The Golden Rooster is a hot Chicago nightclub, currently showing the Winter Follies. Rico Angelo (Lee J. Cobb), mobster and part-owner of the Golden Rooster, sends his men out to recruit some of the club’s show girls for a party one evening, offering each of the dancers one hundred dollars to appear.
Vicki Gaye (Cyd Charisse) has no interest in accepting the invitation at first, but decides to go to the party because her roommate Joy (Myrna Hansen) is expecting a call from her married beau that evening.
May was well give the roomie some privacy, and make a little money in the process. At the party, Vicki meets gangster Louis Canetto (John Ireland) and lawyer Tommy Farrell (Robert Taylor), who is defending Canetto in a murder case.
She has a tolerable evening, makes a few hundred bucks from Canetto’s gambling earnings, and is escorted home by Tommy. But complications will follow as tragedy strikes for Joy, and Vicki finds herself mixed up with powerful members of the Chicago mob.
Nicholas Ray directs 1958’s Party Girl.
Party Girl is a very stylish film, with a bright and bold color palette providing plenty of visual appeal. Charisse’s costumes are stunning as well.
But the film’s style provides much of its appeal, unfortunately! Charisse’s dance sequences are great, but definitely seem slapped on to the film, their sole purpose being to showcase her well-known talents as a dancer and get those fans of her musicals back into theater seats.
The pace outside of these numbers seems very sluggish at times. For a film about organized crime, Party Girl doesn’t bring much to the table in terms of excitement or action.
The chemistry between Charisse and Taylor isn’t incredibly strong, either. There are a few (very brief) scenes of the two traipsing through Europe which are fun, showing potential for a much better film. A Charisse/Taylor continental romance with a bit of criminal intrigue, in the vein of Charade, could have worked quite well and allowed their chemistry to build more successfully.
Individually, both give fine performances, Charisse being the more engaging of the two. Taylor doesn’t play Tommy in a particularly compelling way. Tommy’s story could have been very interesting — a tale of a man’s attempts to break his ties with the mob — but with the existing pace issues, Taylor’s performance could use a bit more “oomph.”
The final 40 minutes or so of the film do improve upon the first half. Finally, a jolt of excitement! It’s not a large jolt, but it’s something.
Still, it wasn’t enough to make me like the film. Party Girl isn’t one I’ll be jumping at the chance to re-watch, though I do consider it worth tuning in for if you’re a fan of Cyd Charisse.