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Monday, August 17, 2015

Junior Names Carry a Metro Musical


Three Hopefuls Say, Give A Girl A Break (1952)

A second-tier musical sold short, if at all, by Metro marketers not averse to dumping product they lacked confidence in. In Girl's instance, there was no Broadway open, and for a most part double-featuring from there. Variety gave it but "mild chances as a companion feature for twin bills." The negative had cost $1.7 million, a fair chunk even for musicals aimed higher. Girl was slated initially as vehicle for Astaire, Judy Garland, and Gene Kelly to trio-star. Their withdrawal left normally support talent to make music and dance: Marge and Gower Champion, Debbie Reynolds,  beginner Bob Fosse. The format serves them, being simple as to plot, which is to say there's virtually none beyond choosing one of three girls to lead a B'way revue. Absence of narrative allows more of what we're there to see, and these players put over nicely the hoof-work. MGM creates a Gotham of 50's dreaming, all full moons, cityscapes, and gleaming yellow cabs. I enjoyed this, on Warner Instant in HD, as much as higher-profile songfests Metro cobbled during late term of musicals' Golden Age. Too bad a spoiled 1953-54 public didn't agree, Give A Girl A Break ignored to ultimate loss of $1.1 million. Variety noted a 3/54 Chicago surfeit of pics not strong enough to play as singles, thus the RKO Grand's late winter policy of pairing weak sisters for single weeks so they'd at least have Loop play and satisfy distributors who'd advertise to that effect. Give A Girl A Break thus ran a single Chicago frame as combo with Tennessee Champ, another limping out of MGM that was more properly labeled a "B."

4 Comments:

Blogger CanadianKen said...

Nice to see you shining a spotlight on this one - one of my favorite 50`s musicals. And you`re so right in observing that the relative ``absence of narrative allows more of what we`re there to see` which `these players put over nicely`. Yet, what narrative there is I find quite engaging. The Champions are charmers. And Kurt Kasznar`s hilarious in a role somewhat like Oscar Levant`s in `The Band Wagon`. But I`ve always been especially intrigued by Helen Wood - a very attractive lady (a la Cyd Charisse), a reasonably good actress and an incredibly limber dancer, specializing in a kind of graceful contortionism. And she certainly looks to be in her early to mid twenties. What info there is out there on her (mainly at IMD) seems very puzzling. They`d have it that she debuted as a Goldwyn girl twenty years earlier in `Roman Scandals`` following that with numerous 30`s appearances in films like `` A Midsummer Night`s Dream`and `Charlie Chan at the Racetrack``. The water`s muddied even further in her brief IMD bio section, which states rather enigmatically that she was married to `Ed`. Since they don`t supply a last name, the implication appears to be that it`s Ed Wood, which seems outlandishly unlikely. More credible are references to a number of Broadway musical appearances through the 50`s.
Whatever the truth is about this lovely lady, she`s certainly another example of how topnotch musical talents had the rugs pulled out from under them in the mid 50`s when the movie musical suddenly ceased being a bustling genre. After ``Give a Girl a Break``, cinema-goers never saw her again.

11:28 AM  
Blogger b piper said...

Now you've got me intrigued. This movie is on TCM this Sunday morning at 7:30 so I guess I'll have to watch it.

12:42 PM  
Blogger Donald Benson said...

There's a speculative category: How many oddly expensive "Bs" exist because the studio assembly line couldn't be shut off when a star dropped out? Not so much trading one star for another as moving a picture into a different grade or category.

I know "Fireman Save My Child" was well along as a Bud & Lou vehicle when they had to sub in Hugh O'Brien (?) and Buddy Hackett to match existing stunt footage. And I read that Universal also knocked out a few budget swashbucklers expressly to keep "Against All Flags" sets in use when Errol Flynn was out with an injury. Meanwhile, Hammer made "The Phantom of the Opera" a good guy because they thought they had Cary Grant; they had to settle for Herbert Lom (a name but not a star).

5:55 PM  
Blogger rnigma said...

Actually it was Spike Jones who filled in for Bud, with Hackett pinch-hitting for Lou. Interestingly, Hackett would later portray Costello in a TV-biopic "Bud & Lou," with Harvey Korman.

7:05 PM  

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