Jupiter's Darling (1955) Poster

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Lavish musical spoof with classy legit. roots.
Mike-95720 December 2001
JUPITER'S DARLING is an offbeat MGM musical with many entertaining elements. Famous as one of the musical flops of MGM's 1955 output (which included KISMET and IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER)which all but ended the MGM musical -as well as the contracts of some of its major participants- the movie generally received critical praise in its day and still has a "fan base" today. The credits for the film are eye-opening.It is based on a landmark play of 1927 entitled THE ROAD TO ROME which dealt humorously with Hannibal's march on Rome but was in fact a plea against war.It's author, Robert Sherwood, died the year of the film's release and amongst his other stage and screen work are titles such as The Petrified Forest,Idiot's Delight, Rebecca and The Best Years of Our Lives.Though much changed to accommodate the aquatic talents of Esther Williams and the form of the screen musical, generous amounts of Sherwood's witty and even racy dialogue survive. At a time when the period epic was in its full CinemaScope bloom (egs. THE ROBE, THE Egyptian) it's refreshing to see the genre being lampooned in such a tongue-in-cheek manner. Esther even spoofs her own underwater ballets in the I HAD A DREAM sequence (the best song in a somewhat underrated Burton Lane score)and has another dramatically exciting underwater scene in a later reel. Vocally strong as ever,Howard Keel is robust and virile as Hannibal (who in one funny scene reveals a fear of water and an inability to swim-surely an "in-joke" considering his co-star!)and the supporting cast (Marge and Gower Champion,George Sanders,Norma Varden,William Demarest and Richard Hayden) all get great moments. The direction is by one of MGM's best musical directors, George Sidney (The Harvey Girls, Show Boat, Pal Joey) and the inventive wide screen cinematography is by Paul C. Vogel and Charles G.Clarke,two of the best D.P.'s of the day. (Clarke shot CAROUSEL for Fox magnificently one year later).Written for the screen by MGM contractor Dorothy Kingsley (Seven Brides,Kiss me Kate)and budgeted at possibly the biggest figure for an MGM musical at that time, the film is a visual stunner with unique merits which outweigh its flaws.(One complaint- MGM cut the reprise of I HAVE A DREAM by Williams(dubbed) and Sanders (not dubbed) which was followed by a sizzling dance by the Champions.A faded out-take on the laserdisc edition at least allows buffs to view this now!)
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Not as bad as they say
marcslope30 March 2010
A legendary MGM flop, one of the big musicals reputed to have helped kill off big musicals. And it's pretty silly in spots, with a buff Gower Champion singing lyrics like "If this be slavery/ I don't want to be free!" and song-and-dance cues arriving perfunctorily. But it's also an enterprising effort at keeping a dying genre alive, with plenty of sung-lyric exposition by Richard Haydn as a bewildered historian, and more plot-song integration than most MGM musicals attempted. It's also sexier than the average musical, quite frank about why Hannibal kept delaying his attack on Rome, and with plenty of chemistry between Esther Williams and Howard Keel in the main plot and the Champions as the secondary, comic-relief couple. The Burton Lane-Harold Adamson songs aren't great, but they aren't terrible, and for such a huge production, it's surprisingly light on its feet and irreverent. There's a fairly exciting, well-edited chase-through-the-water climax, and if Dorothy Kingsley's screenplay doesn't achieve the Shavian heights it's attempting to scale, it's smarter than most musical screenplays of the day. The wide screen is well filled, and the thing moves quickly. Well worth a look.
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Spoof or Goof?
atlasmb5 June 2014
Unless someone tells you in advance that "Jupiter's Darling" is a spoof, you may be like me and wonder through the first part of the film exactly what you are watching. I thought it was a badly made "serious" musical. And I wonder if calling it a "spoof" forgives a film for its bad elements? Bad dancing. Stilted lyrics. Questionable artistic choices. Awkward moments. The beginning of this film is plagued with them. Once you take the film to be a spoof, some of them can be forgiven--IF you are sure that the silliness is intentional. I am not sure all of it is.

