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1944’s Cover Girl, restored as part of Eureka’s The Masters of Cinema series, is a classic Hollywood Musical that powers through an unspectacular plot on the back of a wonderful production and some fantastic musical numbers.
Directed by Charles Vidor and starring the legendary Gene Kelly and Rita Hayworth, Cover Girl is the story of nightclub dancer Rusty Parker (Hayworth) who gets a chance at the big time when she wins a Cover Girl contest arranged by wealthy magazine editor John Coudair (Otto Krueger). Rusty’s newfound fame leads to all kinds of fortuitous opportunities but puts a strain on her relationship with the nightclub’s manager, Danny McGuire (Kelly).
It’s a trite plot that deals with the choice between true love and fame, since of course, they’re both mutually exclusive. Rusty can either be with Danny, or with Coudair’s wealthy friend Noel Wheaton (Lee Bowman), and her choice of partner determines her path in life. There’s a lot of talk about letting a woman decide for herself, but for the most part, the men of Cover Girl decide what’s best for Rusty and then have to realize that they were wrong. It’s not until the very end that Rusty is given all the information to make her big choice. Still, it moves along at a brisk pace and the writing’s often witty enough to compensate for the story’s failings.
Cover Girl’s lavish production and stellar music (the first film collaboration between the legendary Jerome Kern and Ira Gershwin) are a treat. Almost all of the numbers are done on stages within the movie, by characters with an established background in performance and entertainment. Apart from an extraordinary number in which Gene Kelly’s reflection jumps out of a window and makes him dance with himself (it kind of makes sense in context), most of the music is firmly situated in realistic terms. The tunes are catchy and great, even if one or two have highly questionable moments of cultural appropriation that, while a product of their time, are pretty cringe-inducing. They include Kelly, Hayworth and Phil Silvers’s short Native American routine in ‘Make Way For Tomorrow’ and later, Kelly and Silvers throwing in a Hawaiian twist in a reprise of ‘Put Me to the Test’.
The costume design is dazzling and spectacular, the choreography is great and the whole movie is one big vibrant, (techni)colorful bundle of joy and energy. While the narrative doesn’t give her character as much agency as one might think given the premise, this is Hayworth’s movie through and through, as she gets more stage time than anyone else. It’s one of her most memorable roles for a good reason. It’s actually a dual role, as she also plays Rusty’s grandmother Maribelle Hicks, in the time-honored tradition of movie families, in which completely identical genes can be passed down to your children. Neat.
There isn’t much in the way of special features or bonus material to this edition, which is disappointing. The Masters of Cinema series usually have more to offer in that department, giving incentive to those that already own or have seen Cover Girl to go out and get the new edition. For those unfamiliar with this classic, the high-definition presentation might be enough of a reason to check it out.
Baz Luhrmann on Cover Girl
Masters of Cinema exclusive trailer
A booklet featuring new writing on the film
Cover Girl (Masters of Cinema) was released for sale on the 13 February, 2017.