Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Playgirl (1954) at the Noir City Film Festival

One of my favorite films at the recent Noir City Film Festival was PLAYGIRL (1954), a Universal Pictures film which hadn't been screened theatrically in decades.

PLAYGIRL was shown in a 2K restoration as part of a double bill with HELL'S HALF ACRE (1954), which incidentally costarred Nancy Gates, who had passed on just a few days previously.

The evening was made extra-special by the appearance of PLAYGIRL star Colleen Miller. She was not interviewed but received enthusiastic applause from the audience. It was especially exciting for me to see her as Miller appeared in THE LAS VEGAS STORY (1952) with Victor Mature and Jane Russell, as well as the terrific Rory Calhoun Western FOUR GUNS TO THE BORDER (1954).

It was lovely that Victor Mature's daughter Victoria was also on hand to meet the costar of one of her father's films. THE LAS VEGAS STORY was Colleen's first movie.

My photos were shot in a hurry and are fairly dark, but in the interest of sharing what I have, here are photos of Colleen with the Film Noir Foundation's Alan K. Rode:

In PLAYGIRL Colleen plays Phyllis Matthews, who arrives in New York from the Midwest in search of a career and a more exciting life. Hometown friend Fran Davis (Shelley Winters), a nightclub singer and veteran of NYC living, welcomes Phyllis as a roommate and shows her the ropes.

Phyllis quickly finds success as a model working for magazine publisher Mike Marsh (Barry Sullivan), but trouble brews when the unhappily married Marsh, who's been stringing Fran along as his mistress, is clearly attracted to Phyllis.

For her part, Phyllis falls for Tom (Gregg Palmer), another magazine employee who happens to be Fran's neighbor. There's a cute scene where Fran introduces Phyllis to Tom as they chat through a dumbwaiter shaft; Alan Rode later said that Miller was tickled to see the scene again and whispered "Watch this!"

Trouble with Mike, Fran, and a gun leave Phyllis's career and love life in a shambles...

This is a very entertaining 85 minutes, with the cast also including Richard Long and Kent Taylor as ne'er-do-wells hanging around the fringes of society.

Winters is her usual over-the-top self, enjoying some flashy screen time including a drunk scene and performing the songs "Lie to Me Baby" and "There'll Be Some Changes Made." Her character's outcome had the feeling of being shoehorned in; I suspect the original ending may have been somewhat different, but it's not a big deal.

Miller is lovely and charming as the somewhat naive yet confident Phyllis. Sullivan's character is revealed to be a bit of a sleaze, but it's the kind of character he does so well!

PLAYGIRL is one of those films which may not be great drama yet is completely entertaining. I had a good time watching it and would enjoy seeing it again in the future.

PLAYGIRL was directed by Joseph Pevney, who helmed so many Universal Pictures films I've enjoyed at film noir festivals in the last few years. It was filmed in black and white by Carl E. Guthrie.

This film is not available on DVD or Blu-ray. Let's hope it eventually makes it to DVD and can be enjoyed by a wider audience.


Blogger Lee R said...

I was never familiar with Colleen Miller till I saw the Rory Calhoun western Four Guns To The Border", WOW! What a beauty. I then found out I had another Colleen movie that I didn't realize I had, (hadn't seen it yet) but it was Rawhide Years w/T. Curtis and Colleen. I watched that, it was fair, nice color but ehhh.

Then I had to really really look far and wide to find "Playgirl" that was a real mission. But I finally found a DVD of it someone was selling and I got it. What I can remember of it was just a so-so rather lurid sensationalistic tale.

Now if you really want to see an EXCELLENT film noir with the beautiful Colleen, watch "Step Down To Terror" with Colleen, Rod Taylor and Charles Drake. That movie's more noir and less a lurid tale movie that Playgirl was. Very exciting too with bad guys good girls and all you could want in a sweet noir movie.

7:13 PM  
Blogger Jerry Entract said...

Well, I certainly hope "PLAYGIRL" does make it to DVD some time soon. Not at all familiar with it but it is just the kind of movie I search out so fingers crossed.
I don't know "STEP DOWN TO TERROR" either. So many Universal films we are missing out on.

11:30 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Step Down To terror is Shadow of A Doubt light. An enjoyable, but significantly inferior remake.

8:11 AM  
Blogger Margot Shelby said...

I'd like to see Playgirl too. And I'll try to find Step Down to Terror, never even heard of it.

BTW, however mentions Four Guns to the Border usually has a big smile on his/her face. Oh yes.

1:32 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Glad to know others have liked FOUR GUNS TO THE BORDER as much as I do! Hope anyone who's not yet seen it will check it out.

Lee, I can't say I found PLAYGIRL any more lurid than countless other film noir or crime films of the era -- in fact probably less so because Colleen's very wholesome girl from the Midwest is front and center, and she hangs on to her values while those around her don't and comes out the winner. She's charming. I'll keep an eye out for STEP DOWN TO TERROR as I sure like the cast.

Jerry, some other films I've seen at Noir City, such as ABANDONED and IRON MAN (1951), came out on DVD a while after I saw the new prints at festivals, so I'm really hopeful PLAYGIRL will show up, though admittedly the Universal Vault series hasn't done much, if anything, in recent month. If not there, then perhaps a release through another line...would love all of you to be able to see it as well!

Best wishes,

1:35 PM  

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