Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dance, Girl, Dance (1940) Film Review - Maureen O'Hara

Plot Summary - Tale of two dancers, members of a female dance troupe struggling in the big city to get jobs and pay their bills. Good girl Judy O'Brien (Maureen O'Hara), beautiful and innocent Irish gal who says "the only thing I really care about is dancing", is devoted to her art as she practices ballet, but is forced to earn money dancing with the others in sequins and nightclubs that get raided. Roommate and friend (well, sort of) "Bubbles" (Lucille Ball), is sexy and interested in finding herself a rich man. She's not the best dancer but the troupe needs her 'cause she's the only one with "oomph". Bubbles dances a hot hula and gets hired for $25 a week at a Hoboken nightclub, but she's soon "discovered" and becomes a popular "burlesque queen" renamed Tiger Lily White. The burlesque theater where she works wants someone with class to be the warm-up performer for Lily/Bubbles - and Bubbles suggests her old pal Judy, who agrees to take the job for the money. Soon their act becomes a hit on Broadway as "Tiger Lily White and her little stooge". Judy bravely takes the stage each day, dances ballet, and gets herself booed by the largely male audience who beg for Tiger Lily to come out and perform. Lily/Bubbles does a number where a wind blows her clothes up and eventually off (while she stands behind the curtain, that is). Meanwhile a couple of men fit into the picture (don't they always) - one is wealthy Jimmy Harris (Louis Hayward), coming onto Judy but still carrying the torch for his soon-to-be ex-wife. The other, Steve Adams (Ralph Bellamy), falls for Judy in an elevator, chases after her in the rain, then later tries to meet her backstage, but she's just not interested - thing is, he's actually head of the "American Ballet Company", where she recently attempted to audition and chickened out!

Review - Directed by Dorothy Arzner, this is an entertaining backstage soap opera, with some enjoyable dance numbers - loved Lucy's hula, and also her "Jitterbug Bite" number is fun. Maureen O'Hara and Lucille Ball are both perfection in their opposing roles - and Maureen's character isn't *all* innocence, as the two end up in a rolling on the floor on-stage cat fight followed by appearance in night court. As a close to lifelong devotee of "I Love Lucy" (I'm sure I've been watching that show continuously since about the age of three or four), it's neat seeing Lucy SO young! The film comes across as pretty much a B-movie, but quite an excellent one - the quality of the black and white print of this, as screened on TCM, looked quite clear and nice. I have seen this one before, but not recently so it seemed pretty fresh for me. Rating - 8/10 stars

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