10 October 2010 | secondtake
A formula dance girl movie done strictly to formula
Dance, Girl, Dance (1940)
This competent if unremarkable film was directed by Dorothy Arzner, Hollywood's one female director of note between the silent years and Ida Lupino. It's a package of different kinds of dance numbers, from show girl to burlesque to high art ballet. The thread that keeps it going is the usual: girls trying to make it in one show or another.
Lucille Ball, famous for her television shows of the 1950s and 60s, might seem to be making an early appearance in this 1940 song and dance drama. But she had made fifty (fifty!) films before this one. She's no a remarkable dancer by any means, nor singer, but she has personality to spare, and she's fun, period. She plays the worldly girl who will dance anywhere, anyhow. In contrast is the Maureen O'Hara character, sweet and restrained. She's rather humiliated in the movie, and you can feel her pain, but it's a forced contrast.
Musical numbers intersperse the thin plot, and those might or might not be your taste. I found even the ballet, which looked like a serious ballet troupe in action, pedestrian. And it was poorly filmed: the camera sat at the edge of the stage and watched. In truth, the movie as a whole was functional, not reaching for the stars, and not getting any. The one surprise, for me, was the ease and presence of Louis Hayward as a kind of good guy leading man who appeared now and then to properly show his love for O'Hara's struggling character.