When Esther Williams sings "I Had a Dream", you might be surprised to hear her sing. I was. Then I learned that it was dubbed by Jo Ann Greer. Good choice of singer, because it sounds like Esther's voice. Note that she sings while swimming. That's a little awkward. And then the number turns (appropriately) into a dream sequence. Even if you find the film less than excellent, it's a number that is interesting--filmed to give the illusion that it was done without coming up for air.

Howard Keel, as Hannibal, is the romantic interest. He lends his booming voice to some silly lyrics. I had the recurring impression I was listening to The Grinch.

Another interesting thing: the opening line of one song ("Don't Let This Night Get Away") sounded remarkably like the opening line of "A Woman in Love" from "Guys and Dolls", released the same year.

Besides the underwater dance sequence I mentioned, there is another that is worth seeing for its uniqueness. Marge and Gower Champion sing "The Life of an Elephant" while dancing among elephants that perform tricks. Both sequences must have been tedious to film.

One element that that I found superior throughout was the costuming.
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When Not In The Tank, The Film Sank
bkoganbing31 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Howard Keel in his career at MGM did three original musicals with them, two of them with Esther Williams as co-star. The first was an unpretentious charming piece called Pagan Love Song with Esther Williams, the second was the incomparable Seven Brides For Seven Brothers and the last is Jupiter's Darling. Sad to say it's the worst of them.

I'm not sure that musicals and spectacle go together. I've not seen anything quite as dumb as Hannibal's men singing as they march off to sack Rome. To be sure classical times have proved a good basis for musical comedy. Rodgers&Hart's The Boys From Syracuse, Cole Porter's Out Of This World, and By Jupiter from Rodgers&Hart again all did well on Broadway. But the material was lighter to start with.

Burton Lane and Harold Adamson contribute a very mediocre score for Jupiter's Darling. Keel certainly sang better material than this on the screen. The film picks up considerably when Esther Williams is in her tank at MGM, she has a nice water ballet sequence and her swimming skills are utilized during an escape scene.

Marge and Gower Champion have a couple of numbers also. I did like the dance they did with the elephants.

Howard Keel had a rough shoot according to his memoirs. A leopard would have done serious damage to him. had he not been wearing the armor which deflected the leopard's claws. He also said that during the final confrontation scene with George Sanders he found the lines so ridiculous as did Sanders the two of them got the giggles and had to shoot it separately. Keel said that when Hannibal says he'll accept Esther Williams as payment for not sacking Rome, Sanders in his Roman toga costume looked like a bordello madame when he said we have many other girls to offer you. He told Sanders this and the two of them couldn't finish the scene together after numerous takes.

I couldn't also help thinking that if Hannibal was satisfied with one woman, how was he going to explain it to the rest of his men who were looking forward to some booty of their own?
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"War and women do not mix!"
utgard1430 June 2015
Esther Williams' swan song at MGM is also her final aquatic musical. Less significantly, it's also the last (and best) of the three movies Esther did with Howard Keel. It's a movie that takes place in ancient Rome where Esther plays Amytis, the object of affection for Roman ruler Fabius (George Sanders). Fabius is anticipating an attack on Rome from the famous military commander Hannibal (a bearded Howard Keel). When Hannibal meets Amytis, she tries to use her feminine charms to persuade him not to attack.

