|Page 1 of 4:||   |
|Index||35 reviews in total|
There is a unique kind of elegance in Cukor's way to see the world. An elegance that is utterly personal. Witty, warm, enchanting. It could disguise, transform and magnify the smallest, thinnest trifle. I remember feeling my cheeks kind of numb after the film was over, not from laughing but from smiling all the way through. Cukor's reputation as a women's director was no myth. Here, the glorious Kay Kendall, in a character written with a tired left hand, shines all the same because Cukor knew and understood what made her so irresistible. She was, in the history of the movies, like a comet that flashed before us dazzling us and disappearing very fast but leaving behind a unique brand of magic. In "Les Girls" she even dances with Gene Kelly, wears hats and sun glasses like no one ever had before or since. She's an impossibly perfect combination of Allison Janney and Greta Garbo. This is a film that more often than not, people forget to remember. I think it's time to correct that. Rent it or buy it, switch on the weather channel, select a rainy winter Sunday, invite a bunch of friends and have a ball.
LES GIRLS is the forgotten musical gem of the last great splurge of MGM
musicals in the 1950s. It's reception (judging from the other comments
here) is less than overly enthusiastic, due to the script. LES GIRLS is
possibly the most philosophical of the MGM musicals, because it tackles
an immortal issue of mankind: "What is truth?"
Gene Kelly had been leading a highly successful nightclub group around Europe for many years called LES GIRLS. But he has ceased doing so, and disbanded the group. We learn that Kay Kendall has published her memoirs. She has married Leslie Phillips, a wealthy British aristocrat. In her memoirs she describes what life on the road with the act was like, and how she saved the life of fellow dancer/singer Taina Eig when the latter tried to commit suicide with gas. Taina has married wealthy Frenchmen Jacques Bergerac, and she is furious at this libel suggesting that she was mentally ill enough to try to kill herself. She brings an action in London against Kendall.
This being a George Cukor film, he will have many touches in it that are normal. One, that I note, is the justice in this trial is none other than the old Cukor favorite Henry Daniell. Daniell appeared in Cukor's films from CAMILLE (as Baron De Warvell), through THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (as Sidney Kidd), up to MY FAIR LADY (as the Prince of Transylvania at the embassy ball - he only appears in one sequence as he died on the set). Here he is just determined to have an orderly libel trial in his court. In the end, he is just as amazed and perplexed by what he hears as everyone else. Also to be noted is Patrick Macnee, playing a titled barrister.
The act being a song and dance one (with Kelly, leading the two ladies and Mitzi Gaynor) the music is from none other than Cole Porter. It was the last complete music score that Porter made for a film. It is not a bad score, but not up to the par of say SILK STOCKINGS or CAN-CAN (both composed in the early to mid-1950s). My favorite song is "We're Ladies in Waiting" sung by the three ladies in 18th Century costumes. The lyrics suggest King Louis has plans for them outside their normal duties.
As the film continues, Eig produces as her defense that she was not the woman who tried to kill herself. It was Kendall, and she (Eig) rescued her. So now the court and the public have two versions of the story of the "suicide attempt". The final witness is Kelly, who gives his account of what really happened. I won't explain it (see the film) but in revealing what he claims happened he also reveals something of the lies told by him to the two woman and Mitzi Gaynor, as well as some subterfuges he is working out with both Bergerac and Phillips regarding their personal interests in the matter. The results of his testimony settle the trial, and all parties return to their lives. We even see Kelly going home with his wife (Gaynor), who was in the court but never questioned. But now she has questions about the validity of Kelly's testimony! As they yell at each other in the back of their car, we see a man wearing a sandwich board with the eternal question: "What is truth?" on it. And the film ends.
It was only a handful of years before that Akiro Kurasowa's brilliant RASHOMON tackled the same problem, again in relating a legal issue (who was responsible for the death of an nobleman, and how did the nobleman die). The screenwriters certainly picked up on this perennial problem of truth and it's limits, and a courtroom happens to be the best place to show it. Who can tell if somebody has told the truth completely or partially, and if partially why partially? In looking over the issue of telling the truth, note that besides Kendall, Eig, and Kelly, the behavior of Phillips and Bergerac get scrutinized. Gaynor is also pulled in (we have Kelly's version of how and why she behaved - but we never even hear her explanations). The tactics of Macnee and his opposing counsel (and all lawyers, including his Lordship Daniell) are based on playing out certain tell-tale facts that may hide other tell-tale facts. Who, in the end can judge the truth?
It is one of Kay Kendall's best performances, with GENEVIEVE and THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE. She was aware, in 1957, of physical problems that she revealed to her husband Rex Harrison. Before the end of the year he knew it was leukemia, and that she was doomed. In his autobiography REX he tells how he made her last two years the happiest in her life. One would never think of the sudden end of such a funny, vibrant actress being so close seeing her with Kelly doing a song and dance duet (and a saucy one at that). For that alone, I would recommend seeing the film to think of such a promising talent that was cut so tragically short.
