GIVE A GIRL A BREAK
(director: Stanley Donen; screenwriters: story by Vera Caspary/Frances Goodrich/Albert Hackett; cinematographer: William C. Mellor; editor: Adrienne Fazan; music: Burton Lane/Ira Gershwin; cast: Marge Champion (Madelyn Corlane), Gower Champion (Ted Sturgis), Debbie Reynolds (Suzie Doolittle), Helen Wood (Joanna Moss), Bob Fosse (Bob Dowdy), Kurt Kasznar (Leo Belney), Richard Anderson (Burton Bradshaw), Lurene Tuttle (Mrs. Doolittle), Larry Keating (Felix Jordan), Donna Martell (Janet Hallson), William Ching (Anson Prichett); Runtime: 82; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jack Cummings; MGM; 1953)
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Stanley Donen (“Funny Face”/”Royal Wedding”/”Seven Brides For Seven Brothers”) directs this bouncy but routine fluff musical that’s based on a story by Vera Caspary and written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett. The once intended big-budget musical that was to star Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and Ann Miller, changed to a low-budget film when those stars were unavailable and hired instead the young Debbie Reynolds (a bitter pill to swallow as an aspiring dancer with an overbearing mum), the wonderful dancing team of Marge and Gower Champion, and Bob Fosse (turning in some fantastic dancing numbers, who would later become one of the great choreographers along with the Champions), who had quit Pal Joey on Broadway to come to Hollywood and be the next Astaire or Kelly. It was uniquely and cheaply shot on sets built for another picture. Burton Lane and Ira Gershwin wrote five unmemorable tunes, while the sixth unmemorable song was written by Andre Previn and Saul Chaplin. The highlight songs include Previn’s and Chaplin’s the”Challenge Dance” and the grand finale “Applause, Applause.” The result is: the dancing was delicious (especially that wild reverse motion number by Fosse), the songs were at best so-so and the lightweight story was limp.
When egotistical temperamental femme star Janet Hallson (Donna Martell) walks out of the upcoming Broadway show because the stage director/choreographer Ted Sturgis (Gower Champion) doesn’t cater to her whims, producer Felix Jordan (Larry Keating) goes along with Ted’s crazy idea to advertise in Variety for a new unknown leading lady. At the audition, Ted’s eager-beaver assistant, Bob Dowdy (Bob Fosse), is smitten with pretty naive young dancer Suzy Doolittle (Debbie Reynolds), while the show’s composer, Leo Belney (Kurt Kasznar), is smitten with the elegant dancer Joanna Moss (Helen Wood). Meanwhile Ted’s former dance partner and lover Madelyn Corlane (Marge Champion), who left Ted and dancing two years ago, has decided to make a comeback, and is favored by Ted. Unable to choose the lead, the producer draws a name out of the hat and after some overwrought moments the romantic musical comes to a happy ending for all the girls.
The film went nowhere in the box office and only received lukewarm reviews.
REVIEWED ON 6/14/2009 GRADE: B- https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/