Cover Girl(Twilight Time Blu-ray)
Directors - Charles Vidor
Cast - Rita Hayworth, Gene Kelly
Country of Origin - U.S.
Discs - 1
Distributor - Twilight Time
Reviewer - Bobby Morgan
The Film: 4/5
Rusty Parker (Rita Hayworth) works as a performer at a Brooklyn nightclub owned by her boyfriend Danny McGuire (Gene Kelly) and seems to enjoy her life as it is, but deep down she’s always wanted more. Her big chance comes when she’s selected from scores of fashionable young women in New York to be the cover girl for the 50th anniversary issue of the magazine Vanity by its published John Coudair (Otto Kruger). As a result Rusty becomes an overnight sensation whose sudden popularity begins drawing larger audiences to Danny’s club. The increase in business seems to please everyone, including Danny and Rusty’s friend and fellow performer Genius (Phil Silvers) but Danny can’t help but feel jealous at Rusty’s newfound fame because it means that inevitably she’ll depart his small venue for the big time on Broadway. That is exactly what happens when theater owner Noel Wheaton (Lee Bowman) lures Rusty away from Danny to headline her own show on the Great White Way, and once he becomes infatuated with her proposes marriage to the city’s favorite cover model. Will Rusty abandon Danny forever for a man who will give her anything she could ever want in life except love, or will the embittered Danny win back the heart of his best dancer and love of his life? This is a mid-1940’s WWII-era Hollywood musical in Technicolor - I’ll give you one guess.
No matter how many musical Blu-rays I may get sent for review it’s a genre of cinema I will probably never warm to. I just can’t get into them much. But that doesn’t stop me from appreciating the masterful craft that went into how these movies were produced, from the meticulous dance choreography to the often stunning set design, especially when it comes to those old-fashioned numbers that never shied from letting moviegoers know they had been filmed on a studio back lot. Realism isn’t exactly a necessary component to making a musical; when you have your characters randomly breaking out in song and dance verisimilitude is about as welcome in that universe as Brett Ratner is at the San Diego Comic-Con. During the Great Depression people across the U.S. flocked to practically every extravagant musical Hollywood was offering up as a means of escape from the oppressive reality of everyday life, much as modern audiences seek a few hours’ respite from the nation’s current employment situation by watching the latest superhero blockbuster or reading the latest page-turner from James Patterson or J.K. Rowling. I may not be a rabid fan of musicals, but I can certainly understand their universal appeal. Otherwise I would be a gigantic hypocrite as I’m lining up next summer to see the new Superman movie.
Cover Girl is one of the better musicals I have seen. It has an unexceptional storyline that offers virtually no surprises and few of the songs leave a lasting impact. But it does have something most big screen musicals didn’t and that’s the incomparable pairing of silver screen goddess Rita Hayworth and legendary song-and-dance man Gene Kelly in one of his earliest lead roles. Columbia Pictures had developed Cover Girl as a vehicle for Hayworth’s many considerable talents and would become one of her most beloved films. She was one of those rare movie stars who could actually do it all, from acting to singing and dancing to even inadvertently helping Andy Dufresne escape from Shawshank Prison (with a little extra help from Raquel Welch). As the gifted but insecure Rusty Hayworth makes for a convincing heroine in a typical rags-to-riches saga, never becoming spoiled and always appreciating what truly matters most in life. Kelly matches her in every aspect except being a timeless hottie (but of course I would think that because I’m a dude) and helps ground the melodrama by expressing his inner torment through body language, and obviously the thrill of a great dance number. Both Hayworth and Kelly get a few real corkers with Hayworth’s big number coming as Rusty makes her major Broadway debut, but Kelly tops that with a dance sequence where he is paired off with his own conscience - visualized on screen as a ghostly mirror image of himself. According to the liner notes included with the Blu-ray Kelly said that this number was “the most difficult thing I’ve ever done - a technical torture”. Perhaps it was Gene, but it made for great cinema all the same.
The great film and television comedian Phil Silvers is on hand to infuse the drama with much levity and even gets to show off his own skills when it comes to song and dance. I always knew Sgt. Bilko was a great funnyman but I was amazed at how well he held his own with Hayworth and Kelly in a playful musical number that has our star trio gaily making their way down a city sidewalk, feeling on top of the world even as they reside in the gutter of the New York entertainment scene. Charles Vidor, who would later direct Hayworth in another of her best-known films, Gilda, brings a rousing energy to the production numbers but never gives short shrift to the integral dramatic scenes, all beautifully shot by Allen M. Davey and Rudolph Mate. Even when the pacing sags during the second act the movie rarely looks less than gorgeous.
Twilight Time’s 1.33:1 full frame 1080p high-definition transfer looks superb with moderate amounts of grain and no noticeable pops. The print is saturated with warm, lush colors and is probably represents the best Cover Girl has looked in decades. On the audio front we get a very strong and occasionally rattling English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 soundtrack that keeps the quieter scenes and the boisterous production numbers nicely balanced in the volume for the most part, although sometimes you might have to turn the sound up a bit to hear the dialogue. English subtitles are included.
Other than an informative booklet of liner notes and a catalogue of other titles in the Twilight Time line (the Fright Night Blu-ray remains sold out) there are no extra features to be found on this disc.
A sweet and colorful musical that never fails to juice up some otherwise stiff proceedings with a host of jaunty show stoppers, Cover Girl is very entertaining for what it is. The snappy dialogue and dancing can’t always help quicken the movie’s occasionally glacial pacing however. Plus the $55 price tag for this disc seems even more absurd when the complete absence of supplements is taken into account. Recommended with reservations to any huge fan of old school Hollywood musicals but I’d advise against paying full price for this Blu-ray.