2 chorus dancers, Bubbles (Lucille Ball) and Judy (Maureen O’Hara) after the club they work at is shut down for illegal gambling, they are desperate for work. While Bubbles gets lucky and finds a job as a burlesque dancer, Judy is less fortunate as she struggles through the death of her ballet teacher and is forced into a life of poverty. That is until Bubbles gets her a job dancing as her “stooge” or the woman who dances ballet in between Bubbles sexier acts. Judy discovers immediately that this is met with jeers from the almost all male audience trying to get the main act back on stage.
This movie was a critical and commercial failure when it was released in 1940. However, this movie got a resurgence in the 70s, over thirty years later, in the feminist movement as being what was described at the time as a “rare example of a movie that empowers women.” And it does that, and I’m glad I watched it, even if I didn’t think it was a great movie.
So, let’s get into that. First I think that the dancing itself was really top notch. However, it spends too much time on some of the burlesque scenes, especially later in the movie. The music that’s sung is also very good during these parts, even if they are a bit long.
The story itself is lacking. The screenwriter probably just wanted something simple so they could spend more time on the singing and dancing aspect. Even so, I still felt that the character of Judy had a very believable character arc and Maureen O’Hara does a terrific job playing a shy dancer. So, even though the story doesn’t have a lot going for it, what is there it succeeds with implementing it.
My last complaint is the comedy. I feel like maybe they were trying to market this as a comedy, and maybe that’s why it didn’t sell so well. I’m not actually sure about that but it just feels that way. It has a few moments throughout the film of levity, but none of it really succeeds because it always undercuts serious moments of character drama and creates comic relief at points that just feel wrong. If they wanted comedy, they should have started scenes with some levity before things got serious rather than the other way around.
Why you should watch it before you die: This is a pretty darn entertaining musical-Drama. Though I feel it’s probably not the most memorable movie, there’s a lot of entertainment to be had for this 90-minute flick.
+5.5: Pretty good musical-Drama
+1: Well done songs
+1: Great choreography
-1: Terrible comedic timing
-1: Somewhat lacking story
+1: Great performance by Maureen O’Hara
+1: Bonus undead point, since this movie did “rise from the grave” after 30+ years of being dead and buried