In 1926 the tragic and untimely death of a silent screen actor caused female moviegoers to riot in the streets and in some cases to commit suicide - that actor was Rudolph Valentino. ... See full summary »
Ella Peterson is a Brooklyn telephone answering service operator who tries to improve the lives of her clients by passing along bits of information she hears from other clients. She falls ... See full summary »
The assistant stage manager of a small-time theatrical company (Polly Browne) is forced to understudy for the leading lady (Rita) at a matinée performance at which an illustrious Hollywood director (Cecil B. DeThrill) is in the audience scouting for actors to be in his latest "all-talking, all-dancing, all-singing" extravaganza. Polly also happens to fall in love with the leading man (Tony) and imagines several fabulous fantasy sequences in which the director is free to exercise his capacity for over-the-top visuals in this charming 1920's era flick. Written by
Bliss Blood <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The Boyfriend is not just the last great movie musical, but one of the greatest of all movie musicals. And a truly Great film, regardless of genre.
Taking a tuneful but forgettable neo-1930s stage musical as a starting point, Russell created a multi-layered, kaleidoscopic phantasmagoria of a film. It's a movie about movies, about the theater, about creativity and imagination. It's about human nature. It's a love story (of course!). It's trivial, it's deep, it's shocking. It's gloriously excessive, in the best Russell manner. But this is excess with a purpose. Every image, ever musical set-piece works in multiple ways. I've seen it probably a dozen times, and I've never seen the same film twice.
This is definitely a film that needs to be seen in wide-screen. (Until we get a proper Blu-ray, Turner Classic Movies shows a somewhat blurry but complete British print.) Russell out-does Busby Berkeley, with split-screen sequences no other director would dare to attempt. But by making the film as a play-within-a-play, he cleverly adds human drama missing from the original lightweight theatrical script. And creates a deliciously ironic counterpoint between the emotions of the actors and those of the stereotyped characters they portray.
Remarkably, the performances hold up to all this. Twiggy is barely remembered as a 1960s footnote, but here she proves she was not just a remarkably pretty face. (Her fresh and innocent performance sparkles in a way that the polished and rather precious Julie Andrews recording does not.) Tommy Tune does credit to the long-legged Buddy Ebsen specialty numbers. And Russell's perennial favorite Vladek Sheybal is perfect as CB DeThrille, the mildly Mephistophelian embodiment of Russell himself.
Ken Russell was always impressive for his technique, but in The Boyfriend he brought all his abilities to focus in a celebration of film entertainment. It's easily the best movie musical since the days of Singing in the Rain and The Bandwagon, and though it lacks the star power of a Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly, it adds a depth and vision that no other musical approaches.
They just don't make 'em like this any more. In fact, aside from Ken Russell, no one ever did.
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