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Discovery by Flo Ziegfeld changes a girl's life but not necessarily for the better, as three beautiful women find out when they join the spectacle on Broadway: Susan, the singer who must leave behind her ageing vaudevillian father; vulnerable Sheila, the working girl pursued both by a millionaire and by her loyal boyfriend from Flatbush; and the mysterious European beauty Sandra, whose concert violinist husband cannot endure the thought of their escaping from poverty by promenading her glamor in skimpy costumes. Written by
Michael Meigs <Michael.Meigs@dos.us-state.gov>
Sexual innuendo occurs several times. In the opening scenes with Shiela Regan (Lana Turner) as the elevator operator, she is describing to a friend her meeting Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. on her elevator. She reports that he liked her ankles. When asked about her heels, Shiela makes a gesture with her cupped hand indicating he liked "round heels" a reference to women who fall easily into bed. See more »
Strangely, this an overlooked film, quite unusual considering that is stars a number of movie legends, but may be due to the fact that in terms of story line there's nothing "stand-out" about it, as with the performances (exception being Judy Garland), and the movie as a whole may tend to "displease" purists as it doesn't quite fit in a definitive genre with it's offbeat combination of melodrama with musical numbers. The titular "Ziegfeld 'Girl'" actually focuses upon 3 young women--Garland is Susan Gallagher, a cute 17-year old part of a not-very-successful song-and-dance act with her spirited, comic-pathetic father; MGM's rising, resident blond bombshell Turner is Sheila Regan (tho she's ostensibly *supposed* to be a redhead as her nickname "Red" indicates, despite her looking quite blond--strawberry blond, perhaps?), a driven dame from the wrong side of the tracks determined to use the Follies as a stepping-stone into upward mobility; and legendary beauty Hedy Lamarr is Sondra Kolter, a simple, down-to-earth married woman whose life suddenly becomes complicated when she's snapped up by the Follies and becomes the breadwinner in the household and the amorous pursuit of the show's handsome headliner (Tony Martin, whose marvelous voice is displayed well here), much to the chagrin and jealousy of her unemployed musician husband.
Turner without a doubt has the "meatiest" role, going from a basically 'good' individual who nevertheless is willing to trade her love for a "poor boy" in exchange for the riches and success she's always dreamed of and becomes a millionaire's mistress, only to discover that such things are surprisingly unfulfilling when there is hurt in the heart (as her character puts aptly " . . . Why can't the men you want have the things you want?"), and as a result succumbs despairingly, dissipatedly and dangerously into alcoholism. But despite her plum part and the range and depth of emotions it offers, she's never able to more than ripple the surface. She's not deplorable but is still quite green. She's adequate, nothing more, but her potent allure, ultra-glamorous beauty and simmering sensuality makes her highly watchable. Lamarr isn't given much of anything to do but as she wasn't particularly talented or magnetic it's probably just as well, but--her beauty was such and the part rather limited that it's enough for her to just hang around and look gorgeous. And James Stewart as Sheila's blue-collar truck-driver turned gangster boyfriend, justifiably bitter and angry over being thrown over in favor of material pursuits, is improbably but interestingly cast in this forcefully "rough-and-tumble" role at a time when MGM didn't quite know what to do with him and had yet to discover his "niche". Despite all these big names, Garland manages to steal the show with the only one, truly genuine, heartfelt performance in the whole film--she's achingly tender, particularly in the scenes with her father who her character poignantly must part ways with, and, most stunningly, show-stoppingly, in the "I'm Always Chasing" Rainbows scene (the slow one!). And even in the beauteous company of Lamarr and Lana, Garland is luminous with her huge brown-button eyes, spirited, pert nose and tremulous bite, appealing in her own special way.
Highlights include--The frothy "You Stepped Out Of A Dream" extravaganza (down to the gargantuan circular stairway!) and the spunky "Minnie From Trinidad" number. It's obvious from the production values that MGM went all out, and the results are exceptional. These 2 numbers, along with Garland, make the film worth watching and the sparkling, glossy B&W cinematography works well. Also worth mentioning is the notorious Paul Kelly, who has a small yet sizable role as the show director and Jackie Coogan in a "grown-up" role as Turner's kid brother.
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