COVER GIRL

 (Charles Vidor, USA, 1944) 107 minutes

COVER GIRL

Director: Charles Vidor
Producer: Arthur Schwartz
Screenplay: Virginia Van Upp,
&npsp based on a story by Erwin Gelsey
Cinematography: Allen M. Davey, Rudolph Maté
Editor: Viola Lawrence
Music: Jerome Kern
Lyrics: Ira Gershwin
Rita Hayworth (Rusty Parker/Maribelle Hicks)
Gene Kelly (Danny McGuire)
Lee Bowman (Noel Wheaton)
Phil Silvers (Genius)
Eve Arden (Cornelia Jackson)
Leslie Brooks (Maurine Martin)
Otto Kruger (John Coudair)
Jess Barker (John Coudair as a Young Man)

Reviews and notes

Festival:
2009 Karlovy Vary



Charles Vidor's Technicolor musical laces wartime escapism with raw sex. Rita Hayworth's bewitching Brooklyn nightclub dancer Rusty finds Broadway and a wealthy husband within her grasp when she wins a modelling contest and becomes the in-demand 'cover girl' of the title. The humble pleasures holding her back are Gene Kelly, as Danny the nightclub manager and her devoted paramour, and comedian chum Genius, played by Phil Silvers. The glamour provided by the handsome leads, the wish-fulfilment plot and the gorgeous climactic number are there to add sparkle to the movie's old-fashioned message about the value of friendship and hard work - fine things to remember, no doubt, in the difficult days of 1944.

Hayworth is magnificent: sexy and good-humoured, at least when she isn't playing Rusty's music-hall grandmother, who ventures a terrible mockney accent. Kelly, who was on loan from MGM and took on choreography duties with a young Stanley Donen, offers an enchantingly romantic performance, and his dance scenes are, needless to say, sublime, especially when he partners his own superimposed self in Alter-Ego Dance.

The songs, most of them delightful if not cast-iron classics, are by Jerome Kern and Ira Gershwin. The highlights are love songs Put Me to the Test and Long Ago (and Far Away), plus the morale-boosting Make Way for Tomorrow performed by Hayworth, Kelly and Silvers with disarming gusto. That said, Silvers rhyming "because of Axis trickery/My coffee now is chicory" in his lecherous rationing ditty Who's Complaining? can, once heard, never be forgotten. This is one of the wittiest big-studio musicals, and the peerless Eve Arden, as a sardonic fashion journalist, gets all the best, most innuendo-laden lines, followed closely by Silvers. Opening number The Show Must Go On seems to openly taunt members of the crowd who took their seat merely to gawp at Hayworth's lovely legs.
- Pamela Hutchinson, Sight and Sound, April 2017.


Cover Girl was a crucial turning point in Gene Kelly's career. He was a contract player at MGM, and he was antsy. He dreamed of reinventing the Hollywood musical inspired by the model created by choreographer Agnes De Mille on stage. In her landmark Broadway dances in Oklahoma, the dance evolved from the drama, instead of interrupting it. He got his chance when Cover Girl's producer wanted to borrow him from MGM for the part of nightclub owner Danny McGuire opposite Rita Hayworth. Columbia's belligerent mogul, Harry Cohn, was reluctant. He considered Hayworth his protegé and protested, "That tough Irishman with his tough Irish mug? You must be joking. You couldn't put him in the same frame with my Rita."

Cohn finally relented, but some footage had already been shot, including the opening number The Show Must Go On. Kelly and 19 year old co-choreographer Stanley Donen were so appalled at the sloppy footwork, that they brashly inserted three reaction shots of Kelly in the wings, shaking his head in disapproval, so no one would mistake the routine for their work. Cover Girl's haphazard screenplay had been cobbled together by Virginia Van Upp, who fashioned this musical classic from 7 or 8 bad scripts. She wrote dialogue specifically for Rita Hayworth, even changing it on the set, which was unusual, since tradtionally writers were rarely welcome there.

Rita Hayworth was never more radiant than as Rusty Parker, a Brooklyn chorus girl who ends up on a Vanity magazine cover as The Golden Wedding Girl. Hayworth was exquisitely happy during the filming; she eloped with the great love of her life, Orson Welles after a day of filming Cover Girl. She was 24, and 28 year old Welles was still riding the crest of his great early successes.

Jerome Kern's Long Ago and Far Away was considered by many to be the film's musical highlight. But the exuberant trio Make Way for Tomorrow with Kelly, Hayworth and Phil Silvers is even better, and foreshadows the three sailors Kelly and Donan would later take On the Town. Some film historians date the moment the three of them push back from the counter and start to sing as a transitional film moment between backstage and character musicals. Kelly's Alter-Ego dance with his own reflection inspired his Singin' in the Rain solo in the film of the same name several years later. Kelly remembered "I wanted to further the plot emotionally and not just be a musical interlude. But unless you're in a ballet, you just can't start to dance...so in Cover Girl what I decided to do at this point was not state my thesis in a song, but in a few words which came over the soundtrack as if they were my 'stream of consciousness' and then go into a dance."

Director Charles Vidor washed his hands of the number, believing it was technically impossible. Donen said, "We would have to repeat the camera moves by ourselves, with Gene performing the dance twice to the prerecorded sound track. I knew it could be done by having him hit the same spots the second time as he did the first, which Gene could do, and then we could film it by having the camera hit the same marks both times, which I knew I could do." The amazing precision had a lot to do with Kelly's incredible ability - some called him the human metronome.

The world of Cover Girl seems like total fantasy. But, former Vogue editor Rosamond Bernier wrote: "Vogue was something in those days. I came in my first morning and saw all the editors at the typewriters wearing hats with veils and big rhinestone chokers and earrings. I looked with absolute wonder!" Cover Girl is about glamour, a word that alludes to an attractiveness so powerful, that it must be sorcery. None of the real 1940s cover girls in the film (like Jinx Falkenberg) could ever dream of coming close to Rita Hayworth's goddess-like perfection.

Rusty's dilemma, according to Janine Basinger in A Woman's View, is choosing between an older suitor who offers her fame and success, a man who loves her (and is rich, manipulative and bossy), or the man she really loves (who is poor, manipulative and bossy). But if he looks and dances like Gene Kelly...
- moviediva, June 2005.



Restoration:

Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and a 1080p transfer, this is sourced from a recent 4K master that was prepared by Sony Pictures in the United States. Rather predictably, the entire film looks very healthy and has the type of consistent fluidity that high-quality masters ensure when done right. Detail and clarity are also very impressive, making it exceptionally easy to identity small nuances. The most obvious improvements are during the darker and nighttime footage where there is expanded and new dimensionality that helps depth and even the overall color balance (blacks have new ranges). Density is consistent and convincing. Color stability and balance are very good. The current color palette when projected has a strong and very convincing Technicolor appearance. There are absolutely no traces of problematic degraining or sharpening adjustments. Image stability is excellent - there are no jumpy frames or distracting shaky transitions. The film has been thoroughly cleaned up and it is virtually spotless.

With music having such an important role, optimal audio is indeed crucial. Fortunately, immediately after the opening credits appear it becomes obvious that the audio has been fully remastered. If there were ever any serious age-related imperfections it is now impossible to tell because clarity and stability remain consistently pleasing throughout the entire film. The range of dynamic nuances is of course quite modest, but this is a limitation of the original production and the sound design in particular. There are no distracting audio dropouts, pops, or distortions.
- adapted from Dr. Svet Atanasov, Blu-ray.com, 11 August, 2017.

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