YOLANDA AND THE THIEF (Vincente Minnelli, 1945)

Slack, shallow, almost bereft of any entertainment value, Yolanda and the Thief is the worst film by Vincente Minnelli that doesn’t star Barbra Streisand. It is a musical romance where most of the “romance” is offscreen (I guess), despite Fred Astaire’s lead role contains only two dances, and—this, the year after Meet Me in St. Louis!—has color cinematography (by Charles Rosher) as dreary and meaningless as it could possibly come.

Irving Brecher’s script cannot transcend the stupidity of Jacques Théry and Ludwig Bemelmans’ concept. In Patria, a mythical Latin American country, Johnny, a U.S. con-man, convinces Yolanda, a rich heiress fresh out of convent school, that he is her guardian angel—literally—to hoodwink her out of her fortune, which he does, but returns it all, having fallen in love with her innocence (I guess—for what else is there to her?).

Astaire is strikingly good early on; but the crook’s transformation would have defeated anyone. Mildred Natwick is a hoot as Yolanda’s dizzy aunt. However, Lucille Bremer is a cypher as Yolanda. She isn’t worth a moment’s notice.

Eugene Loring choreographed. The lengthy “dream ballet” tries to pass off its disjointedness as surrealism; it’s a no-go. The “Coffee Time” dance is much better—but also more conventional.

Except for a few costumes, nothing here pleases the eye.

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