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Monday, 20 August 2012

Les Girls (1957) - Star of the month... Gene Kelly

"Gentlemen, I give you Les Girls. All but one." - Gene Kelly (as Barry Nichols in 'Les Girls')

Mitzi Gaynor, Kay Kendall, Gene Kelly & Taina Elg in 'Les Girls'
'Les Girls' (pronounced "Lay Girls" - rhymes with "Play Girls") is a 1957 musical comedy directed by George Cukor and starring Gene Kelly, Mitzi Gaynor, Kay Kendall & Taina Elg with Jacques Bergerac, Leslie Phillips, Henry Daniell and Patrick Macnee.

The film features 5 new Cole Porter songs, was produced by Sol C. Sigel, with Saul Chaplin as associate producer, with a screenplay written by John Patrick, based on a story by Vera Caspary.

Sybil Wren (played by Kendall) is sued for defamation by her former colleague Angèle Ducros (played by Elg) for writing a tell-all book about their time working at cabaret troupe, Les Girls. In her book, Sybil alleges Angèle had an affair with troupe owner Barry Nichols (played by Kelly), while she was engaged to Pierre Ducros (played by Bergerac). 

One narrative, three perspectives

Taina Elg, Kay Kendall, Gene Kelly & Mitzi Gaynor
in 'Les Girls'
The narrative presents the spectator with three different points of view of the events at Les Girls. First, the perspective of Sybil, alleging the affair between Barry and Angèle. Secondly, the perspective of Angèle, alleging an affair between Barry and Sybil. Finally, Barry provides his side of the story to set the record straight.

I find this as an effective narrative technique, to really dig into the characters.

Gene Kelly gives you Les Girls -
Mitzi Gaynor, Kay Kendall & Taina Elg

Relationship of the girls

After finding out Angele is engaged, Sybil and Joy agree to keep it a secret from Barry. It is ironic Sybil says "No, one does not betray a friend", yet she writes abot Angèle's private life in her book.

Musical program

  • "Les Girls" - Gene Kelly, Mitzi Gaynor, Kay Kendall & Taina Elg
  • "Ça C'est L'amour" - Taina Elg (with Gene Kelly)
  • "Ladies in Waiting" - Mitzi Gaynor, Kay Kendall & Taina Elg
  • "Be a Clown" - played as background music
  • "You're Just Too Too!" - Gene Kelly & Kay Kendall
  • "Les Girls" (Reprise) - Gene Kelly, Mitzi Gaynor, Kay Kendall & Taina Elg
  • "Ladies in Waiting" (Reprise) - Mitzi Gaynor, Kay Kendall & Taina Elg
  • "Why Am I So Gone (About That Gal?)"

Song: "Les Girls" - Gene Kelly, Mitzi Gaynor, Kay Kendall & Taina Elg

Song: "Why Am I So Gone (About That Gal?)" - Gene Kelly & Mitzi Gaynor

Song: "Ça c'est l'amour" - Taina Elg (with Gene Kelly)

Did you know...

  • This was sadly Cole Porter's last film score
  • Cole Porter wrote 12 new songs for this film, but only 5 were used
  • Cyd Charisse was originally cast as Joy Henderson, but turned it down as she wanted to make 'Silk Stockings' with Fred Astaire instead
  • Leslie Caron turned down a role of Angèle Ducros, due to creative differences with director George Cukor
  • Jean Simmons and Carol Haney were both considered for roles in this film
  • The song 'Ça C'est L'amour' was filmed on one of Esther Williams' swimming pools
  • Kay Kendall had leukemia during filming and died ?/
  • Kay Kendall's singing was dubbed by Betty Wand
  • Taina Elg's singing was dubbed by Thora Mathiason
  • This was Gene Kelly's last musical and movie under the MGM contract he signed in 1942 - his next appearance in an MGM film was in the documentary film 'That's Entertainment!' (1974)
  •  If you listen closely you'll hear the music of "Be A Clown" from 'The Pirate' (1948) playing immediately after the rope number fiasco
  • Gene Kelly dances with Mitzi Gaynor
  • As only the title from Vera Caspary's original story was used, she joked she was the highest paid writer in the world - being paid $80,000 for writing two words

Awards and nominations

  • Academy Award winner for Best Costume Design 
  • Academy Award nomination for Best Art Direction
  • Academy Award nomination for Best Sound
  • Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Musical/Comedy
  • Golden Globe Award for Best Actress (Kay Kendall & Taina Elg - tied)

Closing remarks

Gene Kelly dances with Mitzi Gaynor
'Les Girls' was released during the decline of the Hollywood musical, and was a surprise critical and box office success.  Gene Kelly is looking youthful as ever at age 45, glamourous Oscar winning costumes by Orry-Kelly and the Cole Porter songs are fantastic! Jack Cole's choreography is impressive, particular the rope rehearsal, which is always fun to watch.

Something I thought interesting is that director George Cukor does not consider 'Les Girls' to be a musical comedy. He prefers to call it a comedy with music. In my opinion the film is a musical comedy, as there are several moments away from the Les Girls theatre, where the characters burst into song. There is a very fine line between the two definitions in this film, so I'll let you be the judge.

Taina Elg, Kay Kendall & Mitzi Gaynor sing 'Ladies in Waiting'
That said, the musical numbers are beautifully filmed by Cukor, a director who traditionally did not make musicals. Sadly his next musical 'Let's Make Love' (1960), with Marilyn Monroe was dull and boring.

Enchanting, alluring and captivating... 'Les Girls' is a fun exploration into the world of theatre, friendship, gossip and betrayal, which will always leave you wondering "what is truth?"

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