After writing a tell-all book about her days in the dance troupe "Barry Nichols and Les Girls", Sybil Wren (Kay Kendall) is sued for libeling her fellow dancer Angele (Taina Elg). A Rashomon (1950)-style narrative presents the story from three points of view. Sybil accuses Angele of having an affair with Barry ( Gene Kelly ), while Angele insists that it was actually Sybil who was having the affair. Finally, Barry gives his side of the story.Written by
The car driven by Barry Nichols (Gene Kelly) is an AC ACE-Bristol Roadster which was a precursor to the Shelby Cobra - a Ford V8 engine and transmission fitted to a modified AC Bristol body, introduced in 1963. See more »
During the European tour, multiple clips are shown of American-style steam locomotives, not European-type engines, as would have been appropriate. See more »
A film starring Gene Kelly and directed by George Cukor where the ladies steal the show
Gene Kelly was one of the most talented and charismatic performers in classic musicals, some of his dance routines being among cinema's most jaw-dropping. And George Cukor was a fine director with a filmography that contained a number of favourites.
Both have done better films than 'Les Girls', in fact everybody involved pretty much has, but the film is definitely well worth watching and is entertaining in its own right. To me, what came off least successfully is the story, which is basically a musical version of Akira Kurosawa's 'Rashomon' (except that film handled its story structure much better). It is certainly intriguing, and it is difficult to resist its often risqué and disarming nature, but it does struggle at times to sustain momentum and material for a running time that feels over-stretched, making the latter half pedestrian narratively. And while interesting the flashback structure doesn't always feel as smooth as it could have been, some of it clumsy and disorganised.
Cole Porter's songs have been criticised for reasons that are understandable. None of the songs are bad, Porter was too good a composer/song-writer to write bad music, and are reasonably pleasant, but this is not one of Porter's better song scores. Pleasant enough, but nowhere near as memorable or as inspired, apart from some witty and naughty lyric-writing (though there are instances where they are over-shadowed by some distracting stage business in the choreography), as they could have been, disappointing for a great composer/song-writer who should have gone out on a high note but didn't. Jacques Bergerac is also insipidly dull in a role with practically nothing to it, basically the sort of role that's there for the sake of being a plot device but nothing more.
Despite how this all sounds, 'Les Girls' does have a number of merits that it is difficult to be too hard on it. The best assets are the production values and the performances of the ladies. 'Les Girls' is simply a stunning-looking film, the colours are eye-poppingly ravishing, the sets are lavish, the costumes are beautifully chic and the cinematography often dazzles. The ladies manage to steal the show under those who most would naturally see the film for (Kelly, Cukor and Porter). Particularly note-worthy is the perfection that is Kay Kendall, who is charming and hilarious and would have had a bigger career if it hadn't been cut short so early and tragically. Mitzi Gaynor also has fun with her role and makes the character sympathetic too, while Taina Elg is suitably sultry.
Kelly is always watchable, and dances with charisma and his usual polish and technical meticulousness in routines that, while not exactly career highlights, do show off how incredible a dancer he was, even if his character is one of his least endearing (though he does bring wit and charm). Cukor makes the most of the production values and there is enough elegance and lightness of touch, but it does seem in the early parts especially that he wasn't in complete control, or entirely trust or was comfortable, with the material. The script is wonderfully witty and also has a risqué boldness and sexiness.
On the whole, not a great film, and doesn't see the enormously talented people in front of and behind the camera doing the best work of their careers, but absolutely worth watching for the production values and Kendall. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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