Thursday, August 11, 2016


Virginia Mayo is a movie star who feels washed up in Hollywood. Her agent (Larry Keating) talks her into heading back to Broadway to star in a new musical. The catch: she would be working with director Steve Cochran, the man who directed her breakout show years ago; the two were lovers and he never forgave her for leaving both him and the hit show for a movie contract. Cochran resists using Mayo until his producer (Frank Lovejoy) tells him that with her name attached to the project, financing for the show has come pouring in. Cochran reluctantly agrees to give her the role and for a while, things run smoothly, but when he discovers that her agent is the main backer, he assumes the whole thing is a set-up for Mayo to make a big splash, then leave the show like she did before. He starts treating her harshly at rehearsals; she storms off stage and he quits. Cochran soon realizes that he's getting bad publicity, and he and Mayo reconcile professionally and go on with the show. Though there still seems to be an attraction between them, Cochran has a lover (Patrice Wymore), a dancer in the show—their relationship is made quite clear, somewhat surprisingly for a Production Code movie—and that triangle combined with, sure enough, a Hollywood offer after the New Haven previews, may wind up scuttling both the show and the re-warmed affair.

Despite the title and the presence of the fairly lightweight actress Virginia Mayo, this isn't a musical comedy. There are some songs, all in the context of the show being rehearsed, and most of the numbers are in fact seen in rehearsal form rather than as staged songs—oddly, the full-blown production number "Breakfast in Bed" isn't as fun as the rehearsal numbers. As far as tone, it's basically a fairly serious melodrama done with a light but not comic touch. The film begins with Mayo feeling depressed over the suicide of an actress very much like her. The scenes between Mayo and Cochran are well-played and serious. There isn't real comic relief, except for the presence of one poor untalented schmoe who keeps auditioning for a part and is finally given a job as a stage assistant. The problem is that it never feels like there's much at stake here. The movie feels uneasily stuck between being a show-biz comedy like THE BAND WAGON and being a show-biz drama like THE COUNTRY GIRL. For me, Cochran (pictured at right) can do no wrong, and his solid performance is like a stepping stone to Roy Scheider's portrayal of a fictionalized Bob Fosse in ALL THAT JAZZ. Speaking of which, Fosse may have seen the audition scene early in this film, as his great "On Broadway" number in JAZZ seems to have been inspired by it. Also with the always fun Gene Nelson as Mayo’s leading man (Nelson and Mayo are pictured above), and a spectacular two-man dance team of Steve Condos and Jerry Brandow whose tap routine is the musical highlight of the film. Worth seeing if you don't expect a frothy comedy. [TCM]

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