Sunday, October 9, 2011

Film | Dance, Girl, Dance (1940)

Sitting down to watch Dance, Girl Dance, I wasn't sure what I was in for. All I knew was that it was about the ups and downs of a group of ladies trying to make a living with their dancing skills. It turned out to be quite a good film. I enjoyed the dynamic between O'Hara and Ball's characters. The two were complete opposites, but still understood each other despite the back handing that happened.

Dance, Girl, Dance (1940)

"Heartbreak Behind Gayety of a Girly-Girl Show! "

Maureen O'Hara as Judy O'Brien
Louis Hayward as James 'Jimmy' Harris Jr.
Lucille Ball as Bubbles/Tiger Lily White
Virginia Field as Elinor Harris
Ralph Bellamy as Steve Adams

Aspiring ballerina Judy O'Brien (Maureen O'Hara) dances with a struggling but respected company. Shortly after a fellow dancer, the man-hungry Bubbles (Lucille Ball), quits, the troupe disbands. Bubbles hires Judy for her new burlesque show, but their act may be torn apart when they both fall for Lothario Jimmy Harris (Louis Hayward) [Netflix]

As I looked this film up online after watching it, I learned that it was directed by Dorothy Arzner. Arzner was one of the very few female directors in the studio system. She would also direct such films as the Katharine Hepburn film Christopher Strong (1933) and the Joan Crawford film The Bride Wore Red (1937). Arzner was brought in after shooting started because the original director quit due to a lack of story in the film. Dorothy had to redo the entire film and it was she who brought in the art vs commercial aspect between Ball and O'Hara.

With it's mix of backstage drama, romance, and rivalry the film was hard to market to the masses. Upon its release the film lost over $400,000 for RKO because it was universally panned by critics and audiences. Luckily the film has grown into favor over the years, as one of the earliest influences on the feminist movement. In 2007, the picture was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

Here we find Lucille Ball in her first starring role as the vivacious dancer Bubbles. While her character is setup to be beautiful, glamorous, and has all the men chasing after her, Ball is able to convey the inner insecurity that lies just below the surface. It is the insecurity that makes Bubbles want everything that all of her friends have, even if it is a man. Ball changed her auburn hair to blonde and spent quite a bit of time in New York burlesque shows preparing for this role. Which is probably why the able to do such a good job at the hula.

The other major player in this film was Maureen O'Hara who plays ballet loving Judy. After losing her mentor to a tragic accident Judy also loses her will to better her dancing. With her dreams dashed she even accepts the job of Bubbles' stooge. But toward the end of the film, she builds enough self-esteem to let those peeping toms who go to the burlesque know what they really are. Maureen delivers a speech those almost seems to be directed at the movie audience. It sorts of pokes at the industries exploitation of women to make a buck.

A great film, that is worth seeing again and again. If you want a taste of of this film is all about, look up Ball's hula on YouTube. In this clip you see the Bubbles out do Judy by using her bumps and grinds to win the job they are dancing for, while the quiet Judy watches on.

1 comment:

  1. I love this last photo you included. There is Lucy at her most glamorous role, all manicured up the yingyang, but she's got a black eye and a bandage across the side of her face!