SILK STOCKINGS (director: Rouben Mamoulian; screenwriters: Leonard Gershe/Harry Kurnitz/Leonard Spigelgass/based on the musical play by George S. Kaufman, Leueen McGrath, and Abe Burrows/screenplay story by Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett, and Walter Reisch/adapted from the book Ninotchka by Melchior Lengyel; cinematographer: Robert Bronner; editor: Harold F. Kress; music: Cole Porter; cast: Fred Astaire (Steve Canfield), Cyd Charisse (Ninotchka), Janis Paige (Peggy Dainton), Peter Lorre (Brankov), Jules Munshin (Bibinski), Joseph Buloff (Ivanov), George Tobias (Commissar Vassili Markovich), Wim Sonneveld (Peter Ilyitch Boroff); Runtime: 117; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Arthur Freed; MGM; 1957)
“Has a few sparkling moments that are irresistible.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Rouben Mamoulian’s (“City Streets”/”Love Me Tonight”) last film is acceptable but not anything great. Under his skillful direction everything moves in a lighthearted and graceful manner. It’s a musical remake of the 1939 classic Greta Garbo/Ernst Lubitsch comedy Ninotchka, keeping the storyline only adding a Cole Porter score. It features numbers such as “Stereophonic Sound,” “Who’s Still Who,” “Silks and Satins,” “Too Bad”, “Paris Loves Lovers”, “Silk Stockings,” “Josephine,” “A Chemical Reaction,” “Without Love,” “The Red Blues,” “Siberia,” “The Ritz Roll and Rock,” “Fated to Be Mated” and “All of You.” This film version is based on the George S. Kaufman-Leueen McGrath-Abe Burrows-Cole Porter Broadway musical. Fred Astaire, at 57, is still at the top of his game in dance, and Cyd Charisse is somewhat comparable to the Great Garbo as she shines in her best film role ever and excels in her dance numbers.
Hollywood movie producer Steve Canfield (Fred Astaire) is making a musical picture in Paris and wishes to use the score of Soviet Russia’s top composer Peter Ilyitch Boroff (Wim Sonneveld). A commissar trio of Brankov (Peter Lorre), Bibinski (Jules Munshin) and Ivanov (Joseph Buloff) have been sent to Paris to bring back the defecting Soviet composer, but the commissars are seduced by Canfield setting them up in a ritzy hotel with woman and wine and go along with allowing the defector to remain in gay Paris. A new commissar of the arts, Commissar Vassili Markovich (George Tobias), is ordered by his interior minister to send the rigid dedicated communist functionary Ninotchka (Cyd Charisse) to bring back the defector. Canfield thereby turns the charm on the chilly Ninotchka and begins courting her. But Ninotchka returns to Russia when she believes that the movie producer has eyes only for his ditsy film-star Peggy Dainton (Janis Paige), in a role that is a parody of swimming star Esther Williams. In the end the decadent bourgeois Canfield succeeds in romancing Ninotchka, as she returns to Paris to retrieve her three commissar colleagues and Canfield brings her around to the virtues of capitalism and romance.
Filmed during the height of the cold war, there’s plenty of crude anti-Soviet propaganda. Though lacking the warmth of the original pic and the songs though fun are not memorable, nevertheless this is a pleasant film that gives voice for decadence over art. It has a few sparkling moments that are irresistible. It also has some delicious comical moments from Peter Lorre, especially his oafish “Siberia” song and dance number.
REVIEWED ON 3/9/2006 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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