It's a silly movie but an enjoyable one that is better than its reputation suggests. The sets and costumes are all colorful and bright, though some today might find it all a bit corny. Esther is fit and gorgeous (those legs!) with a lovely underwater swimming number where she 'dances' with statues that come to life. A real classic and the highlight of the film. She does well in the romantic scenes with Howard Keel, who sings some forgettable tunes. I especially liked that Esther's character was so sexy and fun. Of the three films Keel and Esther did together, this is the one where they have the best chemistry. The cast backing up the leads is solid. George Sanders plays Fabius with as much seriousness as he can muster considering how silly the whole thing must have seemed to him. Richard Hayden is oddly enjoyable as the singing storyteller Horatio. Others in the cast include William Demarest, Douglas Dumbrille, Michael Ansara, and dancing couple Gower & Marge Champion. The Champions perform the "If This Be Slavery" number ("Hooray for slavery!"), which has some lyrics that are funny when taken out of context. Most of the songs and dance numbers are nothing to write home about but none are terrible. Anything with Esther is worth seeing just for her smile...and those legs!
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Underrated 'swimusical' 'battle of the sexes': between Keel's Hannibal and Esther's swimming aristocratic Roman maiden.
weezeralfalfa5 June 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Featuring two then top stars in yet another 'battle of the sexes' musical, which Keel had done, in quite different settings, with Betty Hutton, Doris Day, Jane Powell, and a couple times with Kathryn Grayson(the ones I'm familiar with). I'm quite surprised how obscure this film has become. I wasn't aware of its existence until seeing it on TCM today. Here, an attempt is made to amalgamate Keel's recent style of musicals with Esther's swimming forte, and the then popular Hollywood format of lavish productions sited in the ancient classical world. On the whole, I think it was rather successful , despite the lack of any memorable songs. At least, it was more entertaining than most of the 'straight' ancient spectaculars, although actual battle scenes were minimal

Amazing to realize this was the third film pairing of Keel and Esther, although the first in 4 years. None of them have garnered an IMDb mean rating above 6.0, and all are mired in obscurity today. The styles and settings of these 3 films couldn't be more different. I rated "Pagan Love Song" well above average, featuring Keel much more than Esther. The lower -rated "Texas Carnival" actually more belongs to the supporting actors: Red Skelton and Anne Miller.

With full beard to enhance his supermasculine image, the tall robust Keel seems like he had just stepped out from a take of "Kiss Me Kate", in which he plays an often bombastic tamer of a notorious shrewish medieval maiden(Grayson's character). As in this former film, Keel's interactions with Esther's character, Amytis, vacillate from threats or attempts to kill her to a desire to make love to her. This makes for quite a stormy and unpredictable twosome, once these 2 meet, which doesn't happen until well into the film. Esther even sometimes sports reddish hair, in mimicry of Grayson's dyed reddish hair during her role as a shrew.

Meanwhile, we have hordes of soldiers and war elephants ,marching around, threatening to destroy Rome, after several victorious battles. Keel sings his alliterative 'Victory March', at the head of his marching troops. At times, the elephants enhance a circus-like atmosphere. For example, in the segment where Gower and Marge Champion, as a subsidiary romantic couple, tease each other, and sing and dance a bit in the presence of several elephants. Also, near the end, we have a string of elephants, each painted a different color.

Amytis(Esther) sees it as her role to try to seduce Hannibal and convince him that he really doesn't want to destroy Rome. You see, she's betrothed to General Fabius Maximus(George Sanders), Hannibal's main opponent. Fabius is characterized as more cultured than the barbaric Hannibal, but also decidedly a less sexy catch to Amytis. Thus, the final deal is to exchange Amytis for Hannibal's guarantee not to destroy Rome(no historical basis). Yes, a very unlikely agreement, given the historic Hannibal's extreme hatred for Rome and vice versa.

Esther's big 'solo' scene has her cavorting with a bevy of marble male statues around a pool, which represent the physical form of her ideal lover, while singing(dubbed) "I Had a Dream". This is followed by an extended playtime in the pool, which also contains a variety of underwater male and cherub statues, which eventual 'come alive' to cavort with her. Quite a sophisticated production, which can currently be seen at YouTube. I still find it amazing that such water ballets could be done looking like they never had to surface.

