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Wednesday, 27 June 2012

DuBarry Was A Lady (1943)

Spotlight on... Royalty on Film

"...and if Lana Turner doesn't set your brain a whirl, then you don't love an Esquire girl..."

Lana Turner winks at the audience during her
brief walk on appearance as herself
DuBarry Was A Lady is a 1943 MGM musical starring Lucille Ball, Red Skelton and Gene Kelly. It is based on the 1939 Broadway musical.  Directed by Roy Del Ruth and produced by Arthur Freed, the supporting cast features Virginia O'Brien, Rags Ragland, Zero Mostel, Donald Meek and Tommy Dorsey with his Orchestra. If you look closely you will see a young Buddy Rich as the drummer in Dorsey's Orchestra, and a very quick walk on appearance by Lana Turner.

Lucille Ball as Madame DuBarry during Louis'
dream sequence
Louis Blore (played by Skelton) and Alec Howe (played by Kelly) are both in love with vaudeville performer May Daly. Louis' friend Charlie (played by Ragland) suggests Louis slips Alec a Mickey Finn. In a moment of confusion, Louis unintentionally drinks the Mickey Finn, and dreams he is King Louis XV of France, with May as Madame DuBarry and Alec as The Black Arrow.

Although based on the Broadway show, the film version has quite a few differences. Firstly, very few of Cole Porter's songs from the original show are included. Many of the character names were changed, and some new characters were added. The dream sequence was delayed a lot longer in the film, with the first half of the film becoming a sort of a vaudeville revue.

Musical highlights

Lucille Ball first died her hair red for this film
The film version uses very little of the original songs from the show - unfortunately one casualty was "Well, Did You Evah?", which was later used in the MGM film 'High Society' (1956).

Three musical highlights in this film include "DuBarry Was A Lady", "I Love An Esquire Girl" and the Cole Porter standard "Friendship".

Lucille Ball's singing voice was dubbed by Martha Mears for most of her songs, but her real voice can be heard in "Friendship".

Song: "Friendship" - Lucille Ball, Gene Kelly, Red Skelton and Virginia O'Brien

Song: "DuBarry Was A Lady" - Lucille Ball (dubbed by Martha Mears)

Did you know...

  • Lucille Ball first dyed her natural brunette hair it's trademark red for this film

Closing remarks

Lucille Ball is one of her most glamourous roles is unfortunately not as great or funny as she usually is in this film. I don't think she was quite right for this role, as I find she doesn't have the command, assertiveness or the nastiness to play May or Madame DuBarry.

Overall the film is very slow and barely watchable. In my opinion this is one of MGMs weaker musicals... even with Gene Kelly, Lucille Ball and Red Skelton. 

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