Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tonight's Movie: Rich, Young and Pretty (1951)

RICH, YOUNG AND PRETTY is a relatively little known but entertaining MGM musical starring Jane Powell and Vic Damone (his film debut), along with Danielle Darrieux (charming star of 1938's THE RAGE OF PARIS), Fernando Lamas, Wendell Corey, and Una Merkel.

Like another, more famous 1951 MGM release, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, RICH, YOUNG AND PRETTY takes place in the City of Lights, MGM backlot style.

Jane Powell plays Elizabeth Rogers, who visits Paris with her father (Corey) and housekeeper (Merkel), where she falls in love with a young Frenchman (Damone); the convoluted way the film explains away Damone's lack of a French accent is amusing. Elizabeth also meets Marie (Darrieux), a singer who turns out to be the mother Elizabeth has always thought was dead. (It's a long story...) Marie is in love with her performing partner, Paul (Lamas).

Powell and Damone are charming and believable as the young lovers, and the older members of the cast are also very entertaining. I especially enjoyed the elegant Lamas, who has a very nice singing voice, as Marie's supportive lover.

Having recently seen Merkel as Robert Montgomery's unfortunate bride in 1931's PRIVATE LIVES, it was a bit of a jolt to jump forward two decades in film time and see her in a Thelma Ritter style role as the housekeeper. Merkel would have another memorable housekeeper role another decade on, as Verbena in Disney's THE PARENT TRAP.

The Brodszky-Cahn score is quite pleasing, including "Paris," "Dark is the Night," "We Never Talk Much" (my favorite song in the film), and the Oscar-nominated "Wonder Why," which lost to "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening." ("Wonder Why" was one of two songs nominated that year which were introduced by Jane Powell; "Too Late Now" from ROYAL WEDDING was also a nominee.) The soundtrack was part of an MGM series released on LP which I collected as a teenager; my only regret is that Vic Damone's singing is not on the album due to his contract with another record company.

It was a nice surprise to discover the Four Freshmen singing "How Do You Like Your Eggs in the Morning?" in a restaurant sequence late in the film.

The supporting cast includes Hans Conreid and Marcel Dalio. Norman Borine, whose book DANCING WITH THE STARS was reviewed here last fall, can be spotted backing up Darrieux in a stage number.

RICH, YOUNG AND PRETTY was directed by Norman Taurog. It runs 95 minutes.

RICH, YOUNG AND PRETTY has not had a DVD release, but has been released on VHS. The VHS print is of very good quality, other than an unusually noticeable bright green reel change circle popping up a couple of times.

This film can also be seen on Turner Classic Movies, which has the trailer available. The trailer is unusual in that it is hosted by the film's musical director, David Rose.

RICH, YOUNG AND PRETTY may not be in the topmost tier of MGM musicals, but it provides very enjoyable entertainment.

August 2010 Update: RICH, YOUNG, AND PRETTY is now available in DVD-R format from the Warner Archive.


Blogger Barb the Evil Genius said...

the convoluted way the film explains away Damone's lack of a French accent is amusingRecently saw most of I WAS A MALE WAR BRIDE on television. Cary Grant's lack of a French accent was annoying all the way through; don't know if they tried to explain it. Were there not good French actors who also spoke English, or did they just cast for looks or star power and not worry about the niceties?

9:57 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Barb!

I think MGM was more interested in promoting their new young singer than in casting an actual Frenchman. :) You're right, in this area studios frequently cast for star power or other reasons -- including the fact that actors were under a studio's contract -- rather than "authenticity."

Damone and Powell, incidentally, were reunited in ATHENA (1954) and HIT THE DECK (1955).

Best wishes,

10:42 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

P.S. For musical fans, my dad reminds me that Damone and Powell also had a duet in DEEP IN MY HEART (1954).

Best wishes,

6:46 PM  

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