It may interest you that, once again, Esther's left eardrum ruptured during filming: a recurring problem in her films. From then on, she had to wear a plastic prosthesis covering her nose and ears during her water scenes. Also, she refused to be on the horse when it galloped off a high cliff, into the Tiber River(supposedly). She had broken her neck just 2 years before from a high dive while making "The Million Dollar Mermaid", and didn't want to chance a possibly lethal repeat. As it turned out, her stuntman broke has back from this fall!
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Join Hannibal & Co. in This Fun Musical
JLRMovieReviews13 July 2012
Esther Williams, Howard Keel, and husband-and-wife dancing team Marge and Gower Champion star in this musical about Hannibal. I went into this a little wary, but wanted to see one of Esther's lesser-known films. Granted, it may have earned a somewhat campy and corny reputation, but I found as I got deeper and deeper into it, that I really enjoyed it. What's a little ingenious about it, is that they worked in an Esther Williams swimming interlude in a dramatic way, as she is being chased. And, the great supporting cast of George Sanders, William Demarest, Douglas Dumbrille and Richard Haydn helps a lot. And, both Howard Keel and Esther are very believable as these mythological characters, she so beautiful and he so big, virile, and commanding. This is the type of film, that one will have the dialogue and especially the songs memorized from watching this over and over, because it's so much of a guilty pleasure. I definitely am going to see this again soon. I was going to give this a seven, given the fact this isn't one of Esther's top successes, but it's just so enjoyable, that I give it an '8.' After all, who cares what movie critics think? Just sit back and enjoy the histrionics of Hannibal and Amytis. By the way, do you think this is accurate?
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Casting nightmares
theowinthrop22 April 2004
I don't have many of the great MGM musicals of the 1940s and 50s in my video collection, but my interest in history resulted in my acquiring this decidedly minor work. I couldn't pass it up. Ancient history in American cinema tends (heavily) to be biblical history with a handful of glances at Ancient Egypt and Rome. Seriously, think of the best known titles: DeMille's THE TEN COMMANDMENTS [second version], SAMSON AND DELILAH, KING OF KINGS, THE SIGN OF THE CROSS, CLEOPATRA; THE EGYPTIAN; Joe Mankiewicz's CLEOPATRA; QUO VADIS (with Taylor, Kerr, and Ustinov); THE LAND OF THE PHAROAHS [with Joan Collins]. Films about ancient Greece are even rarer than this: THE FOUR HUNDRED SPARTANS (for the events leading to the defeat of Persia in 480 B.C.); HELEN OF TROY and ULYSSES (the latter actually an Italian film, but starring Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn); JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS. There are a few I've missed. Foreign cinemas have not been much better.

This film is about one of history's great military failures - Hannibal Barca, the Carthagenian tactical genius who is remembered for bringing his army over the alps (including his elephants - a feat of arms that is still marvelled at). He was of Phoenician ancestry, being from the city of Carthage in North Africa (founded by the Phoenicians). He probably was dark skinned, like most North Africans. He probably did not look like Howard Keel, a good actor and singer (KISS ME KATE, CALAMITY JANE - the latter as Wild Bill Hickok, THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS). Since this is a musical comedy the audience will swallow it, but from a historical realistic view the role cried for a singer and actor with a darker skin - someone like Paul Robson. However, for age reasons and political reasons Robson would have been impossible in 1955.

The basis of this film is Robert Sherwood's play, THE ROAD TO ROME, which was a comedy against war. Actually beyond this is the fact that Hannibal, having won five great victories against the Romans (capped by the total routs of Roman arms at Lake Transemene and Cannae) had the "road to Rome" open for his army - had he moved he would have destroyed Rome, and history would have been centered in North Africa for quite awhile. His dawdling lost him his chance, and the tactics of the Roman General Fabius Maximus (to snipe at Hannibal's army over a long period of time, until it was tired and demoralized) won the war after a decade. Fabius was killed in a skirmish, but his place was taken by Scipio Africanus, who delivered the knock-out blow at Zama in 202 B.C. Hannibal fled Carthage, to commit suicide in Macedonia a number of years later when he was about to be handed over to the Romans. Carthage was stripped of it's power and wealth, but nearly sixty years later it was purposely destroyed by the Romans (at the prodding of Cato the Elder, a bigotted Senator) in the pointless Third Punic "War". The population was killed or enslaved, and the town levelled - the site ploughed over with salt so nothing would ever grow there. Hence the bitter term: "Carthagenean Peace". But the memory of Rome's close call at the hands of this genius was a constant nightmare even at the height of their empire. In the AENIAD, Vergil has the doomed North African princess Dido die, praying that her descendant (Hannibal) destroys the Romans. Prior to the collapse of the Empire at the hands of "barbarian" tribes Hannibal was Rome's closest call to destruction.

