A musical remake of Ninotchka: After three bumbling Soviet agents fail in their mission to retrieve a straying Soviet composer from Paris, the beautiful, ultra-serious Ninotchka is sent to ...
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Dolores del Rio,
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William A. Seiter
A musical remake of Ninotchka: After three bumbling Soviet agents fail in their mission to retrieve a straying Soviet composer from Paris, the beautiful, ultra-serious Ninotchka is sent to complete their mission and to retrieve them. She starts out condemning the decadent West, but gradually falls under its spell, with the help of Steve Canfield, an American movie producer. Written by
John Oswalt <email@example.com>
There are a number of good things about Silk Stockings, but there also is a professional finality about the movie that makes it easier to observe than to be delighted by it. It was one of the last of the big MGM musicals coming from Arthur Freed's production unit. It was the last musical Fred Astaire made as the lead. It was the last film directed by Rouben Mamoulian. It was based on the last Broadway musical Cole Porter wrote. Silk Stockings also was used to make a statement about the excesses some thought were ruining films and music...the advent of rock and roll and the technological changes in films with wide screen and stereo sound. It even takes a crack at the fashion for ballet in many musicals. You've got to be very clever and original to successfully parody things which are already self-parodies. Silk Stockings, even with its many entertaining moments, isn't that clever.
The story is based on Ninotchka, the female Soviet commissar who comes to Paris and finds romance reluctantly...and then enthusiastically. Paris is presented as a place where decadence was never more innocent and persuasive.
One of the things that seems so odd is that, for a Fred Astaire film, Astaire spends a good deal of time doing knee drops, full-length on-the-floor sprawls and athletic dance moves that limit the sophisticated and smooth Astaire style. He was 59 when he made the picture, and this might explain the relative shortness of some of the sequences. Still, while he is assured and immensely watchable (and while he can still do wonders with a cane), three major dance productions he is in just seem choppy.
Most of the songs from the Broadway show were retained and Porter wrote a couple of new ones. It's become routine with Porter to say that whatever his latest show was, the score was never one of his best. In this case, it's true. The romantic songs are great, but the topical specialty numbers just seem tired. Siberia and The Ritz Roll and Rock in particular miss the mark, in my opinion.
Astaire, as always, is first class. Charisse is easy to look at and a fine dancer. George Tobias, as a commissar in Moscow and Ninotchka's boss, gives a sly and dead-pan performance. Some of Porter's songs are very good. Mamoulian brought the film in on time and under budget. And Silk Stockings was a success with ticket buyers.
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