COVER GIRL (Charles Vidor, 1944)

Based in part on the career of model Jinx Falkenberg (who makes a cameo appearance), Cover Girl stars Rita Hayworth, in one of her most accomplished and incandescent star turns, as Rusty Parker, a Brooklyn chorine who becomes Vanity magazine’s Golden Wedding Girl. This is the film that introduced the lovely, immemorial tune “Long Ago and Far Away,” by Jerome Kern and Ira Gershwin—and it is during the shoot of this film that Hayworth and Orson Welles eloped.
     One thing in particular, however, battles the brilliant joy that this musical-comedy otherwise generates: Gene Kelly, whose listless performance as nightclub owner Danny McGuire testifies to his incompetence as actor or even as screen personality. Similarly, he is incapable of bringing the spark of life to his selfconscious dancing, which he and Stanley Donen choreographed. To say the least, he is as inferior a romantic and a dancing partner for Hayworth as Fred Astaire, in their two films together, was a delightful one. Kelly is, as always, smug and smarmy. His incapacity to respond to a woman in dance or with dialogue is embarrassing to watch. Ironically, Kelly’s big street number, where he dances with an image, a reflection, of himself only underscores this incapacity while adding to it his inability to command the screen while making audiences see double. The dance’s self-proclaimed psychological import exposes Kelly’s silliness.
     But, apart from Kelly, Charles Vidor’s color film is grand entertainment. The complicated plot pivots on misunderstandings between Rusty and Danny (having to do with his stepping aside to allow her solo career to flourish) and ranges over generations, with Hayworth also getting a shot at a double role and an ancestor’s suitor, who assists with her new career.
     Phil Silvers and Eve Arden contribute excellent comic support.

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