Thursday, September 20, 2007

Tonight's Movie: Party Girl (1958)

Tommy Farrell (Robert Taylor) grew up poor but has achieved financial success as the lawyer for a Chicago mob boss (Lee J. Cobb). Farrell's life, however, is empty; he suffers pain from a crippling childhood injury, and his wife married him for his money and then walked out.

Then Tommy meets and falls in love with Vicki, the PARTY GIRL (Cyd Charisse) for whom the film is named, and he gradually turns his life around for the better. But while European doctors may be able to help him walk once more without a cane, walking away from the mob proves to be much more difficult.

Despite the film's title, the movie is chiefly a character study of Tommy Farrell, with Vicki acting as the catalyst for the changes he makes in his life. Taylor is outstanding as Farrell, winning the audience's sympathy despite his slimy lawyer tactics early in the film. The character's evolution is shown in an interesting, subtle performance, much of it conveyed with looks rather than words. (Watch the expression on Taylor's face change when Charisse is threatened by Cobb.) In fact, director Nicholas Ray does a lot with little or no dialogue in the film, such as the wordless scene when the smitten Taylor waits for Charisse to get off work and she decides to get in his car.

I adore Cyd Charisse, but I found her performance in this a bit wooden at times. Nonetheless, I always enjoy seeing her, and she does have the opportunity to display her amazing dancing talent in two musical numbers thanks to her role as a nightclub dancer. Charisse fans will no doubt quickly realize that it's her real-life husband, Tony Martin, singing the title song.

The supporting cast includes John Ireland as a threatening goon and Kent Smith as a prosecutor looking to crack the mob.

PARTY GIRL runs 99 minutes. It's been released on a pan-and-scan video. The video is not the world's best print; I suspect the color would be quite dazzling if it were to be restored for DVD. Vote here to indicate interest in a DVD release.

This movie can also be seen on cable as part of the library on TCM.

You can read more about PARTY GIRL and see a YouTube clip from the film at Something Old, Nothing New.

May 2009 Update: PARTY GIRL is now available on DVD via the Warner Archive.

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