Favorite things about… Les Girls (1957)

(Image via flixposed)

(Image via flixposed)

The favorite film:
Les Girls, a Cole Porter musical directed by George Cukor for MGM

The synopsis:
Sybil Wren, a famous dancer known to the public as “Lady Wren,” is sued for libel by Angele DuCros. Angele, Sybil, and their fellow dancer Joy find themselves at odds over which version of the truth is the honest-to-goodness truth, after Sybil publishes a memoir of her time dancing with Barry Nichols’ famed troupe.

The cast:
Kay Kendall as Lady Wren
Taina Elg as Angele DuCros
Mitzi Gaynor as Joy Henderson
Gene Kelly as Barry Nichols

Fun facts:

  • Les Girls marked the American film debut of Kay Kendall, who sadly passed away from leukemia just two years after the film’s release.
  • Leslie Caron, Cyd Charisse, and Carol Haney were originally set to star in the film, but all were later replaced. With the originally-announced ladies being re-cast, MGM insisted that Mitzi Gaynor be cast in the film, though director George Cukor wasn’t crazy about the idea. He gave in after being threatened with suspension.
  • The film features wardrobe by the great Orry Kelly.
  • This was the last film that Cole Porter worked on, though of course his songs have been used in countless films and television programs since.
  • Les Girls was Gene Kelly’s last MGM musical, according to TCM.
  • The film was nominated for three Academy Awards and took home the trophy for costume design.
  • Though inspired by a story by Vera Caspary, writer John Patrick was told not to look at the story when writing, and instead simply base his script on the scenario. What resulted was a Rashomon-style musical offering several flashback-based tellings of the same events as the courts argue the libel case. Still, Caspary was paid $80,000 according to TCM!
  • Though she plays a French showgirl in the film, Taina Elg was actually Finnish, and a ballerina. This was her first major film role.
(Image via Classic Movie Stills)

(Image via Classic Movie Stills)

Favorite things/quotes:

  • The most fashionable courtroom of all time! Sybil’s large-brimmed black hat and white gloves, Angele’s bright lipstick and enormous earrings.
  • Sybil: “Spring is a chronological truth. It happens once every year!”
  • Barry: “Have you any idea how much time I’ve put in, day and night, teaching her how to dance?”
    Joy: “Especially nights!”
  • Sybil & Joy (quoting Barry): “Everyone’s born with two legs. Being a good dancer isn’t good enough!”
  • Joy: “Don’t you ever knock before you walk into a room?”
    Barry: “What for? Ya got secrets?”
  • Barry: “Look, I’m not a potato, I’m a man you’re supposed to be in love with!”
    Angele: “I wish you were a potato!”
  • Joy (after seeing Angele leave for a date with Barry): “That’s our Barry. Strictly business. No complications.”
  • Joy saying that she and Sybil flunked out of nursing school because they “couldn’t tuck a sheet.”
  • Joy: “Oooh, Angele’s gonna have to be better than Houdini to get out of this one. Our little French soufflé may become ze, um, pudding if she does not take care!”
  • Angele trying to hide from Pierre’s family on stage… and nearly losing her wig in the process.
  • Sir Percy: “I’m a little confused, Lady Wren, as to how you can remember so accurately scenes which you could not possibly have witnessed.”
  • The “WHAT IS TRUTH” sign
  • Angele: “What Lady Wren says about my joining the act is true. The three of us lived together, that’s true. And it was spring, that’s true. But that is all that is true.”
  • Angele’s recollection of Sybil as a seriously kooky, rambling, operatically-singing drunkard.
  • Sybil: “Tea cozie, teaaaa cozie!”
  • Angele: *Sprays Sybil’s “perfume” in Joy’s face*
    Joy: “Gin!”
  • Kay Kendall’s performance in the drunk scenes is a total riot!
  • Angele: “Be kind to her. Help her forget you.”
    Barry: “How? By drinking with her?”
  • Joy: “Has he been hitting the perfume bottle, too?”
  • Barry (in response to Sybil’s eardrum-shattering singing): “I like that. I never knew you could sing opera!”
(Image via Doctor Macro's High Quality Movie Scans)

(Image via Doctor Macro’s High Quality Movie Scans)

  • Barry: “I broke the most important rule in my life for you! I got myself complicated.”
  • Barry’s post-stage-show business: Orange juice stands in SoCal!
  • Barry knocking on the door before entering the dressing room in his own telling of what happened! A small but funny detailed – painting himself as a stand-up guy, unlike in Sybil’s version.
  • Angele: “Joy would rather go home with an old book.”
  • Barry lovingly staring at Joy
  • Joy: “I like companionship, and I like men. Only the ones I meet, companionship is not what they’re looking for.”
  • Barry (disgusted, after taking a drink): “Joy! What’s in that green bottle?”
    Joy: “Sauerkraut juice.”
  • Joy slipping into “something else” — hair curlers and an oversized robe, much to Barry’s disappointment! And she tops it off with a footbath.
  • Barry: “Some day there’s gonna be a murder in this attic, and it won’t be a mystery!”
  • The satisfied look on Joy’s face when Barry gives up trying to woo her for the night and storms out of the apartment
  • Barry’s collage of Joy
  • Barry (pointing to his Joy shrine): “That iceberg!… is sinking me, mid-ocean.”
  • Gene Kelly dressed up in a leather jacket as though he’s the Fonz
  • Gene and Mitzi’s “Why Am I So Gone About That Gal?” dance number — my favorite of the film!
  • Joy: “You should’ve seen his eyes! Dark pools of suffering!”
  • Barry: “To les girls! My girls.”
  • Drunk Barry: “Sybil, Sybil, let’s not quibble…”
  • Joy: “Oh, no, Barry, we mustn’t. You mustn’t get excited!”
    Barry:
    “A little excitement’s not gonna do me any harm!”
    Joy: “But I’m responsible! Tell me, who cleans up for you here?”
    Barry: “Who cares?”
    Joy: “Barry, remember what the doctor told you?”
    Barry: “The doctor told me not to dance. I’m not gonna dance.”
    Joy: “Really, Barry, you mustn’t exert yourself! You know that.”
    Barry: “Well then stand still! Don’t make me run around tables!”
  • Joy: “Would you like a glass of water?”
    Barry: “Why, you wanna soak your feet?”
  • Joy: “Cupid, you?! You dirty old fake!”
  • Joy smashing her own portrait on Barry’s head
  • Barry: “Joy, I love you! I LOVE YOU! I LOVE YOU! JOY, I LOVE YOU! DO YOU HEAR ME?”
    Neighbor: “Everyone in Paris can hear you! Go home!”
  • Sybil and Angele huggin’ it out… and they all live happily ever after!
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4 thoughts on “Favorite things about… Les Girls (1957)

  1. This sounds like fun! If those two photos are any indication, I’d watch it just for the look…I love ’50s colors and cinematography. And the poster reminds me of the artwork used in ’50s travel ads for airlines and railroads…love that style, too. And could you do me a favor: in the photo above, where everyone’s wearing black, who are the actresses, left to right?

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    • I love the poster, too! Fitting that it looks a bit like a travel ad, since the girls are part of a traveling show. The original trailer for the film played on that too, with city names flashing on-screen: Rome! Paris! Vienna! Left to right: Mitzi Gaynor, Kay Kendall, Taina Elg.

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      • Thanks for identifying the ladies for me…and sad that Kay was so young when she passed away. I just read up on her…she won a Golden Globe for that performance. Very cool.

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