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This is the story of an egotistical nightclub dance performer named Raoul, his determination to succeed at all costs, and the only woman in his life that truly matters to him, a dancing partner named Helen. (The highlight of the film is a dance performed atop a circular stage to a truncated version of Ravel's "Bolero.") Written by
Eugene Kim <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Bolero, the film named after Maurice Ravel's classic instrumental orchestral composition is one of George Raft's very few non-gangster successes. That's because it takes advantage of Raft's other great talent, that of a dancer. It's how he started out in show business and like James Cagney, got to display that aspect of his talent way too little.
Raft is perfectly cast as the stop at nothing to get to the top man who uses and discards women partners like Kleenex. The only one who really understands him is his down to earth brother William Frawley who serves as his manager. But when Carole Lombard comes into his life, it throws his game plan off kilter. But just a little bit.
The film is set in the years before, during, and just after World War I. Just as he's really got it made with the opening of his own club in Paris, the war breaks out which Raft considers something done to hurt him personally. But he decides unlike Gene Kelly in For Me And My Gal to turn things to his advantage. The war will be over in a few weeks he reasons, why not enlist and get great publicity as the biggest patriot in show business. That enlistment sets off a chain of events that ends in tragedy.
Speaking of Gene Kelly, if Bolero had been done at MGM instead of Paramount a decade or two later this film would have been great for him. Raft was a good dancer, but he was not a creative individual the way Kelly was. Look at what he did with An American In Paris, this could have been another film like that.
Still it's not bad, Raft and Lombard, make an exciting couple on the dance floor, especially doing that dance to an abbreviated version of Ravel's Bolero. There's also good performances by Frances Drake and Sally Rand as a couple of Raft's discarded dames and by up and coming Ray Milland as the English lord also interested in Lombard.
In other hands though, Bolero could have been a classic.
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