Saturday, October 16, 2010

Dance, Girl, Dance (1940)

Maureen O'Hara and Lucille Ball are dueling dancers in this film directed by one of the few female directors of the time, Dorothy Arzner.

Times are tough for the Judy O'Brian (O'Hara), she's a dedicated ballerina and is having a hard time landing jobs in the world that is more interested in sex appeal. Her fellow dance troupe partner is Bubbles (Ball), a brassy girl who can swing her hips in ways Judy could only dream. This sort of sisterly rivalry between the two is the main focus of the film, with a romantic triangle of sorts occurring (but the guy is a grade-A prick so it's hard to really care).

What's interesting about this story is that it's really a story of a young woman's journey into adulthood, but wrapped in the trappings of a musical-ish romance. We get to see various dance numbers which use dance to great affect. Judy is very classic ballet, but Bubbles is pure burlesque, perfectly establishing what kind of girls they are. But it's a very Hollywood type of film, given a touch of a modern edge with its main focus being on a female character's journey, especially considering how the end plays out.

Maureen O'Hara is good as a sort of insecure good girl, but Lucille Ball steals the film away from her. Bubbles may be a bitchy character, but she's given depth and Ball pulls it off perfectly. She's strong, smart and caring, but she presents this fun and slightly mean persona to the world almost as armor. It's a great performance to see especially if you've only associated her with her legendary sitcom.

The film itself is actually pretty good. As I said, the romance plot does hurt the film, because the male character is not worth the sort of girlhood swooning the Judy does (but that could be entirely the point), but it's a very entertaining film about the relationship between two very different women.

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