WEDNESDAY REFLECTIONS #05 – Cover Girl starring Rita Hayworth and Gene Kelly

cover-girl-posterTitle     Cover Girl

Starring     Rita Hayworth, Gene Kelly, Lee Bowman and Phil Silvers

Director     Charles Vidor

Writer(s)     Virginia Van Upp (screenplay), Marion Parsonnet (adaptation), Paul Gangelin (adaptation), Erwin S. Gelsey (story) and John H. Kafka (uncredited)

Genre     Musical Romantic Comedy

Release Date     April 06, 1944

Filming Location     USA

Parental Guidance     PG-13

IMDB Rating     6.9

Synopsis: Rusty Parker (Rita Hayworth) is a soft-burlesque performer in a Brooklyn nightclub but dreams to become a Broadway star. When she sees a poster advertising a ‘Cover Girl’ contest, she enters herself to launch a career in that direction. Her sincere girl-next-door presence is just what the magazine wants but another performer from the nightclub, also screening for the title, suspects Rusty as the potential pick and instructs her to act as animated as possible to foil her chance. Rusty returns to the nightclub and is comforted by the owner Danny McGuire (Gene Kelly) with whom she is also in a romantic relationship. However, while further scouting Rusty’s nemesis one night, the magazine publisher John Coudair (Otto Kruger) discovers Rusty instead. Rusty’s red hair and charming looks is an uncanny match for the musical skit performer whom Coudair once fell in love with and wanted to marry. When it turns out that Rusty is the woman’s granddaughter, Coudair insists on raising Rusty from obscurity and makes her the cover girl, much to Danny’s consternation. Coudair also introduces her to Broadway producer Noel Wheaton (Lee Bowman) to set her on the path to stardom and Wheaton promptly falls in love with her. Meanwhile, as Danny grudgingly allows fate to take its course and Rusty to make up her mind on her own, his best friend and another performer at the club, Genius (Phil Silvers) keeps meddling to sort out the love affair with hilariously wayward results.

Experience: I love classic motion pictures and I love musical romantic comedies though I have to admit that it took some patience to see this movie through to the end. I had started watching the movie with expectations raised by its starring actors but there were numerous times during the movie when I thought that even Hayworth and Kelly weren’t worth the struggle. However, since I had already made up my mind that Cover Girl was going to be the topic of my WEDNESDAY REFLECTIONS this week, there was no turning back.

It wasn’t the plot or the plot conflict that I had difficulty settling down to. To be fair, even the dialogues were entertaining at times. Certainly, there were a couple of quotes well worth coining, such as Danny’s profiling of Genius as a person who is “a genius at everything but minding his own business”. The script, therefore, passed in my book with average ratings. However, the progress of the story seemed forced at some moments while propelled too fast at others. So greatly, the problem was in the direction, the editing, the choreography and the god-awful song-and-dance numbers. Yes, the songs were generally terrible and I wished the actors would just stop dancing to them. I think even the actors did not enjoy performing them because a certain fluidity was missing from their bearings. The movie would have fared much better if it were not a musical.

In general, I didn’t see anything remarkable in the acting of any performer apart from Silvers. Whereas Hayworth had already become a notable star by the time this movie was made, her performance in the title role was grade B at best. I felt the problem was that she could not shift quickly enough from the role of the burlesque comic on stage to the girl struggling to find a common space between her love for Kelly’s character and dream of making it big. Meanwhile, Kelly, a former Broadway actor and still fairly new to tinsel town, showcased his acting capabilities in bursts of short-lived moments but in the overall movie remained wooden. Bowman’s role was too side-lined to truly make valuable comments on but he performed his scenes moderately well. But going back to Silvers, his was a role played with pizzazz and provided a much-needed relief from the rest of the performances. In fact, he was the kind of comic relief necessary to this film because the comedy was so stifled.

There is, however, one good message in this movie that I can fully endorse. It is the stance of each male character towards allowing Rusty to come to her own conclusion regarding both her career and personal ambitions. Yes, they did this at moments grudgingly and sometimes tried to passive-aggressively nudge her onto the path that they were individually rooting for, but Rusty had the complete freedom to find her own way through the world and her decisions were accepted at every turn. In the mid-1940’s, this must have been a powerful message for women in the USA when they had only recently received their voting rights and still had a long way to go before becoming culturally liberated.

Recommendation: The movie can still be watched for the sake of watching another musical romantic comedy of the mid-twentieth century, but I’d suggest that you avoid it if time to you is a precious commodity.

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