One year, one film: 1944

The film:
Cover Girl, dir. Charles Vidor
starring Rita Hayworth and Gene Kelly

Recommended | Highly Recommended | MUST-SEE

(Image via Hollywood Classic)
(Image via Hollywood Classic)

The year of 1944 brought to life one of the loveliest musicals of the silver screen: Cover Girl, starring Rita Hayworth and Gene Kelly. This film has been a favorite of mine for years — one of the first films I discovered when my addiction to TCM began.

Rita Hayworth is the Cover Girl herself, Rusty Parker. Rusty is a dancer working at a club in Brooklyn, alongside close pals Danny Maguire (Kelly) and Genius (Phil Silvers). An opportunity arises for Rusty to become a Vanity magazine cover girl after a fame-hungry fellow dancer enters a cover star contest. When the magazine’s publisher shows up at the club to see the contestant perform, he becomes enamored of Rusty instead.

Rusty, Danny, and Genius carry on with their usual Friday night ritual after the show, heading to an oyster bar and searching for lucky pearls within the oyster shells. But when Rusty returns to her apartment, she receives an invitation to visit the magazine publisher’s office and have a real shot at becoming a well-known star. Will Rusty take the opportunity? If she does, what does it mean for her once-unbreakable bond with Danny and Genius?

In shimmering Technicolor, Cover Girl captures the viewer with its charismatic cast and nice musical numbers. But what did the critics of 1944 think of the film?

Modern Screen wrote, “It’s quite a story — I think you’re going to like it, and the people in it.” Praised was the script, “an exciting romantic tangle,” and the performance of Gene Kelly, “as good as he was in Pal Joey.” The movie got a perfect score of four stars from the mag.

The ever-controversial Bosley Crowther of The New York Times was not so kind when it came to the story, ragging on the film for being all too predictable and typical. Crowther wrote: “Everything happens in it just when you most expect it to. The script is so frankly familiar that it must have come from the public domain. And the characters are as sleekly mechanical as only musical comedy characters dare to be.”

However, on a brighter note, Crowther also wrote: “It rainbows the screen with dazzling décor. It has Gene Kelly and Rita Hayworth to sing and dance. And virtually every nook and corner is draped with beautiful girls. Further, this gaudy obeisance to divine femininity has some rather nice music in it from the tune-shop of Jerome Kern.” In layman’s terms, the film is nothing if not stylish, pretty to look at, and full of catchy tunes.

Variety was equally dazzled by the showmanship of it all, giving props to the film’s dance numbers, songs, and “neatly concocted” plot.

The critics may not have come to a consensus on this particular picture, but they all seemed to appreciate the magic of a fun and light musical in spectacular Technicolor. I consider Cover Girl to be a must-see!