In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.
This week’s musical:
“First a Girl” –Musical #505
Jessie Matthews, Sonnie Hale, Anna Lee,
Elizabeth (Matthews) is a delivery girl at a dress store with dreams of being a dancer. One day, she borrows a dress for an audition and doesn’t get the part. In the meanwhile, she meets down on his luck Shakespearean actor Victor (Hale) who does female impersonations. After ruining the dress, Elizabeth is too afraid to return to the dress store. Victor allows her to get in on his act. When Victor is too ill to go on stage as a female impersonator, he grooms Elizabeth to act as a female impersonator, even though she is already a woman. Elizabeth becomes a huge success but problems arise when she falls in love with a man.
-Late remade as “Victor/Victoria” (1982) starring James Garner, Julie Andrews and Robert Preston.
-Adapted from a 1933 German film called “Viktor and Viktoria”
-Jessie Matthews drinking with Griffith Jones, who believes she’s a man. However, she is not used to the strong beverages that he keeps ordering.
Jessie Matthews, Sonny Hale and Robert Griffith in “First a Girl”
-It’s Written All Over Your Face performed by Jessie Matthews
-Everything’s In Rhythm With My Heart performed by Jessie Matthews and Sonnie Hale
-Half and Half performed by Jessie Matthews
-Say The Word And It’s Yours performed by Jessie Matthews
When this film began I kept thinking how similar it was to the 1982 film “Victor/Victoria.” Until seeing this movie, I had no idea it was a remake.
“First a Girl” is an entertaining little British film with a subject matter that would probably not have been seen in a 1935 American film. Not only is Jessie Matthews supposed to be a cross dressing male (though the audience knows she is a female), there are some homosexual innuendos and jokes that probably would not have even been seen in a pre-code American film.
When Elizabeth begins falling for Robert (Jones), it is uncertain if he likes her character because she is a man or because she is a man that seems feminine enough to be a woman. Our main character is even a little confused by this.
When I started this film, I was not familiar with any of the main actors but all of them were entertaining. The songs in this musical are forgettable, but it’s story line that is fairly unique for a 1930s film is pleasant, fun and enjoyable. If you come across this forgetting little gem, give it a whirl.
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