day every hundred years, is saved for the halfway point. It’s one of those occasions where, as a modern viewer, you know the twist and almost wonder why it takes so long to be revealed; equally, it doesn’t hamper proceedings in any meaningful way. In fact, the shock when (spoiler!) the film suddenly cuts to a busy, noisy New York for the final ten minutes is a bigger one. There’s a neat conclusion though, working its way around the film’s self-established rules without destroying them.

If you go doon to the woods today...I think it’s fair to say this isn’t the greatest of musicals (though I know some might disagree). The poor realisation of Scotland takes some getting used to — and remains either irritating or amusing, depending on your mileage for such things — and generally there’s a dearth of particularly memorable songs or dances. But it’s not bad either, once things get underway.

My ultimate verdict is stuck somewhere between a 3 and a 4. I’ve erred on the generous side, again, because I liked it more than An American in Paris (which I also gave a 4) and I’m soft. I really need to stop giving every film I sort-of-quite-like a 4 though — a better scale/spread of ratings is needed on here, I feel.

4 out of 5

An American in Paris (1951)

2009 #93
Vincente Minnelli | 109 mins | DVD | U

An American in ParisIf anyone is interested in An American in Paris and has found this alleged-review in search of something interesting to read, I’m afraid you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Not because I didn’t like the film, but because I’ve not got anything to say about it.

The main reason for such an oversight is that, getting round to this review a month or so since I watched it, I can’t remember enough of it well enough to provide anything close to meaningful criticism. This could sound like a criticism in itself — designating the film unmemorable — but the sad truth is it’s not all that uncommon for me. This is why I usually write notes (like this (just in case you don’t know what notes might look like)), so that when I do get to a review (inevitably late) I can translate said notes into something passably resembling a review. Viewing An American in Paris over the Christmas/New Year period, however, there was no time for note-taking.

But enough on my lackadaisical reviewing habits, what can I say about the film? Well, it’s got a Gershwin score, and I always like that; particularly memorable is I Got Rhythm being performed by Gene Kelly and a group of young kids who can’t speak English. It’s a different take on a familiar number that’s thoroughly entertaining. The dancing is all great, of course, and Leslie Caron — last-minute replacement for a pregnant Cyd Charisse — shines in her debut role. The film ends with a lengthy ballet which, to be frank, isn’t really to my taste; dance fans of a certain type will undoubtedly love it though.

And that’s your lot, I’m afraid. I can only apologise to you, dear reader, and to all involved with this perfectly lovely film for not being able to offer a more appropriate set of thoughts.

4 out of 5

On the Town (1949)

2007 #113
Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly | 94 mins | VHS | U

On the TownGene Kelly and Frank Sinatra lead the cast in this musical comedy about three sailors who have 24 hours of shore leave in New York. The plot is sometimes predictable, but at least it’s not as standardised as many. Equally, none of the songs are truly memorable but most are fun while they last.

The humour may be quite gentle (though be prepared for some sexed-up female characters!), but as a whole it’s never less than entertaining (with the exception of a third act dance almost as incongruous as Oklahoma!’s change of cast). Several of those who watched it with me were surprised to find they actually enjoyed a musical.

4 out of 5

Hello, Dolly! (1969)

2007 #52
Gene Kelly | 139 mins | DVD | U / G

Hello, Dolly!Comedians Walter Matthau and Michael Crawford (yes, Frank Spencer!) star alongside Barbra Streisand in this comedy musical directed by Gene Kelly (yes, the star of many a musical himself!) which flopped at the box office but did well at the Oscars, and has gained in popularity since.

The best bits are the very impressive dancing waiters at Harmonia Gardens, although some of the more amusing songs are worth seeing. It’s this tongue-in-cheek, sometimes-silly tone that stops it seeming too dated, although other elements of its style (and the running time) don’t help.

Surely a must-see for musical fans, though others may not be as engaged.

3 out of 5

Hello, Dolly! is on Movie Mix today, Thursday 9th July 2015, at 6:05pm.