Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Ziegfeld girl (1941)
Oh my! This could be my new favourite movie. It's a Berkeley extravaganza with three gorgeous gals and some of the most insane costumes ever (could you walk regally down a stairway with a school of giant fish hanging from your headdress? How about a flock of parrots?)
The film is a backstage melodrama about the perils of success but my goodness it makes it look attractive. I was completely swept away by the dream of being an overnight star - from a tenament flat on Skid Row to a penthouse on Park Avenue, where gentleman send you flowers, glittering trinkets and fur coats. The film is quite clear though - each year there will be new girls and last year's girls are for last year. If you go wrong it's your own fault. The men in the film all resist the girls' rise to fame, particularly if it means them earning more than the guys.
The story's not much: the great Flo Ziegfeld plucks three girls from obscurity - elevator operator Lana Turner, penniless German beauty Hedy Lamar and struggling child of vaudeville Judy Garland. Overnight, they become stars. And the results? One of our girls resists temptation and goes back to her husband, one makes it as a star and one girl goes bad, Hollywood style.
Garland fairly oozes talent. They try and glam her up a little but it doesn't matter how much leg she shows, she's still just an eager, vulnerable kid. She's a real treat, particularly when she sings the beautiful 'I'm always chasing rainbows'. Gorgeous Hedy doesn't have to do much except be impossibly beautiful and my goodness she's a stunner. Unbelievably lovely. But this is Lana Turner's film. She's a poor girl with a taste for luxury that leaves her truck driving fiancee (the fabulous Jimmy Stewart) out in the cold. You know that this is her one shot of getting out of the gutter and when she pays the price you'll really care about her. Sure, her role is corny, but she goes bad in such a great way. As a reviewer on IMBD says: 'she dies of Old Movie Disease at the end, the kind that reunites you with your true love and leaves your hair and makeup perfect.'
The costumes are by Adrian and though it's a shame the film's in black and white (apparently due to wartime austerity measures) he uses the medium perfectly with lots of tinsel and shiny bits. The costumes'll leave you open mouthed! There's about a hundred girls all dolled up in silver walking down stairs with coral and fish on their heads. Incredible!
Amusing incident: the film includes an old school vaudeville routine featuring the legendary Mr Shean. Yep, the one that inspired the cleaning product.