Hi, everyone! I know that I promised to give my readers a weekly installment of my trip to Hollywood for the ninth annual TCM Classic Film Festival, but unfortunately the task of moving all the way from Florida to Pennsylvania within the last week has allowed hardly any time for writing. However, The Classic Comfort Movie Blogathon hosted by the always incredible Classic Film and TV Cafe is one that I knew I couldn’t miss. This blogathon is meant to coincide with National Classic Movie Day and allow all of us classic film writers to reflect on which film we turn to whenever we need a little bit of uplifting. It feels like just a few weeks ago I listed My Top Five Favorite Classic Movie Stars for last year’s blogathon, and I hope this year is even more of a success!
When I first read about this task, I really didn’t need to give any thought as to which classic film brings me the most comfort. Of course there are quite a few that do, but no film lifts my spirits quite like Cover Girl (1944), Columbia’s first ever Technicolor musical. The plot is simple: Rusty Parker (played by essentially my all-time favorite actress, Rita Hayworth) is a chorus girl who’s been struggling to get her name in lights by dancing in her fiancé Danny McGuire’s (played by Gene Kelly, who’s really the most talented person to ever grace the silver screen) nightclub. Danny consistently tells her that the only way to get famous and remain famous is through her talent and not her good looks, but after years of disappointment in her career she finds that she can’t resist the temptation of instant stardom when she learns from scheming and jealous fellow dancer Maurine (Leslie Brooks) that Vanity Fair is holding a contest to find the next “Golden Wedding Girl” for the magazine’s 50th anniversary cover.
Without Danny’s knowledge she attends the casting call with Maurine, and despite Maurine attempting to sabotage her audition with Cornelia Jackson (played by the always witty Eve Arden), Rusty lands the cover. Little does she know, however, that she was chosen due to the magazine editor John Coudair’s (Otto Kruger) obsession with Rusty’s grandmother Maribelle Hicks, and that he plans to make her a star like he failed to do with Maribelle. Soon she finds the weight of stardom overwhelming, and the constant fan letters, press, and job offers from attractive Broadway producer Noel Wheaton (portrayed by Lee Bowman, a very underrated actor) take a toll on Rusty’s relationship with Danny. Eventually she has to make a choice between more fame and fortune than she could ever dream of and the potential love and happiness that waits for her with Danny.
I could hardly even begin to list the reasons why I adore this picture. For one thing, the Technicolor is absolutely marvelous, and Rita Hayworth and Gene Kelly never looked more gorgeous than they did in this film. Of course there are plenty of delightful black and white movies, but something about Technicolor in all its glory and the appearances of both Hayworth and Kelly automatically make me smile. Rita’s costumes, designed by Travis Banton, Muriel King, and Gwen Wakeling, are to die for, and so is the script by Virginia Van Upp (I was even more pleased to learn that one of my favorite films was written by a lovely lady). The story plays out like most musicals of its era, but the stars truly aligned with the making of Cover Girl (1944) in particular.
It contains some hilarious quips from comedian Phil Silvers, who plays typical sidekick and third wheel Genius. Most of Silvers’ success was on wartime radio, but seeing him in this film making wisecracks with Gene Kelly truly elevates his talent. Gene Kelly did some of his best choreography work for Cover Girl (1944), namely the number “Put Me to the Test” and his creation of the “Alter-Ego Dance” sequence, in which he used trick photography in order to dance with himself onscreen. But of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the picture’s astounding soundtrack. You could almost say that above all else the soundtrack of Cover Girl (1944) is what gives it its cheerful and reassuring qualities. It was created to be a feel-good film for soliders and the ladies back home alike, so not one song is depressing or downheartened. It’s incredibly difficult for me to feel sick or depressed when I hear “The Show Must Go On”, “Who’s Complaining?”, a song about putting on a smile despite the rationing due to World War II, and of course, the one that gets me every single time: “Make Way For Tomorrow”. I’ll leave you with some of its best lyrics, and try telling me that it hasn’t already made your day:
Let’s keep on singing,
“Make way for tomorrow!”
The sun is bringing a new day tomorrow
Don’t let the clouds get you down
Show me a smile, not a frown
Stand up and win! Turn about!
Don’t give in! Let’s give out!
To the blues just refuse to surrender
One smile and you are a true solid sender
What if it rains and it pours?
It only rains out of doors!
Let every frown disappear
And you’ll find that tomorrow’s here!