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.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

New year's eve at the movies: Party Girl

PARTY GIRL - Nick Ray's 1958 melodrama plays like a '40s noir made in the '50s in colour and Cinemascope. It is full of striking images and vivid colours showing how the mobs in Chicago in the '30s operate. Lee J Cobb is of course terrific as Rico, the mobster with everyone in his pay, including Robert Taylor as the lawyer who gets his hoods acquitted and who long ago sold out for big bucks. Taylor is crippled and uses his limp to work the jury. He and Rico grew up as tough kids but their paths diverged and then Taylor ends up working for Rico....

Showgirl Vicki Gaye is also crippled, emotionally - she never lets men get too close and they eventually go away as she tells another showgirl. She though turns up as escort at various mob functions and collects a hundred dollars a time. One of Rico's underlings though, John Ireland, is taking too unhealthy an interest in her - and she uses Taylor to escort her out of one party. They get to know each other and start to fall in love. He uses his influence with Rico to get her a featured spot at the nightclub, so we get to see two Charisse numbers - where, as Pauline Kael once memorably put it, "Cyd Charisse is benumbed until she unhinges those legs". - though these are not in the '30 style but in that of the hip '50s!

The plot twists and turns, Taylor goes to Europe to have operations on his legs, the police are trying to finish the mobs who are busy on killing each other - Corey Allen (whose car went over the cliff in Ray's REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE) is a vicious hood here. Taylor and Charisse realise that selling their pride to the mob costs too high a price. Will they get out in time before Rico turns on them, or Ireland whom Taylor got off on a murder rap turns nasty?

It all climaxes at New Year's Eve at a party were Rico has Taylor and Charisse in his power. His threats to have Taylor's new leg damaged with a crowbar have not worked, but what if acid gets thrown in the face of the lovely Vicki? He demonstrates what acid does to a red paper decoration. The police arrive as Ireland grabs the bottle of acid and closes in on Vicki. Then Rico himself gets the bottle before spilling it on himself and exiting through the plate glass window. The sirens screech as our leads walk away ... That is the plot in a nutshell but it looks good, the colours and images are striking. Cobb has a field day chomping the scenery, Taylor has another good late '50s role (like his QUENTIN DURWARD and ROGUE COP) playing a man discovering his inner strength and Charisse as ever looks and sounds sensational. I enjoyed all this when I saw it as a kid, the acid melting the christmas decoration was very impressive!

Ray had his best era in the '50s what with JOHNNY GUITAR with Crawford, the endlessly iconic classic REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE with Dean, BIGGER THAN LIFE with James Mason, his Jesse James film with Robert Wagner and Jeff Hunter and this MGM melodrama with its bright vivid colours. But for Charisse those big musicals she made her name in (SINGING IN THE RAIN, THE BANDWAGON, BRIGADOON, ITS ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER, SILK STOCKINGS) were on the wane so she featured in dramas like this and TWILIGHT FOR THE GODS with Rock Hudson. The 60s brought some further acting roles in films like MAROC 7 and THE SILENCERS and back with Minnelli for the stylish TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN. She featured in lots of live shows and appeared in London in the 80s in a revival of CHARLEY GIRL - one simply had to go and see the divine Cyd dance on stage ...

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