This would have been an enjoyable film without the enchanting comic actress Kay Kendall, but with her it's hilarious. It's a musical comedy version of "Rashomon"; a trial for libel where all the principals give wildly different versions of the same events. Gene Kelly, Taina Elg, and even Mitzi Gaynor are all fun, but it's Kendall who carries the show. She is one of those rare performers who can make you laugh with just a look on her face, but when given something like a drunk scene she can make you weep with laughter. Who cares if she could neither sing nor dance. Good score, too.
Sadly, Kendall made only two more films before her untimely death, what a loss to the world.
Okay, perhaps this isn't on a par with Gene Kelly's greatest films, and perhaps the Cole Porter score is not one of his absolute best. But this film is so well written (its take on "Rashomon" is extremely clever), such a brilliant combination of comedy, drama, song and dance, with an exceptional performance by the great Kay Kendall, and equally fine turns by Mitzi Gaynor (who is always maligned, when she had developed into a terrific singing/dancing comedienne by this point in her career), Taina Elg and Kelly. John Patrick's screenplay is extremely witty, Porter's songs (while too few) are fun, George Cukor's direction is swift and elegant, and Jack Cole's choreography is great fun ("Why Am I So Gone" show Kelly and Gaynor off terrifically, and is a funny parody on the Brando craze of the 50s). All in all, a great show that deserves a far better reputation than it has; I've seen it many times since childhood, and always enjoy it immensely.
I love classic films, but I'm not one for musicals. I like melodramas. With "Les Girls", however, I have to make an exception. This is fun, colorful, comic-musical in which Kay Kendall plays Lady Wren, former member of a European dance troupe, who writes a book exposing the backstage "truths" and scandals. Along comes Taina Elg, also a former member of that troupe, suing Lady Wren for defamation of character. A trial ensues in which we get flashbacks, giving the various points-of-view of how things really happened. Cute and fun from the opening moments of plantiff and defendant entering the courtroom to the flashbacks showcasing Kendall's brilliant comedic abilities and the oft-referred to gin in the perfume bottle sequence. This is truly a good show and Gene Kelly's great too.
As the glory days of M-G-M as Hollywood's preeminent manufacturer of musical
treasures entered the sunset years, this very stylish bit of fluff, under
George Cukor's very astute guidance, graced the CinemaScope/Metrocolor
screen. Cole Porter contributed a score quite a bit more slender than his
best, with only one standout, "Ca c'est l'Amour" briefly delivered by Taina
Elg. Gene Kelly wasn't permitted any extensive opportunities to display his
more athletic dancing skills, possibly because Jack Cole seems to have been
the sole credited choreographer. Some viewers, reading other IMDb comments
on this one, were rather annoyed by the Rashomon-like structure of John
Patrick's very clever, in my view, screenplay. But it's all quite
sophisticated, at least for 1957, and the "Ladies In Waiting" production
number, in which Porter indulges his penchant for the risque, is hilariously
reprised as the story progresses, making naughty use of the three leading
Robert Surtees lensed the entire production within the confines of M-G-M's soundstages but, with Cukor's favorite collaborator, Hoyningen-Huene, helping to apply the visual gloss, the whole enterprise is much more elegant looking than Hollywood's usual musical output. Orry-Kelly won a well-deserved Oscar for his color costume design, with one gorgeous gown worn by Mitzi Gaynor that probably accounts for most of the votes cast in his favor.
Finally mention must be made of Henry Daniell's drily witty incarnation of a judge whose patience is sorely tried by the frivolity of the case before him and, of course, Kay Kendall's terrifically funny romp as Lady Wren. What a loss to the cinema when she died so suddenly. Her fans, and I am certainly in their forefront, do so regret her early departure. (If you add this one to your video library, the widescreen DVD is the only way to do it.)
Gene Kelly's last MGM musical is oddly obscure, seldom mentioned in the
same breath as his earlier classics such as 'Singin' In The Rain' or
'On The Town'. Let it is a very enjoyable movie which sticks in the
mind long after you have watched it.
Kelly heads a very strong cast, full of familiar faces such as Patrick McNee (of 'The Avengers' fame) and that old smoothie Leslie Phillips, who you seldom associate with the Hollywood musical. The stand out of course is the marvelous Kay Kendall, who steals the picture (Kelly himself is a bit subdued in this picture).
Even though the Cole Porter songs here are a bit under-par, the script is strong and the movie is expertly directed by George Cukor and the movie itself deserves to be better known.
Cole Porter's final film score and next to last music written for any
media is Les Girls. The same team producer Sol Seigal and writer John
Patrick who produced and wrote the adaption of The Philadelphi Story
for High Society worked with Porter again and this time George Cukor
was directing. It's a good film, but I've got the feeling that it could
have been a whole lot better.
One of the criticisms that Porter used to get annoyed with was the perennial 'it isn't up to Cole Porter's standard' and then you'd look in the score and see a lot of classics. Can-Can is the best example of that. But in the case of Les Girls Porter admitted this to be true. According to the George Eells biography of Porter, he was starting to suffer the decline in health that would eventually end his life in 1964. He did have surgery to bypass an ulcer and was not feeling up to par.
