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June 20, 2007

Dance, Girl, Dance

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Dorothy Arzner - 1940
Warner Brothers Region 1 DVD

While the DVD release of Dance, Girl, Dance is part of a set of films starring Lucille Ball, top billed Maureen O'Hara gets most of the screen time as well as the close-ups. The best parts of the film are with Ball demonstrating comic ability well established before she teamed up with Desi Arnaz. Ball plays a dancer named Bubbles with enough of a suggestion of promiscuity that those who have grown up loving her might punningly rename her "Loosey".

O'Hara and Ball are friends and competitors. Introduced as part of a nightclub dance troupe in Akron, Ohio, the two return to New York City to try their luck again as ballet dancers under the tutelage of a very butch looking Maria Ouspenskaya. Ball gets a job as a burlesque dancer because, as Ouspenskaya puts it, she has "oomph". Ouspenskaya decides O'Hara has what it takes to be in Ralph Bellamy's ballet company but inconveniently gets run over by a car taking her protegee to the audition. Meanwhile Louis Hayward pops in and out, caught between O'Hara, Ball and ex-wife Virginia Field. The story is by Vickie Baum, and is almost as hilarious as her Grand Hotel.

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There are a couple of scenes of the serious, modern ballet that O'Hara wishes to join. Someone thought it would be a swell idea to have the male dancers dress like the guys from the planet Mongo in the old Flash Gordon movies. Another dance sequence seems to anticipate the title dance from An American in Paris in terms of the dance style, costuming and the music which faintly is similar to Gershwin.

Ball gets two musical numbers which appear to have been largely inspired by Gypsy Rose Lee. One number involves parts of Ball's clothing blown away. There's enough show of leg, plus a hint of cleavage to make one temporarily forget the housewife and mother that became a television institution.

Dance, Girl, Dance was one of the couple of Hollywood films produced by Erich Pommer, who seemed to have a weakness for show biz stories. According to IMDb, Roy Del Ruth was originally handed the assignment to direct the film. Pommer had him replaced with Dorothy Arzner who may have had a hand in certain elements that seem markedly progressive for a film made in 1940. Del Ruth did get to work with Lucille Ball in the film that introduced her as a redhead, Du Barry was a Lady.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at June 20, 2007 02:41 AM