5 February 2002 | marcslope
The Spayed Smell of Success
The handsome wide-screen, black-and-white cinematography and '50s-nitery milieu will remind you of "Sweet Smell of Success" -- there's even a nasty Broadway gossip columnist lurking about -- and this uneven MGM musical-comedy-drama plays kind of like a defanged version of that classic. Had it been filmed on location, it might have gotten by on atmosphere, but this is strictly a soundstage Times Square hangout, and there's not much kick to the proceedings. The central quandary: Should "nice girl" Jean Simmons be taking a part-time job as a secretary in a seedy nightclub? It's not an earth-shaking issue, nor are the subplots -- a cooch dancer wants to win a bake-off, a busboy is failing algebra, etc. The denizens of the club are a raffish and likable bunch, and the point, if there is one, is about how all kinds of New Yorkers can coexist. But the Franciosa/ Simmons romance is unconvincing -- it's one of those why-don't-you-grab-her-and-kiss-her affairs, messily and predictably set up -- and the ending feels arbitrary. The main compensation: legendary chanteuse Julie Wilson, with more curves than the B&O, growling out "I'm Gonna Live Till I Die." If this club has such classy entertainment, how come it's populated by so many lowlifes?