Three for the Show (1955)
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The film itself is a mess of a thing - some good dance numbers featuring Marge and Gower Champion (Marge's fantasy sequence is very fine) and some good songs ("I've Got a Crush On You", "Someone to Watch Over Me")sit uncomfortably with the plot and the director never seems sure which style he is aiming for. It looks like an attempt to cover the breezy free style of the Gene Kelly/Stanley Donen musicals, with characters bursting into song all over the place and elaborate dance dream sequences. But the result is a confusion of styles and a plodding pace.
The plot concerns married Grable discovering her presumed dead first husband is still alive. She must then choose between new husband Gower Champion and old husband Jack Lemmon (who also happen to be a show writing team). This potentially serious situation, that probably occurred a lot after the war, is treated completely flippantly - and with Gower's real life wife hanging around it's not hard to guess how things will turn out. Lemmon is good, but looks uncomfortable singing and dancing. See this for the numbers - but make sure you see it in Cinemascope.
Collaborators Jack Lemmon and Gower Champion have a hit show on Broadway for producer Myron McCormick that stars Betty Grable. Lemmon goes into the Air Force during the Korean War and goes MIA. He's reported killed and Grable who was married to Lemmon, now marries Champion. Then of course Lemmon returns and they've a situation the reverse of My Favorite Wife.
In the meantime poor Marge Champion is champing at the bit because she's got a thing for Gower. I think you can figure out where this one is going.
The numbers come from a variety of sources, some original, some Broadway, some classical. Betty Grable in what proved to be her next to last film did more serious type dancing here than in any other. But next to the Champions, she really did not look that good. It was unfair to cast her with them.
Grable also did not like working for Harry Cohn, she was used to another imperious studio mogul over at 20th Century Fox who had kind of eased her out of her number one spot for the fast rising Marilyn Monroe. But she thought he was a pussycat next to Cohn. Two For The Show was Betty's first outside film after 14 year at Fox.
Jack Lemmon proved to have a couple of good singing notes as he does accompany the rest on a number or two. He liked working with Grable because he felt she was unpretentious with a good sense of humor as apparently a lot of her colleagues did.
As a film though, Three For The Show will never rank first rate in the work of either Lemmon or Grable.
Some Gershwin standards and a few minor new songs flesh out the musical program here, utilizing dream sequences in an unsuccessful attempt to emulate the intelligent similar themes of "Lady in the Dark". Champion, who would direct Grable on Broadway in "Hello, Dolly!", is a great dancer, but it's obvious where this plot is going. Lemmon, a fine singer, remade three Columbia comedies which added songs, and his easy charm is perfect for musical comedy. It's too bad he only did three or never got to star in a musical on Broadway. I could easily see him as Harold Hill in "The Music Man". As for Ms. Champion, her character seems all too eager to break the news to Lemmon, making her a bit of a troublemaker and not really sympathetic.
So the major praise here goes to Ms. Grable, surviving through three decades of changing musical tastes and remaining fresh and lovable. Her female run harem sequence (with strains of "Stranger in Paradise" attached) is the best of the fantasies. Champion's rendition of "Someone to watch over me" leads to a very weird number that had me in disbelief over what I was seeing. Lemmon has a acrobatic semi-dance number where he prepares for time alone with Grable that seems like something out of a silent movie. It's a mixed bag with much to admire. I just wish it wasn't trying to be so high brow.
Somerset Maugham's play was filmed as "Too Many Husbands", a reasonably good film (with a "suggestive" ending) that suffers next to "Favorite". "Three for the Show" is a musical remake. At best, it's lame. At worst, it's stupid.
Either way it's a mish-mosh of mostly uninspired dance numbers, songs borrowed from other musicals, and nothing whatever that would convince us we should have the least bit of interest in the characters and their predicament. It doesn't work as comedy, drama, or spectacle.
The only good thing is an extended dance sequence in which Betty Gable and Marge Champion fight. (No mud or Jell-O, though.)
It's not only boring, but irritating. A dud all around.
Lemmon has been proclaimed dead in the war (which war?) so Grable marries Champion. Lemmon returns, and the guys battle over the hefty star while Marge look on is distress. In the original film, the ending is ambiguous with both guys still in Arthur's life. Here, she pairs off with Lemmon. Bleh.
Gower Champion might have been a good dancer and director but he's a zero as a romantic lead. So is Lemmon. Marge Champion (a terrific beard) looks like Bea Benaderet in corsets. The MGM darlings (the Champions) were a total bust in films. Grable was long past her prime and even though she's only 39 here, looks OLD and FAT.