Thursday, January 9, 2014

242 of 1001 Movies: Dance, Girl, Dance (1940)

Before Lucille Ball was a television star, she was a movie star. Maureen O'Hara is the real star of the movie though. It's also impressive to finally have another movie on the list directed by a woman, and in 1940, when it seems like the field would have been all males, which is was besides Dorothy Arzner. She was actually the only woman director during the Golden Age of film from the 1920s to the 1940s. Even though she was very pivotal to the moment women would be moving into the industry for more than acting and jobs that didn't lead, she doesn't even have a photo on IMDb.

Summary: Judy O'Brien is an aspiring dancer. She has all the skills, but it is instead another girl in the group, Bubbles, who gets all the attention. Mostly because she has a way with the men. Bubbles finds her break in a burlesque dance show where the man love her. Judy is left with no job though when the place they are working at is shut down. Bubbles offers her a job as a stooge, which is more of an embarrassment than a way to show off her talent. The two begin to clash majorly though when Judy and Bubbles fall for the same man, Jimmy.

Acting: Unlike a lot of movies from the time this one seems better acted. It gets dramatic at times, but nothing that feels like it isn't authentic to the characters. Maureen O'Hara is Judy, and plays the likable girl who is just trying to make it, but also feels a little intimidated by the world of dancing. You can sense how her fears of not being good enough for the big time seclude her to living in a world where she gets to do what she loves, but not truly release her dancing passion in the way she imagined she would. Lucille Ball portrays the part well of Bubbles who seems she is willing to hook on to anything that makes a dime whether that is men or dancing. Louis Hayward is Jimmy the man they are both vying for. I like how the movie doesn't turn into a love story, because most people would make the assumption that movie directed in the 1940s by a woman would automatically be that but it isn't.

Filming: While it's the 1940's and obviously CGI wasn't as we imagine it now, or in existence, this movie utilizes techniques that are inventive in capturing moments that couldn't be captured at the time. There are scenes where Judy is walking down the streets, and to capture the cars and buses they use a screen. I hadn't saw a movie utilize the screen like that before, and while obviously it's fake it is creative. There is even a scene where the lady is hit by a car, and she stands in front of the screen as the car is nearing here. Maybe it's a bit comical, but still it captures what they wanted.

Plot: The plot was the weakest point for me. I don't know why, but for much of the movie I just felt it ran really slow. The movie has pacing that feels certain points aren't as interesting as others, and I struggled to keep focus. I do like how this movie has romance, but also doesn't let that drive the movie. What feminist may hate though is that these women do fight about a man, but men isn't what seem to drive either woman. He's more of a distraction to the real goal. Bubbes who will take anything with money and fame, and Judy who just wants to have a job that appreciates what she loves to do, dance.

Dance, Girl, Dance is a must watch for those who love films. It is well written and I just love that finally a woman director is bringing a movie about women that I think in a lot of aspects is easy to relate to. In a way we all either feel like Bubbles or Judy, even though most of us may not want to identify with Bubbles. The plot gets a bit slow though and the effects might feel laughable, but overall it's a nice movie.

Rating 6.5 of 10.

Dance, Girl, Dance (1940) on IMDb

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