Still the numbers are mostly for a vaudeville act, Barry Nichols and Les Girls so they're serviceable to a bright Rashomon like plot. The members of the act are Gene Kelly and the girls are Mitzi Gaynor, Taina Elg, and Kay Kendall. Kay's written a memoir that includes an alleged suicide attempt by Elg and she's suing her in an English court. As we get testimony from Elg, Kendall, and Kelly, they all give out with different versions. It's also clear he had his fling with all of them at one time despite his alleged no fraternization policy.
Elg has the best ballad of the score, Ca C'est L'Amour which sounds like something that might have been written for Can-Can and discarded. Cole Porter discards are better than a lot of composer's best efforts. The sparkling Kay Kendall was never shown to better advantage on the screen than with You're Just Too Too in a duet with Kelly. And Cole Porter wickedly satirizes Marlon Brando and The Wild One in Why Am I So Gone About That Gal with Kelly and Mitzi Gaynor.
In addition to this being Cole Porter's last film score, this film also marks Gene Kelly's last full blown musical. He did do other musical numbers in films like What A Way To Go and Young Girls From Rochefort and Xanadu, but this was the last musical he did. They were getting way too expensive to make, something Kelly learned from behind the camera when he directed Hello Dolly.
Even with a score that Cole Porter himself wasn't thrilled with, Les Girls is still a fresh bit of film making. And since it's original to the screen, the Porter wit is not edited severely. All in all four great musical performers, three of them Les Girls.
The musical "Les Girls" (1957) is curious, I suggest for many reasons. It has three leading ladies, only a few very good musical numbers and a plot that is heavy on satirical comedy, with four distinct sections. It is also embedded within a trial about libel and takes part very largely indoors; yet it is arguably filled with clear 'action' from start to finish. John Patrick's screenplay I find clever and the dialog perhaps very good. Vera Casparay's story gave us three different versions of mostly the same events, with a subtle shift forward in time each time. Director George Cukor used shots from heights and clever low angles to give an extra dimension to what otherwise might have been boring indoor shots (in less-capable hands). The film produced by Saul Chaplin and Sol Siegel looks lovely in Technicolor and seems sumptuous as well as convincing throughout, I suggest. The cinematography by Robert Surtees, acting as director of photography, the vivid art direction by Gene Allen and William A. Horning and the set decorations by Richard Pefferle and the great Edwin Willis complement the well-matched art direction very well indeed, in my opinion. Among the film's musical numbers, "Ca C'est L'Amour", "You're Too Too" and the rope ballet seemed the most memorable moments to me. Orry-Kelly's wardrobe and costumes and the musical department's contributions stand out; Jack Cole and Alex Romero are credited with the choreography, no doubt with ideas from the star Gene Kelly. In featured roles, Jacques Bergerac, Henry Daniell as the judge, and Leslie Phillips and Patrick MacNee all make very strong impressions with little to work with. The three ladies in the act "Barry Nichols and Les Girls", are Kay Kendall, Taina Elg and Mitzi Gaynor. Kendall deserves an Oscar for her range of comedy and dramatic moments in the film, by my standards; Mitzi Gaynor is a good dancer and delivers both a decent characterization and some fine one-liners without being vocally strong. Taina Elg is the surprise--by turns charming, mischievous and intelligent; her accent perhaps harmed her opportunity to play more comedies within a shrinking 50's movie industry. Kelly is believable throughout and perhaps has never danced better. This film that retails the interplay among four interesting people on "the road" in Europe in the 1950s is undoubtedly both beautifully directed and professionally mounted. It has, I say as a writer, discreet charm, some nice comedic and emotional moments and a pace that director Cukor and the cast never allow to falter. It deserves more credit than it has ever been given, and I believe awards for some of its finest achievers' work exhibited herein.
On the one hand, it has Gene Kelly and direction by George Cukor and the smart, smooth music of Cole Porter. But the structure of the plot is a bit bumpy, and most of this bumpiness stems from the RASHOMON-like tale starting, stopping, and starting again over two hours. A lot of people seem to think that the Porter score was sub-par; I wholeheartedly disagree. An especially lovely sequence is a rowboat scene between Kelly and Taina Elg which segues into the love song "Ca C'est L'amour." Also clever are the burlesque turn of "Ladies In Waiting" and the vaudeville-like "You're Just Too, Too" which pairs Kelly with the rapturous Kay Kendall. Kendall is, in many ways, the real star of LG with her deft comedy (drunkenly singing opera for five straight minutes!) and her cool, elegant beauty. Knowing that she died shortly after completing this film- and so young- makes one miss her charms all the more and also wish that the film had a larger following. (It's particularly enigmatic nowadays when compared to Kelly's bigger and better known hits: 'Singin' In The Rain,' 'An American In Paris,' 'Anchors Aweigh,' etc.) Still, Mitzi Gaynor is a dish, dancing with Kelly in a sexy black dress (in a weird Marlon-Brando-a'la-THE-WILD-ONE-send up). Thank goodness it's on widescreen DVD where it belongs.
|Page 1 of 4:||   |
|External reviews||Plot keywords||Main details|
|Your user reviews||Your vote history|