Year: 1944

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.

Year: 1944

Director: Edward Dmytryk

Starring: Dick Powell, Claire Trevor, Anne Shirley, and Otto Kruger

There is something perplexing about Murder My Sweet, and it isn’t just the twisting plot. It has all the ingredients of a great noir from the 40s but doesn’t cook up to be a very filling entree. For some reason, despite being based off of a Raymond Chandler story and despite all the double-crossing, murder, despicable characters, adultery, brutality, blackmail, robbery, drugs, and sexuality, it falls some what flat. For some reason it doesn’t seem to quite connect with the audience, and for some reason it is hard to become invested in the characters.

It is still a good ride, but it doesn’t have the impact that some of the other movies from the era did. It doesn’t really stay with you after watching it. The bulk of the performances seemed mediocre to me, but the gritty story line and the stylistic flare redeem it some what, making it still worth watching, especially if you are fan of the era or a fan of film noir. It does visually cook up just the right atmosphere.

Maybe I am prejudiced against Dick Powell who plays Chandler’s well known Philip Marlowe because I recently saw Bogart play the same character in The Big Sleep, or maybe it is because Powell’s primary former film experience had been fluffy musicals. Maybe he just didn’t have what it took to step into Chandler’s dark view of Los Angeles and the shady characters who dwell there. Either way I found his performance sub-par. Maybe he just didn’t look like Marlowe to me, kind of like Timothy Dalton as Bond, his manner and looks just distract me from my love and interest in the character.

If you want to experience the best the 40s, Chandler or Film Noir have to offer, look else where first. Murder, My Sweet won’t satisfy your hunger for any of those things, but it does make a decent snack.

By: Greg Dickson