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DU BARRY WAS A LADY (GENTLEMAN’S CHOICE)) (director: Roy Del Ruth; screenwriters: Irving Brechner/Nancy Hamilton/Wilkie Mahoney/from the play by Buddy DeSylva and Herbert Fields; cinematographer: Karl Freund; editor: Blanche Sewell; music: Cole Porter; cast: Red Skelton (Louis Blore/King Louis XV), Lucille Ball (May Daly/Madame Du Barry), Gene Kelly (Alec Howe/Black Arrow), Virginia O’Brien (Ginny), Douglass Dumbrille(Willie),Rags Ragland (Charlie/Dauphin), Zero Mostel (Rami, the Swami/Taliostra), George Givot (Cheesy), Tommy Dorsey (Himself), Lana Turner (cameo), Donald Meek (Mr. Jones/Duc de Choiseul), Louise Beavers (Niagara); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Arthur Freed; MGM Home Entertainment; 1943)
“Hollywood ruined another wonderful Porter effort by cutting out most of his songs from the stage production.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Another terrible Red Skelton film, where the comedian is more obnoxious than funny. Though Zero Mostel is even more obnoxious in his pushy nightclub fortune teller part. It was based on Cole Porter’s 1939 Broadway hit, but Hollywood ruined another wonderful Porter musical effort by cutting out most of his songs from the stage production and for good measure the prudes at MGM also threw out the ribald bawdiness that made it have some bite on Broadway. The five Porter songs retained include “Do I Love You?,” “Katie Went to Haiti,” “Well, Did You Evah?,” “Taliostro’s Dance,” and “Friendship,” in the rousing finale. The new songs added by the studio include the following: “I Love an Esquire Girl,” “Salome” and “Madame, I Like Your Crepes Suzettes.”MGM substituted Red Skelton and Lucille Ball for the onstage stars Bert Lahr and Ethel Merman (she can sing, Lucy can’t-her singing was dubbed by Martha Mears and her red hair was dyed redder into what’s called a “Tango Red” for visual effect). Some might take pleasure in the appearance of Tommy Dorsey and his band, including drummer Buddy Rich, performing during the long dream sequence in 18th-century costumes and powdered wigs.

So-so director Roy Del Ruth (“Topper Returns”/”Ziegfeld Follies”/”Born To Dance”)never gets a handle on this overproduced musical comedy and keeps things visually colorful (the MGM glossy Technicolor is the pic’s best feature) as a costume pic, but never does much with the stilted story and even less with the strained dialogue. Irving Brechner, Nancy Hamilton and Wilkie Mahoney write the screenplay, that’s adapted from the play by Buddy DeSylva and Herbert Fields.

Poor boy Louis Blore (Red Skelton) is a coatroom attendant in a New York nightclub who has a crush on the gorgeous redheaded nightclub headline singer May Daly (Lucille Ball), but she wants a rich mate though she loves poor boy nightclub emcee and aspiring singer Alec Howe (Gene Kelly). When Louis wins the Irish Sweepstakes, the now rich man asks May to marry him and she accepts even though she doesn’t love him (which she tells him when accepting his proposal). Soon after, Louis is encouraged by the new coatroom attendant, Charlie (Rags Ragland), to slip his rival Alec a Mickey and thereby get rid of him for awhile so he can make sure May doesn’t change her mind. But by mistake Louis drinks the Mickey Finn cocktail and dreams that he’s King Louis XV pursuing the infamous Madame Du Barry (May), in France, in the 18th century.The cast go into dual roles, as all the New York nightclub people now become the courtly folks in France. Alex Howe plays the rebel, the Black Arrow, in the dream, who does his best to prevent the love affair between King Louis XV and Madame Du Barry. In the “real life” sequences Alec ends up with May by the time the third act ends and they all sing “Friendship.” It seemed the witless dream sequence, meant to be a parody, that lasted for 30 minutes, would never end.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”