This play may have been good in 1927, but it dates now. Moreover, Sherwood, despite some stage credits like IDIOT'S DELIGHT, is best remembered for his dual biography (which is still useful) ROOSEVELT AND HOPKINS, about FDR and his advisor Harry Hopkins. Keeping this in mind, my use of the term "minor" is understandable. It is not like a musical based on, say a play by Eugene O'Neill or Tennessee Williams. [Actually O'Neill plays have been turned into musicals: NEW GIRL IN TOWN is based on ANNA CRISTIE, and AH WILDERNESS! was turned into the musical TAKE ME ALONG.]

Williams and Keel are attractive together, but the Burton Lane score is not that good (a number with Marge and Gower Champion about the elephants seems very silly now). George Sanders gives his normally good performance, his Fabius being a mother-dominated type (momma is Norma Varden, who disapproves of his choice of Williams as a wife), but who is an intelligent military leader - witness how he realizes that the best way to fight Hannibal is not to present a pitched battle, but to wear him down. The action of the film is in 217 B.C., when the war was peaking for Hannibal, and Fabius did not die for nearly six years more. Interestingly enough Douglas Dumbrille has a brief part as Scipio, reminding us that the military affairs would remain in highly capable hands at the end. William Demerest is properly flustered a few times, constantly ready to give the signal for the final advance of the Carthageneans on Rome, only to find Hannibal unavailable or unwilling to tell him to do so. One wishes more had been done with Richard Haydn, as a historian named Horatio, but he seems wasted here. A film curiosity - not a great film though.
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It was a giggle, and enjoyable
David T30 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This film was a hoot! And for a spoof its humour was subtle (at times) and generally amusing.

I just loved the opening splash screen - something along the lines of: "the year 216 BC Hannibal marched on Rome. The history of this great march has been confusing. This film will do nothing to clear it up" I giggled then and many more times throughout. Sad that it was a flop. If you want interesting aquatic action with wonderful Esther, then the first one is a cracker. The music, for me was pleasant and completely unmemorable. Loved it, made me smile for its self-indulgent silliness!

The crowd scenes are impressive and the costumes impressive but the scene with the ballet dancing pachyderms was just too much. Damned shame Hannibal didn't appear naked in the river as he was gorgeous.
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The Fall Of The MGM Empire
crispy_comments11 March 2010
Only for fans of the stars or MGM Musicals completists, like me. I've gotta collect them all! Of course this one was made during the decline, as Dore Schary took over the studio and he was *not* a fan of musicals. So, the songs are weak and there's more emphasis on spectacle & action - mixed in with comedy & romance. But the mixture doesn't blend very well. Each genre/character is underdeveloped and unsatisfying. For instance, if you enjoy action/war movies, you may be disappointed with a few chases, brief hand to hand combat...no epic battle, unless you count a little flame-throwing and battering at Rome's gates. Sorry, no bloodshed! (And I know you were expecting it from a movie with "Darling" in the title.)

Marge & Gower Champion are kind of wasted. They have one major number where they parade around with trained elephants. It's lame. I mean, they mostly hop around on one foot (yes, the elephants too) and the Champions are definitely limited by their dancing partners. Not their best choreography. Corny bits like mimicking an elephant's trunk, etc.

