Saturday, January 22, 2011


This average wartime musical set in a music hall in London renowned for staying open and never missing a performance throughout WWII is based loosely on the story of an actual theater, The Windmill, which was also the inspiration for a much more interesting film, 2005's Miss Henderson Presents. Here, the theater is mostly just a backdrop for a tediously predictable and underdeveloped romance between American singer Rita Hayworth and RAF pilot Lee Bowman. He flirts with her during an air raid and won't take "no" for an answer, so she agrees on a date, but she gets pissed off when he pulls a fast one to ensure they'll be alone in his apartment. A couple days later, when he's called up for a mission, she suddenly decides she loves him (about the most unconvincing romantic switcheroo ever). Will he come back in one piece? Will she agree to marry him? The only real suspense is in figuring out which character(s) will die, since in a war movie, someone in whom the audience is invested has to die. Will it be her dancing friend Janet Blair? The wispy male dancer Marc Platt, who waits until the movie's almost over to declare his (doomed) love for Hayworth? Florence Bates, the crusty but heart-of-gold manager of the theater? Or will the rather boring Bowman die a hero after all?

There are a few points of interest along the way. Hayworth, in her first starring role, is gorgeous and does a decent acting job with weak material. The Technicolor is stunning, and a couple of the numbers, notably Hayworth's sexy "You Excite Me" and an elaborate production number for an otherwise so-so song called "Cry and You Cry Alone," are fun. Most of the major British speaking parts are taken by thoroughly American actors who can't do an accent to save their souls, and to Bowman's credit, he doesn't even try. Only Texas-born Florence Bates manages to sound authentic. I like that a stab is occasionally made at fleshing out some of the supporting characters, but more attention should have been paid to rounding out the leading couple, not to mention the super-boring Platt and Blair. Hayworth fans won't be disappointed, and devotees of the movie musical might have some fun now and then, but most other viewers will want to skip this one. [TCM]

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