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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Silk Stockings (1957)

Set in Paris, a film producer (Fred Astaire) hires a famous Russian composer (Wim Sonneveld) to write the score for his next film. This immediately causes the Soviet government to sent three envoys (Peter Lorre, Jules Munshin, Joseph Buloff) to bring the composer back to Russia. When the three envoys become seduced by the opulent lifestyle of Paris, a harsher and dedicated "no nonsense" agent (Cyd Charisse) is sent to bring all four of them back. Based on the hit 1955 Broadway show which was Cole Porter's last Broadway musical, the show and film are a musical adaptation of the 1939 Lubitsch film, NINOTCHKA. This elegant and clever musical is too often disparaged as inferior to the 1939 Lubitsch film though I suppose it depends on your affection for the Garbo film. It's one of my least favorite Lubitsch works but I adore Rouben Mamoulian's vibrant musical re-imagining. It was Astaire's musical swan song (until FINIAN'S RAINBOW 11 years later) and it contains Cyd Charisse's best performance. In addition to Astaire & Charisse and the melodic Porter score, there's Janis Paige doing a hilarious send up of Esther Williams and Peter Lorre in a rare (his only?) musical performance. The terrific musical numbers are choreographed by Hermes Pans and Eugene Loring, the eye popping costumes are by Helen Rose. With George Tobias and Barrie Chase.

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