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Warner Home Video presents
"There's no doubt about it, I just love Les Girls."
DVD ReviewLes Girls is a notable film for two reasons: Save for his brief musical numbers with Fred Astaire in That's Entertainment II, this George Cukor-directed effort marked Gene Kelly's last full-length, big screen appearance for the studio that made him a star. For Cole Porter aficionados, the 1957 release was bittersweet as it would be the final project graced by original songs from the legendary composer.
Set in Europe, Les Girls spins the tale of cabaret dancer Sybil Wren (Kay Kendall), the focus of a libel suit instigated by former roomie/stage partner Angéle Ducross (Taina Elg), brought upon by revelations made in her memoirs. With American export Joy Henderson (Mitzi Gaynor), the threesome were part of a musical act produced by Barry Nichols (Gene Kelly), an "all work and no play" professional whose whole life revolved around the stage. Or at least, until fetching Angéle entered the picture.
After mixing business with pleasure, the twosome attempt to keep their mutual admiration society under wraps, failing miserably. Further complicating matters is Angéle's fiancé, Pierre (Jacques Bergerac), who pops in on a performance. Unnerved by his presence, the stage equivalent of a train wreck follows as she attempts to go incognito. Angered at the display, Barry gives Angéle her walking papers. Hours later, Sybil returns to their flat to find the heartbroken lover lying face down after a (thankfully) unsuccessful suicide attempt.
Angéle gets her turn in court with drastically different recollections, casting Sybil as a blithering drunk prone to frequent crying jags and impromptu opera singing. Anxious to keep the act going, Angéle concocts a fictitious story for Barry that Sylvia's chemical dependency is her way of dealing with intense feelings for him. Romance blossoms and all seems cheerio until the English tart's boyfriend surfaces. As the trial winds down to deliberation status, a surprise witness appears, offering yet a third version of events with an interesting twist.
Les Girls isn't held in the same regard as other entries on Kelly's resume, but this DVD may change all that. More plot-driven and sophisticated than your average songfest without sacrificing the charms of the classic musical, today's audience will likely appreciate its virtues more so than moviegoers did back in the day. Playing a harder edged yet toned down variation on his Don Lockwood role in Singin' In The Rain, Kelly is as smooth as ever in a performance that relies more on his gift for light comedy and less on song-and-dance showmanship (although that's not to say Kelly's left his dancing shoes at home).
The trio of lovely ladies compliment their co-star, and each other, beautifully: Kay Kendall's Golden Globe®-winning turn as Lady Sybil is delightful, Taina Elg offers appealing charm and Mitzi Gaynor is quiet sexiness personified (making one wonder why this talented dancer/singer never caught on with movie audiences). In the "before they were stars" department, Avengers fans will perk up to the sight of a pre-John Steed Patrick Macnee in a small role as one of the courtroom participants.
Given its low profile in movie musical history, I braced myself for disappointment as far as Cole Porter's score. Like most composers whose later works are unfairly compared to their golden years, the musical wunderkind proves he still had a knack for composing melodies that stick in your head, including Ladies in Waiting, the romantic Ca C'est L'Amour, You're Just Too, Too (which includes a sly Kendall reference to an "animated" moment from a vintage musical) and the show-stopping Why Am I So Gone (About That Gal)? that features Kelly (with wonderful support from Gaynor) at his very best, in a wicked parody of Marlon Brando's The Wild One.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-
Image Transfer Review: Consistent mastering job preserving the film's rich Metro color that is very flattering to Orry-Kelly's Oscar®-winning costume designs and Richard Pefferle/Edwin B. Willis' evocative sets. Only some mild edge enhancement keeps this transfer out of the error-free column, but those instances are mercifully short.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: Oui, oui, oui! From the crackle of the snare drum to the brightness of the brass, an amazing aural experience for a film nearly five decades old; at times the presence is so immediate during the musical numbers, you'll feel like you're in the orchestra pit by the conductor. As for dialogue, gimmicky and distracting effects prominent during this era of filmmaking are not as extreme here, thanks to an effective mix that doesn't completely isolate lines to a single audio channel. Bravo!
Audio Transfer Grade: A
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 52 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Layers Switch: 00h:51m:40s
On a happier note, the disc's other major bonus is a gem: Flea Circus, a 7-minute Paris-themed cartoon, directed by one of the masters of animation, the great Tex Avery. Centering on a lovesick clown flea who falls for the lead dancer of the troupe, the short is filled with laugh-out-loud sight gags and really whets our appetite for Warner's upcoming Looney Tunes collections.
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsRunning a brisk 114 minutes with charm and melody to spare, Les Girls is a fun musical comedy that will surprise first time viewers and provide warm satisfaction to its supporters who knew of its greatness from its original release. Another winner from Warner's Classic Musicals line, hopefully marking the beginning of more razzle-dazzle goodies to come.
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