Esther Williams has one memorable underwater ballet with some statues that come to life, but other than that, her swimming abilities are used in more plot-driven ways than usual. Most unsettling is an extended chase sequence where soldiers chase her off a cliff and swim after her, trying to kill her...with bows and arrows...underwater! Is that even possible? It's *definitely* impossible to hold your breath for that long. (Something we don't normally question when Esther's underwater sequences are more lighthearted.) Why combine an air of "realistic" menace with such a fantastical premise? Let our fantasy be...fun! It was actually disturbing to see Esther menaced this way, in her "natural" habitat. She should always be grinning that big toothy grin at the camera and frolicking in the water happily. Don't mess with the natural laws of Esther Williams movie physics!

Howard Keel plays his usual charming brute, but maybe a bit too brutal this time, since he's a conquering warrior. Uncomfortable watching him manhandle Esther Williams, hold a knife to her throat, etc. Aaah, love! Marge & Gower also have this slave/master subplot that's pretty offensive. I suppose it's some consolation that she refuses to "be" an elephant...like all the "other" elephants he has trained to *obey* him. Uhh, love?

Not much fun to see George Sanders play an ineffectual mama's boy who can't get the girl. He can be suave and charismatic, but not here. I mean, he does what he's meant to...I just don't enjoy seeing him play a buffoonish sort. Would've been better if he was presented as a charmer with wit and intellect to rival Howard Keel's more robust, earthy qualities. A different, but equally attractive choice, to make Esther's decision less obvious. (But I'm not spoiling anything here by revealing Esther & Howard end up together - c'mon, they're the leads, and we know how these movies work!) Sure, Sanders' speech-making ability is acknowledged, but also ridiculed - and Esther doesn't bother to show up for the speech, so we get the message that Sanders is boring... dangit, some women *like* smart, articulate men! They could've created another supporting character who falls for Sanders, proving him a valid love interest who's just not right for *Esther*, since she and Howard are more physical/less intellectual types. Oh well.

Wow, I don't remember how any of the songs go. They really *are* forgettable. So, it's easy to see why this movie failed to please the Box-office Gods and led to the fall of the Great MGM Empire! I'd buy it on DVD anyway, especially if that outtake musical number from the Laserdisc (mentioned by a previous reviewer) is included. Curious to see Marge & Gower's deleted dance...it's got to be better than the Elephant Walk Of Shame.
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Uninspired musical tries hard to please Esther's fans...
Neil Doyle5 June 2012
Even a good cast can't quite put this one over the top--elephants and all. The choreography is about as original as the score which includes not a single really memorable tune.

Wasted in this nonsensical romp are Esther Williams and Howard Keel in the leads, both given only a few moments to shine. Esther does some interesting underwater swimming with statues that come to life and dives off a cliff with acrobatic skill. Keel struts around as Hannibal with energy and humor and even lifts his voice in song a few times, although the tunes are hardly worthy of his manly baritone.

George Sanders, Richard Haydn, Norma Varden, William Demarest and Marge and Gower Champion are largely wasted and cannot overcome a script that is unintentionally funny even in serious moments. Uninspired direction from George Sidney is no help.

Summing up: Attempt at originality utterly fails in this unusual Esther Williams film. The Champions have a truly wretched dance number with some elephants that takes up far too much time.
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Some good parts despite the songs
HotToastyRag8 February 2018
Believe it or not, there's actually a song whose lyrics sing, "If this be slavery, then give me slavery. If this be slavery, I don't want to be free!" Not only did someone think to write it, but the song was given the green light by Hollywood producers, put into a film, performed by the dance duo Marge and Gower Champion, and not cut from the final film! That should give you an idea as to the quality of music featured in the Esther Williams vehicle Jupiter's Darling.

Esther Williams is engaged to Roman leader George Sanders, but she's drawn to Howard Keel, who's made it his mission to attack and conquer Rome. It's quite a love triangle, because Howard Keel isn't the most likable guy ever written, but he sings powerfully seductive songs and even picks up and moves a real leopard guarding Esther's bed! My one question is why didn't George Sanders get any songs? He showed off his beautiful voice in Call Me Madam, but maybe Hollywood didn't want to give Howard Keel any competition-not that he'd really have any. He's clearly the manly macho one in the movie, and he's scantily dressed, giving audiences an up close and personal view of his macho manliness.

