Playgirl (1954) Poster

(1954)

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6/10
Shelly Winters unloosed in disorganized cautionary melodrama
bmacv26 September 2003
Before they started streaming into New York from Minnesota, they used to come from Kansas (or, in this case, its neighbor to the north). Wide-eyed Colleen Miller gets off the Big Dog from Grand Island, Nebraska to try her hand at the modeling game; she batches it with an old hometown friend, now a nightspot shantoozie (Shelley Winters, who forebodingly sings the old Sophie Tucker number `There'll Be Some Changes Made').

Winters has all the right connections, both high and low (or so she thinks). She's having an affair with the married publisher (Barry Sullivan) of a photomag, Glitter, and can set Miller up for dates with any number of high-rolling but penniless scions of old-money families. But it's Sullivan who finds Miller more enchanting than the needy Winters, who ends up throwing a drunken wingding in which a pistol plays an inopportune part. Though cleared of murder charges, the two gals from the Great Plains, now mortal enemies, find that nobody wants them anymore, either for torch songs or fashion layouts (Winters confides that she spends her days `breaking phonograph records and emptying ice-cube trays').

There's a lot more plot (and many more characters, most of them generic) in this cautionary melodrama about the snares of the Big Town - maybe too much of both (though it's unfair to judge from a showing cut down to fit a commercial television slot). And It's not clear whether the playgirl of the title is Winters or Miller, or if it even matters. Joseph Pevney seems to be reworking material about the interface between show business and crime that he had done two years earlier, and much more successfully, in Meet Danny Wilson (where Winters also appeared). The movie comes off as unfocused and strident. But then that's the price to be paid for unloosing Winters.
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8/10
"It SHOULDN'T Happen To You!"
melvelvit-15 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Tag-line: "There's a price-tag on her kisses ...and trouble was never so cheap!"

This over-plotted Universal-International pot-boiler supposedly exposes the dark side of glamor & fame. It was released the same year as IT SHOULD HAPPEN TO YOU (which had a "Shelley-similar" Judy Holliday), but any comedy in PLAYGIRL is purely unintentional.

Shelley Winters plays a sexy city chanteuse who takes childhood chum Colleen Miller under her wing when Miller boards a bus from Nebraska to make it in "The Big Apple". Winters' married lover, publisher Barry Sullivan, takes a shine to Colleen and puts her on the cover of "Glitter" magazine -turning her into the country's top model almost overnight. Colleen and Shelley tussle over Sullivan and a gun ...and he's shot dead. The scandal rocks both Shelley and Colleen's worlds, making them antagonistic adversaries. Worldly-wise Winters hits the bottle and dewy Colleen (who had a hint of "Eve Harrington" about her) becomes a play-for-pay party girl -but when Miller gets set up for a gangster's murder, Shelley's decency shines through. It's an eventual "sadder but wiser" bus trip back for one of them -and nearly too late for the other.

PLAYGIRL is a highly enjoyable film with Shelley Winters at her sexiest and enough sub-plots for 2 of these type films. Shelley even sings a few songs in strapless gowns for jaded nightclub habitués, with "Lie To Me" being the best of them.

Pairing PLAYGIRL with the same year's MAMBO would make a nice "sleeper" double-feature. In the latter, Shelley Winters is very "butch" as Silvana Mangano's manager. MAMBO is actually a musical/melodrama mishmash that looks a lot like THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA combined with PLAYGIRL. I'd like to see it un-cut sometime as the U.S. release print just barely makes sense. The visuals -and Silvana Mangano's production numbers- are still impressive, however.

All highly recommended!
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