The success of La La Land in recent months has thrown a spotlight on one of the key genres the musical. However for years it’s a genre that many have written off as cheesy or old-fashioned and so-forth, and I have been one of those in the past. Cover Girl actually is a very good film to get acquainted with the classic Hollywood musical of the ’40s and ’50s.
It’s a pretty age-old plot which La La Land is in a way an updated version. Rita Hayworth stars in her star making role as Rusty Parker, who is a chorus girl working in a nightclub run by her boyfriend John (Gene Kelly). She is swept off her feet by the prospect of money and fame after she wins the chance of being the cover girl of a magazine. The magazine editor played by Otto Kruger was in love with her grand mother which Rusty doesn’t know but she soon becomes a big star. However she leaves Danny and her old nightclub act after having an argument with John but is all this success really a substitute for true love?
Baz Luhrmann in the sole special feature talks of the film as a “Noir Musical” which is an interesting concept. It’s certainly more risqué than your standard film of the era, Rita Hayworth always had undeniable sex appeal, no wonder she is pin-up in The Shawshank Redemption. It’s not your Fred & Ginger musical for sure, it has a bit more bite and less frothy than those.
Cover Girl was a much as a stepping stone for Rita Hayworth as it was for Gene Kelly. The film was the first Columbia musical in Technicolor and Columbia was initially hesitant for Kelly to do the film but eventually relented and let him even choreograph his own scenes. The scenes really show Kelly getting into his stride as a performer especially the “alter-ego dance”, where Kelly dances with his own reflection. It’s a precursor to the pioneering work he does later on in Singin’ In The Rain, An American In Paris and so on.
The film was helmed by Charles Vidor who would direct Hayworth again in Gilda which remains probably Hayworth’s most iconic role. Gilda is also one of the best examples of the femme fatale troupe in Film Noir. Gene Kelly probably should have got a co-director credit for Cover Girl as he would on many of his later films because it’s his film as much as Vidor’s. The cinematography was split between Allen M. Davey and the master Rudolph Maté who shot The Passion of Joan of Arc, Gilda amongst many others. Maté would later direct the classic film noir D.O.A and his last film as a cinematographer was also with Hayworth which was Orson Welles’ The Lady From Shanghai.
Cover Girl remains a classic of its genre and Hayworth and Kelly are at the top of their game. Hayworth may be mainly remembered for her dramatic work but a great majority of her roles were in musicals. The lush colours and set design look great in the HD transfer. The disc is fairly barebones with a short interview with Baz Luhrmann and a new trailer Masters of Cinema put together, it’s topped off with a booklet by Farran Smith Nehme.