Still, while Howard Keel is able to save a couple of songs in the movie, unless you're an Esther Williams fan, you probably won't end up renting this one. Underwater dancing is a very specialized talent, one that not everyone likes to watch. Then again, you might get a kick out of Richard Haydn sounding very much like his famous Caterpillar role from Alice in Wonderland. Or, you might enjoy looking at Howard Keel in a Greek warrior outfit that barely fits him. One more thing: This is a little criticism, but I do have it-there's a Marge and Gower Champion song performed alongside a couple of elephants, and I couldn't help but feel sorry for the animals. One was supposed to fall over and roll around, while the dancers make fun of it, but to me, it wasn't cute.
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A box-office disaster! But I like it much better today!
JohnHowardReid3 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Copyright 1955 by Loew's Inc. An M-G-M picture. New York opening at the Radio City Music Hall: 17 February 1955. U.S. release: 18 February 1955. U.K. release: July 1955. Australian release: 18 April 1955. 8,645 feet. 96 minutes.

SYNOPSIS: 217 B.C.: Hannibal crosses the Alps. Destination — Rome.

NOTES: "The Road to Rome" opened on Broadway at the Playhouse on 31 January 1927 and ran a highly satisfactory 392 performances. It then went on the road for another year. Philip Merivale starred as Hannibal, Jane Cowl was Amytis. Other players included Barry Jones, Joyce Carey and Jessie Ralph.

Such a box-office disaster — one of the worst in M-G-M's history — prompted the studio to punish everyone concerned. Sidney, Williams, Keel and the Champions were summarily fired; Wells was demoted from producer back to screenwriter; and Kingsley who had an iron-clad contract was forced to do nothing until a loan-out to Columbia for "Pal Joey" in 1957 redeemed her reputation.

VIEWER'S GUIDE: Despite smirks from every censorship body in the world, I stand by my oft-stated credo: Satires are unsuitable for children. I didn't like it either when I saw it on first release. I like it much better now, but it's still a problem picture. The main reason is undoubtedly the exceptionally weak script. It's supposed to be funny, but is played — particularly by George Sanders and Norma Varden, and to a lesser extent by Richard Haydn — in a broad and hammy style that only points up the dialogue's lack of real wit and bite. In fact the theatricality of the speeches and the ridiculous plot are at odds with the often realistic CinemaScope spectacle.

For maximum enjoyment, the best way to approach the movie is to take each scene as it comes. Enjoy the action, the spectacle, the dancing, the mildly entrancing songs, the costumes, sets and props — and forget about the silly story. The choreography is a delight, unusually inventive for Hermes Pan. And those trained elephants are a background marvel.

Yes, Jupi's Darling is great viewing for its songs, production numbers and spectacle — though action fans will feel cheated that the long-promised climactic fight doesn't eventuate. Marge and Gower perform their own dizzying acrobatics too. And Keel is in great voice. And I loved the reprise of the three best songs at the end, plus colored elephants!

Three or four attempts at sick humor (the heroine goes around casually killing people) add to the minuses so far as your typical M-G-M musical audience is concerned. Still, it does retain one traditional M-G-M virtue in that it is very pleasingly photographed throughout. I couldn't tell the difference between Vogel and Rosher, though one undoubtedly worked with the main unit under Sidney, the other on the musical numbers with Hermes Pan. Speaking of Sidney, the direction is at its best in the musical and action spots (which Sidney probably had little to do with), at its worst in the romantic episodes which are very flat-footed in their handling indeed.

William Demarest makes some game tries at extracting humor from his material — and even succeeds in part — but his role is small. The rest of the players — with the possible half-exception of Richard Haydn — are (at least in the histrionic department) a complete wash- out. Keel is unbelievably stiff (he doesn't come on for 30 minutes either). Williams is decorative and swims most energetically, but like the Champions, she is a non-actor. Still, these players handle their other chores so spiritedly, why should we ask or expect them to act too?

