Director: Charles Vidor
Starring: Rita Hayworth, Gene Kelly, Phil Silvers, Lee Bowman, Leslie Brookes, Eve Arden, Otto Kruger
Rita Hayworth and Gene Kelly may be the most perfectly matched film couple of all time. Not the greatest, mind you, but definitely among the best matched. They were both impossibly good looking people, they both had charismatic acting chops, and both really could dance their pants off (though hardly anybody remembers that about Hayworth). They’re the best thing about Cover Girl. And that’s saying a lot. Because Cover Girl is a damn good movie.
Rusty (Hayworth) dances at her boyfriend Danny’s (Kelly) club, but she wants to get famous. So she goes to an open call for John Coudair’s (Kruger) magazine, where they’re looking for a model for the “Golden Wedding” issue. Rusty lands the gig and becomes famous overnight, much to the chagrin of Danny, who thinks she should achieve fame using her considerable singing and dancing talents.
It sounds like a simple enough story. And if that was all the movie was it would still be a really good musical romance. But the film weaves in flashback’s to Coudair’s past, where he fell in love with Rusty showgirl grandmother, who really loved the poor piano player from the club where she worked. So Cover Girl works beyond just the musical comedy level. Unlike so many films of this genre, it creates a layered, detail history to the characters and their stories that gives it a very full, meaningful feeling. You could take out the musical numbers (though they’re so good you really shouldn’t) and you’d still have a damn good movie.
And like I said, those musical number are all kinds of awesome. The fun songs combined with the skilled dancing of Kelly and Hayworth may not be as memorable as something out of an Astaire/Rogers picture, but they’re still a load of fun. “Make Way For Tomorrow”, “Poor John”, “A Sure Thing”, and, especially, “Long Ago and Far Away” are all winners. With musical numbers set in two different time periods, the song writers creat to distinct styles (and “Poor John” is actually a song written in 1906).
And, of course, there’s Hayworth and Kelly, who should have made a lot more films together. They’re chemistry is off the charts. It shows not only in their romantic dialog scenes together, but also their dances. By the time they’re singing “Long Ago and Far Away” (pretty much the most romantic song of all time) to each other, they’ve already cemented themselves as one of the great couples of cinema.