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    April Preorders / Technicolor Goddess

    Posted by Mike Finnegan on

    Preorders open today (at 4 PM EDT/1PM PDT) for six Twilight Time Blu-ray releases arriving April 12: Chato’s Land, Cutter’s Way, In the French Style, A Prayer for the Dying, three-time Academy Award® winner Julia and the return of Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. Incendiary action, intense drama and indelible performances are in store for fans who take these highly anticipated titles for a spin.

    In 1944, there was Technicolor, with Kismet, Lady in the Dark, Meet Me in St. Louis and Wilson among that year’s crop. But then there was Rita Hayworth in Technicolor, a rainbow unto itself dazzlingly delivered by Cover Girl, opening 72 years ago today as Radio City Music Hall’s Great Easter Show attraction. In a rare unthrifty gambit to clinch the star status befitting his glamorous contract player, Columbia Pictures studio head Harry Cohn brought together a successful songwriter who would produce a movie for the first time (Arthur Schwartz), a reliable director who would be doing his first musical (Charles Vidor), a co-star borrowed from another studio which hadn’t yet given him the vehicle to showcase his wide-ranging talents (MGM loan-out Gene Kelly), two top-of-the-heap songwriters (composer Jerome Kern and lyricist Ira Gershwin) and glorious Technicolor to get the job done. Mission accomplished. Though many would justly argue that Meet Me in St. Louis is the top musical of its year, Cover Girl outpaces the Vincente Minnelli masterwork with vitality, sass and dancing dynamism. “The result was perhaps the quintessential musical film of the ’40s, a movie perched squarely between past and future,” historian Ted Sennett wrote in Hollywood Musicals. “Cover Girl looks backward in its foolish backstage plot and in some of its conventional musical numbers. Yet it also looks forward to the late ’40s and beyond in the emergence of Gene Kelly as an important film dancer and in the unforced exuberance and innovative style of other of its musical numbers. The new and old rattle together in a loose framework that makes the movie both dated and ahead of its time. Cover Girl also created one of the film icons of the decade in Rita Hayworth.” The red-headed beauty, who’d already luminously partnered with Fred Astaire in the black-and-white Columbia musicals You’ll Never Get Rich and You Were Never Lovelier, plays a nightclub performer whose remarkable resemblance to her Gay ’90s headliner grandmother propels her to fame as a fashion magazine icon, rattling the ego of and overshadowing her romance with Kelly as the nightclub’s owner/producer. Though the career-clash and show-biz ambition tropes were familiar, the trappings proved glorious. “Archetypally beautiful and a first-rate dancer, Hayworth was a novel goddess, amiably gorgeous, the opposite of [Marlene] Dietrich and [Mae] West,” Ethan Mordden notes in The Hollywood Musical. “Some of her fascination was bound up in the ‘pin-up’ syndrome, but her grace in dance with Astaire or Kelly is something else.” The songs are also something else: the pulsating and jazzy Put Me to the Test, the soulful standard (and Oscar® nominee) Long Ago and Far Away, the sassy opener The Show Must Go On, and the blithe, bouncy spirit-lifter Make Way for Tomorrow (with a lyrical contribution by E.Y. “Yip” Harburg), deliciously delivered by Hayworth (voiced by Martha Mears), Kelly and quick-with-quips sidekick Phil Silvers (whose Who’s Complaining? is yet another treat). Out of five Academy Award® nominations, the film would clinch a Best Scoring of a Musical Picture Oscar® for adaptors Carmen Dragon and Morris Stoloff. Kelly was given free rein in choreographing his numbers, and that resulted in the legendary and still astonishing Alter-Ego Dance, co-created with the help of Kelly’s long-time collaborator Stanley Donen, in which the beleaguered Kelly dances with a perfectly synchronized, trick-photography mirror image of himself. More riches flowed in the contributions of supporting players Eve Arden (priceless as a sardonic fashion magazine maven) and Otto Kruger as an editor still nursing a long-ago heartache, plus the comely participation of contemporary “cover girls” of the era. If for a time the future Gilda was indeed a goddess among us, Cover Girl is divine, Technicolor proof and it’s available here on a splendid Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray: