Monday, 13 February 2017

Cover Girl (1944)

“Top-Notch Gloriously Colourful Musical”

All kinds of stuff drops through the letterbox here at House of Mortal Cinema, and here’s an item that was an unexpected treat as Charles Vidor’s vibrant, gorgeous 1944 picture for Columbia (with Gene Kelly on loan from MGM) gets a sparkling UK Blu-ray release from Eureka.

Rusty (Rita Hayworth) works as a dancer at a nightclub in Brooklyn owned by her boyfriend Danny (Gene Kelly). She enters a competition to be the cover girl for the anniversary issue of Vanity magazine, doesn’t get it, but eventually does because she reminds Vanity editor John Coudair (Otto Kruger) of his long lost love. Cue flashbacks (and songs) to John Coudair forty years previously (not Otto this time but Jess Barker) and Rita again, this time playing her own grandmother.

The cover shoot is a fabulous success and Broadway beckons. But should Rusty marry impresario and Julian McMahon lookalike Noel Wheaton (Lee Bowman) but be unhappy forever, or go back to Gene and his happy dancing? Will anyone for even one minute not know what’s going to happen? Of course not, because this is a Hollywood musical made when they really knew how to. 

Even bearing that in mind, COVER GIRL is still hugely impressive. The costume design is stunning, making full use of the colour revolution but coming up with some seriously trippy outfits into the bargain. Kelly was given a fair bit of freedom to put together some of the dance routines, with the result that they’re more ambitious than you might expect for a film of the period. Kelly dancing with himself is innovative enough, and there’s a fabulous tracking shot during a routine that foreshadows what Kelly would do in SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN. Fans of Robert Greenwald’s XANADU (1980) will spot that Kelly’s character in that and this share the same name of Danny McGuire.

Eureka’s Blu-ray is stunning, preserving the original 1.37:1 aspect ratio, with colours so vibrant they virtually leap off the screen with the dancers. Blacks are rich and there’s a good level of grain but no picture noise. Extras are sadly mininal. It’s great having Baz Luhrmann talk about the picture but his piece is only four minutes long. Other than that you get a trailer and an isolated music and effects track and that’s it.

I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting too much from a mid-1940s musical but COVER GIRL really was a revelation. While the plot isn’t anything to crow about, the design and choreography are (Rita Hayworth’s descent on the Broadway stage set looks like it could have come from a mega budget version of THE CABINET OF DR CALIGARI). Well worth a look even if you’re only slightly interested in movies of this type & this period. 

Eureka's Blu-ray of Charles Vidor's COVER GIRL is out on Monday 13th February 2017

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