OTHER VIEWS: Of the many movies encountered in movie-going, it is rare that one comes as tediously pretentious as "Jupiter's Darling". It is difficult to decide just what aim there was behind the production which was taken from Robert Sherwood's play, "The Road to Rome." Here was surely the opportunity for a fine satire on ancient Rome and one or two moments of fun suggests that the aim has been to present a brightly modern musical comedy. It is astonishing that so much money and talent should be assembled to such dreary effect. - Inigo.
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Beauty and the Barbarian
TheLittleSongbird31 January 2017
'Jupiter's Darling' had so much going for it. Who cannot resist a cast with the likes of Esther Williams, Howard Keel, George Sanders and Marge and Gower Champion, and that it was directed by George Sidney, who made a number of great films.

It is a shame that 'Jupiter's Darling' wasn't better than it was. By all means, it is not a terrible film and not as bad as its notorious financial flop suggests. It does have many pleasures and the reasons for seeing the film in the first place come off well. This said, all have done much better, despite loving Keel and Sanders to death 'Jupiter's Darling' was seen as someone in the process of watching and reviewing every Esther Williams musical and it is one of my least favourite of hers along with 'Texas Carnival'.

Williams certainly isn't one of the problems, in fact she is in her serenely beautiful Amazonian prime and her aquatic skills second to none and the envy of many. Neither is Keel, who is masculine, commanding and charismatic and sings with his usual warm beauty and robust brio, especially in "Never Let the Night Get Away" where he is quite touching. The two click together superbly. Sanders is his usual suave and smooth self, yes even in a role pretty far removed from the types he excelled at (villains and cads), while Richard Haydn is amusing and Marge and Gower Champion are a delight.

That's not all though. The highlight is the truly spectacular water ballet in "I Had a Dream", one of Williams' best and most visually stunning water ballets. The chase sequence is also impressive. Marge and Gower Champion have two notable song and dance numbers and do a terrific job with both. "Life of an Elephant", which sees them dancing with painted elephants, is to be seen to be believed, though some may prefer the more energetic and less lengthy "If This Be Slavery".

Visually, 'Jupiter's Darling' is the very meaning of lavish, the use of CinemaScope, rich bold colours and inventive use of wide-screen are just exemplary, "I Had a Dream" being the standout in this regard. The costumes and sets are very handsome too.

However, the songs and score are only at best serviceable and generally forgettably substandard, the rousing "Hannibal's Victory March" and the touching "Never Let the Night Get Away" being exceptions. The rest have not-easy-to-remember melodies and sometimes very silly lyrics, some like in "Never Trust a Woman" being questionable. Choreographically, "I Had a Dream" and the Champions' numbers impress but the rest lumber and look under-rehearsed.

Storytelling is uneven, sometimes it moves quickly and has great energy but other parts are ponderous, and there is a sense that the film was trying to mix too many styles and genres and it never quite came together. Worst of all is the script, which is impossible to take seriously even in moments that are meant to be serious and even when you are taking the film for what it is, if Keel and Sanders really did have the giggles during filming that's hardly surprising. Sidney's direction is competent but uninspired.

Overall, difficult to rate but with enough pleasures to make it watchable. 5/10 Bethany Cox
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What a waste
rdfarnham12 June 2012
I had wanted to see this film for a long time since I like Esther Williams, Howard Keel and the Champions. I saw it last night on TCM. What a let down. Not one good, memorable song, no real story and even the dance numbers were uninspired. This could have been a real killer of a movie but it just sort of puttered along on two cylinders, not good enough to be enjoyable but not quite bad enough to say the heck with it and give up. Esther's fantasy swimming number with the living statues is the high point. Howard Keel has no song worthy of his talent and the Champion's dance number with the elephants goes on way too long. The other reviewers have pretty much said it all. The fact that this film is not included in ANY of the Esther Williams DVD collections says a bunch.
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