Musical Monday: Give a Girl a Break (1953)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
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:
Give a Girl a Break (1953)– Musical #189

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Stanley Donen

Starring:
Marge Champion, Gower Champion, Debbie Reynolds, Dolly Sharp, Bob Fosse, Kurt Kasznar, Richard Anderson, Lurene Tuttle, Donna Martel, William Ching, George Chakiris (uncredited)

Plot:
When the star of a Broadway show walks out after a tiff with the show’s choreographer Ted Sturgis (Champinon), the show publicizes that they are looking for a newcomer to “give a girl a break.” Three girls with varying talents: professional Broadway dancer Madelyn Corlane (Champion), sophisticated ballet dancer Joanna Moss (Sharp), and young, inexperienced tap dancer Suzie Doolittle (Reynolds).

Trivia:
-Musical numbers staged by Gower Champion and Stanley Donen, though Bob Fosse coregraphed his own dances.
-Gower and Marge Champion dancing together
-Gower Champion was dubbed by Bill Lee

Highlights:
-“Give a Girl a Break” montage of various women wanting to audition
-“The Balloon Dance” performed by

Notable Songs:

-“Give a Girl A Break” performed by Marge Champion, Dolly Sharp and Debbie Reynolds
-“Applause, Applause” performed by Gower Champion and Debbie Reynolds
-“In Our United States” performed by Bob Fosse and Debbie Reynolds
-“It Happens Every Time” performed by Marge Champion and Gower Champion

My review:
“Give a Girl a Break” isn’t a film often discussed today. It’s colorful and fun, has great dancing, but I think that’s largely forgotten when it comes to MGM’s catalog of 1950s Technicolor musicals.

Why is that? It’s directed by Stanley Donen, co-stars Debbie Reynolds (post-Singin’ in the Rain), has costumes by Helen Rose and dances choreographed by Bob Fosse and Gower Champion.

Dancer Gower and Marge Champion

It’s probably because the film stars (then) husband and wife dancers, Marge Champion and Gower Champion as it’s leads. While Fosse and Reynolds are in the cast, they are very much secondary characters.

But don’t get me wrong, I love the Champions. I think they are likable on screen and are some of the best dancers to grace the silver screen. But for some reason they never caught on with fans. MGM signed the married dancers in 1951 for the film “Show Boat” with the hopes of making them the next Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. They only made three films with MGM and left the studio in 1955. “Give a Girl a Break” did poorly in the box office and lost MGM $1 million. After they left in 1955, they appeared on other TV shows but no more film roles to the significance that they had at MGM.

While they may not have been well liked by audiences, the Champions are some of my favorite dancers. In fact, I think Gower Champion is a better dancer and choreographer than Bob Fosse. There, I said it. I’m glad I got that off my chest.

There is even a dance that Champion and Fosse do together and I think Gower out dances him in the “Nothing is Impossible” number. Though I’ll admit that Bob Fosse’s “Balloon Dance” is of fun. I just don’t know why Gower is largely forgotten while Fosse is revered. Maybe it’s because Gower saw several flops in the 1970s while Fosse flourished with shows like Chicago and Pippin (which I star relevant today, I know). Or maybe people are enamored with the fact that Gwen Vernon and Fosse were married.

Anyways, I digress. I just would like to hear about Gower Champion occasionally, when great choreographers are discussed.

Bob Fosse, Gower Champion and Kurt Kasznar in “Give a Girl a Break”

One thing I like about this film is that it focuses on three women trying to get a role and we get to learn each girl’s story. That type of plot is more intriguing to me because, while Marge Champion is the most featured of the three, the “leading lady” is less defined. For me, it’s hard to decide which girl I would want to cheer for to be picked for the Broadway show, because each one has her traits that are interesting and could work.

Marge Champion, Dolly Sharp and Debbie Reynolds in “Give a Girl a Break.”

If you love colorful musicals, give this one a whirl. You may have never heard of it, but I think you will want to.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

Advertisements

Musical Monday: Everything I Have is Yours (1952)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
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.

everything_i_have_is_yoursThis week’s musical:
“Everything I Have is Yours” –Musical #486

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
Robert Z. Leonard

Starring:
Gower Champion, Marge Champion, Dennis O’Keefe, Monica Lewis, Dean Miller, Elaine Stewart

Plot:
Married dancing couple Pamela (Marge) and Chuck Hubbard (Gower) make it big in a show on Broadway. The first night of their success, Pamela finds out she’s pregnant and can’t continue dancing. Once the baby comes, Pamela is encouraged to stay home and raise her child. Problems arise in Pamela and Chuck’s marriage as his fame grow.

Monica Lewis's character causes problems for Gower and Marge Champion.

Monica Lewis’s character causes problems for Gower and Marge Champion.

Trivia:
-The lead couple in the film, Marge and Gower Champion, were married in real life from 1947 until their divorce in 1973. The dancing couple had two children, Gregg (b. 1956) and Blake (b. 1962). The Champions starred in several other films together such as “Show Boat” (1951), “Lovely to Look At” (1952) and “Jupiter’s Darling” (1955)
-Originally supposed to star Red Skelton and Vera-Ellen, according to TCM.
-Gower Champion did most of the choreography for the film.

Marge and Gower Champion star together in "Everything I Have is Yours"

Marge and Gower Champion star together in “Everything I Have is Yours”

Highlights:
-It’s always a delight to watch the married couple dance together. Both Marge and Gower were excellent dancers and their moves, technique and dancing chemistry make all of their numbers exciting to watch.

Notable Songs:

-Everything I Have is Yours sung by Gower Champion and later by Monica Lewis
-Derry Down Dilly sung by Marge Champion
-“Seventeen Thousand Telephone Poles” sung by Monica Lewis

My Review:

When you glanced at this film in your TCM Now Playing Guide, you may have thought, “Ah, a musical starring Marge and Gower Champion in Technicolor. Sounds like a fluffy b-musical.”

And I can’t say I thought much different. I figured this would be a colorful splash of fun with several fantastic numbers. But I was wrong. This is an honest dramatic musical that look at the issues with marriage and fame.

Real life married dancers Marge and Gower Champion play a dancing married couple in the film. Though Marge didn’t give up her career for children like in the movie, the Champions in the movie and in real life both end in divorce. However, in true Hollywood form- the couple is unhappy in their divorced life and they are in each other’s arms in the last frame.

I enjoy the plot line, because I think it shows a fairly honest look at marriage. They are joyous as newlyweds, happy when the baby comes, but Pamela gets restless. She has little to do at home, because the baby has a nurse, and she wants to go back to work and dance with Chuck. But Chuck is having hit after hit with his new partner Sybil (Lewis). Jealousy also arise as Sybil is making eyes at Chuck. When Pamela finally takes an offer for a how- the marriage is blown to smithereens.

“Petty details all add up until the roof blows up,” the film says after they get a divorce.

The dancing is also a real treat of this film. Marge and Gower Champions’ dances together are exciting, interesting to watch and seamless. Their movements together and fluid and their chemistry is evident through their moves.

In several other MGM musicals the Gowers are supporting stars with a large dance number added in. This is one of the few, if not the only, where the Gowers are the leads in the film, and that makes it a real treat.

Marge Champion dances in a solo number in the film.

Marge Champion dances in a solo number in the film.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at@HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com