COVER GIRL (1944) 

Rita Hayworth
Gene Kelly
Phil Silvers
Lee Bowman
Leslie Brooks
Eve Arden
Otto Kruger
Jess Barker

Charles Vidor



Time: 107 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Genre: Romance/Musical

Won Academy Award for Best Music. Nominations for Best Art Direction, Cinematography, Song and Sound.

One would think the pairing of Kelly and Hayworth would be pure movie magic...and while they're onscreen together it is. Unfortunately for the audience, this musical comedy lingers too long in the past and not long enough in the present. Hayworth plays Rusty Parker, a young dancer trying to make it to the big time with the help of her dancing partner/stage manager/lover Danny McGuire (Kelly). Much to his disappointment, she tries out for the Vanity magazine "Cover Girl" contest, which if she wins will garner her the exposure she's been longing for. Of course, she does, not only because she's the best looking gal in the room, but because she bares an uncanny resemblance to her grandmother Maribelle Hicks, a popular vaudeville dancer who broke the heart of the magazine's publisher John Cordair (Kruger) when they were both in the bloom of youth. Cordair can't believe his eyes. Fate is giving him a chance to relive his youth and he's determined that Rusty will have the life Maribelle refused, the circumstances of which the film then illuminates in vivid detail.

While the flashbacks are well-produced with art direction and costumes to die for, they disrupt the chemistry between Hayworth and Kelly, leaving them very little time to develop a true romantic connection. Since Hayworth was the bigger star at the time, it only seems fitting the story would revolve around her character; however, it's Rusty's future with Danny, not her grandmother's past with Cordair that the viewers (meaning me) want to see. The vaudeville numbers give Hayworth the chance to showcase her musical comedy talents, but they lack the spark and energy of her numbers with Kelly. This is her third major musical (the first two were with Fred Astaire) and though she's definitely got the goods, she still lacks the self-confidence, when performing alone, to really make these numbers shine. Plus her co-star in the past, Jess Parker, pales in comparison to Kelly's ample charms.

"That's the first drink I ever seen that kid take. You must have made her real happy up there, mister."

Back in the present, Rusty's instant fame, due to being on the magazine cover, begins to drive a wedge between her and Danny. He expects her to be the same sweet, simple girl he fell in love with, while she wants him to be happy she's getting a shot at the big time. Since Cordair lost Maribelle to a man like Danny, he introduces Rusty to big time producer Noel Wheaton (Bowman) with the hope that Rusty will be swayed by Wheaton's class, money and power. Her choice to star in Wheaton's next big show is the straw that breaks up her partnership with Danny. Unwilling to sit around and watch his woman be wooed away, Danny and Genius (Silvers), his best friend and producing partner, hit the road performing for the troops. Danny believes a little distance will calm the storm, but it merely leaves Rusty vulnerable to Wheaton's charms, which she finds herself unable to resist. After all, Danny's no longer around to love her. Danny doesn't hold out much hope for their future, but what he fails to realize is that the ladies in Rusty's family marry for love, not money. She even makes you believe she won't regret it.

Hayworth and Kelly are a wonderful team that brings energy, grace and magic to the musical numbers they perform together, making this a film to watch out for. They complement each other well on and off the dance floor and have two very competent sidekicks in Phil Silvers and Eve Arden to help keep the laughs coming. Both supporting players are on top of their games here, shooting one-liners straight from the hip. Arden almost steals the show as Cordair's caustic and exasperated assistant. With the help of the lavish production design, Kelly again proves his brilliance as a choreographer. In one of the film's most breathtaking numbers, he uses the latest technology to dance with his own reflection through the empty, late-night streets of New York. Without the aid of CGI, it's hard to fathom how this amazing feat was accomplished. Kelly and Astaire both had the uncanny ability to be able to perform the same number over and over with exact movements and perfect timing. It's his talent that keeps this often-tired film afloat.

COVER GIRL is certainly not one of cinema's best musicals or a high point in either Kelly or Hayworth's careers, yet it's still an entertaining outing that will make you tap your toes and yearn for romance. The script is just too fluffy and obvious to garner much favor. Fortunately, sometimes charisma can overcome mediocrity, especially when it's accompanied by good looks and ample talent. One to watch if you're a fan of either lead...or just want to see a film that doesn't force you to think too much.

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