Director: Charles VidorCover Girl (1944)
Cast: Gene Kelly, Rita Hayworth, Phil Silvers
Run Time: 107 minutes
Format: Dual Format
Release Date: 13 Feb 2017
Jamie Havlin gives his verdict on one of the most lavish and successful Hollywood musicals of the 1940s, Cover Girl.
Firstly I should admit that I am no big fan of musicals. Okay, I was very fond of the song and dance routine in Hail, Caesar! last year but even La La Land failed to win me over the way it has countless others, enjoyable enough as I found it.
Cover Girl stars Rita Hayworth as Rusty Parker, a chorus line dancer working in a modest Brooklyn night club owned by her boyfriend Danny McGuire (Gene Kelly).
A swell looking dame, Rusty learns of a cover girl competition from a fellow dancer and decides to try her luck, hoping that winning it might accelerate her path to fame and fortune.
Despite her plan almost being sabotaged by a so-called friend, Rusty is chosen as the latest Vanity cover girl by magazine magnate John Coudair, a man who by a complete coincidence had fallen in love decades earlier with Rusty’s grandmother Maribelle Hicks, who just happens to be a dead ringer for Rusty – Maribelle is also played by Hayworth in a series of flashbacks which add little to the plot.
Almost immediately Rusty is being touted as the next big thing and Danny’s club begins attracting the Manhattan in-crowd. Of course, this ignites interest from other night spots and theatres hoping to lure Rusty from Brooklyn to Broadway and Coudair’s wealthy friend, Noel Wheaton, leads the race, offering her a starring role in a spectacular show where thousands see her every time she stepped on to the stage.
Not only that but he also wants to marry Rusty, who will quickly be torn between her new bigtime profile and her previous life with McGuire, the man she so obviously loves. I would guess that you might just be able to work out how the story will end.
At this point in the mid 1940s, Hayworth was American’s sweetheart, one of the biggest box office attractions in the world and a G.I. pin-up rivalled only by Betty Grable. Kelly’s career was on the rise, although after the success of Cover Girl he quickly began vying with Fred Astaire for the title of America’s top hoofer.
The chemistry between Hayworth and Kelly is excellent here and Hollywood musical aficionados will likely feel suitably razzle-dazzled by the end of this Technicolor extravaganza though I doubt anyone would find the plot particularly satisfying and I wouldn’t necessarily want to put money on the average viewer of today being able to hum a single tune from the film a week after seeing it.
Although largely a showcase for the talents of Hayworth (who does all her own dancing but whose vocals are dubbed), it’s Kelly who steals the show with a highly inventive turn where he is accompanied not by Hayworth but by his own superimposed reflection which begins to act as a kind of alter ego as the pair (of sorts) dance along a late night deserted street.
Extras include a short featurette where Baz Luhrmann gives his thoughts on the film and a 28 page booklet.
Trivia: Hayworth married Orson Welles during the filming of Cover Girl.
For more on the film, visit Eureka Masters of Cinema.
All words by Jamie Havlin. More writing by Jamie can be found at his Louder Than War author’s archive.