Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Fantasy 1957 double bill: Boy On A Dolphin / Les Girls

One more look at 1957: A fantasy double bill of Fox's BOY ON A DOLPHIN and MGM's LES GIRLS...

BOY ON A DOLPHIN - a routine Fox programmer of interest now for introducting Sophia Loren to international audiences, and being one of the first American films shot in Greece - begins charmingly with a little travelogue on some Greek islands, which must have been a first for audiences of the time, including Rhodes where I was last year so its interesting seeing footage of it back in 1957. DOLPHIN though is set in Hydra another Greek island I visisted back in the '70s. Sophia is Phaedra who dives for sponges (its actually starlet Scilla Gabel who is Loren's stand-in here) and finds the statue of, yes, the boy on the dolphin. I was about 12 when I first saw this and was entranced with this new funny attractive Italian girl. (She had also appeared first in Kramer's ponderous THE PRIDE AND THE PASSION but no one liked that one! - and went on to do Hathaway's sahara western LEGEND OF THE LOST with John Wayne, which we also liked a lot, before her stint in American films. She is 23 here and already a star in Italy with films like TOO BAD SHE'S BAD and WOMAN OF THE RIVER in 1954 which I also liked a lot then. Sophia in that wet dress emerging from the Aegean was a sensation at the time - she and Brigitte Bardot were the two new European sensations of the '50s.

Phaedra goes to Athens (one could walk on the Acropolis then) where she soon finds rich collector Clifton Webb - who is terrific with Loren here - and Alan Ladd the good guy. The usual intrigue follows as Webb wants the statue for himself and Ladd wants to save it for the national as Loren is torn in two ... there's lots of local colour and its all nicely resolved. Amusing too seeing how they make Ladd seem the same height as Loren, with lots of clever posings on different levels ...

Cukor’s LES GIRLS in 1957, Kay Kendall's only film made in Hollywood, is a charming film showing Cukor’s fascination with theatre and artifice in this Rashamon-style telling of the same events told by different people. Kay - England's brightest and most glamorous comedienne, another Carole Lombard according to the critics - commits grand larceny on a large scale walking off with the picture, though Mitzi Gaynor and and the Finnish Taina Elg are also effective. It may be the last Gene Kelly musical and he does seem rather lack lustre here. However, Cukor’s direction, Orry-Kelly’s costumes, Cole Porter’s score and the terrific sets, including their Paris flat, are all standouts. Seeing it now on HD widescreen television those costumes positively leap out at one and it all looks dazzling. Kay again shows her ability to wear clothes and has a lot of fun in the court-room scenes as her Lady Sybil Wren defends her memoirs (Cukor regular Henry Daniell is the judge). She also has a hilarious drunk scene in Elg's version of the same events.

When she went to America to make this, her friend Gladys Cooper lent her her dog, a corgi named June, for company and there are some nice photos of Kay and June. There is a quick shot in the film of Lady Sybil (Kay) at her home between court appearances with a corgi dog next to her on the sofa – this of course has to be Gladys’ June.

Porter's score is actually rather lack lustre but the 3 girls are fun, for me Kelly works best playing a heel, and its all just timeless perfect entertainment! Kay made two more films, with directors, who like Cukor, knew how to showcase her haughty glamorous comic talent: Minnelli's THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE in 1958 capturing the high comedy style of the Harrisons (she had married Rex Harrison in '57) and Stanley Donen's ONCE MORE WITH FEELING in '59, released in 1960 after her death.

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