12 January 2005 | gregcouture
Technicolor steals the show!
I'd always been curious about this one, especially considering its rather unhappy reputation as a major disappointment in the Fred Astaire/Vincente Minnelli canon, and it's fairly easy to see why. Turner Classic Movies scheduled it recently and I tuned in to watch something that certainly made me glad Technicolor was invented but which fell somewhat short of its intended mark.
The story is absolute piffle, almost redeemed by Mildred Natwick's genuinely funny portrayal of a dotty aunt. (Check out the sequence where she welcomes Yolanda home from her years at a convent school.) M-G-M stalwarts Leon Ames and Frank Morgan (Was he in every single class "A" Metro production from the late Thirties through the early Fifties?) lend reliable support with the little they're given to do. And Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer get (only) two opportunities to display their dancing compatibility. Astaire, of course, managed to complement all of his dancing partners with his patented style and grace (even the miscast Joan Fontaine in "A Damsel in Distress") but, as a matter of personal opinion, I think that Ms. Bremer runs a very close second to the gorgeous Cyd Charisse as one of his most elegant and beautiful co-stars. She's too old for her role in this one, admittedly, but she's nevertheless quite charming and a prime object for the luscious Technicolor cinematography of Charles Rosher.
The real star of this misbegotten show, however, is the opulence of the very artificial art direction, set decoration, and costuming. It's Hollywood at its most baroque and Minnelli keeps his cameras gliding through it all as if on angels' wings. If you're not looking for one of the Arthur Freed's unit's bona fide musical classics, this one will provide a phantasmagoria of color and motion that's rarely been equaled.