Doll Face (1946)

“She’s not just a stripper–she’s a personality.”

Doll Face Carroll (Vivian Blaine) is the Queen of ‘Burly-Q’ at a small theatre. Her manager and love interest Michael Hannegan (Dennis O’Keefe) thinks that Doll Face has enough talent to hit the big time, but a humiliating audition ends with Doll Face rejected thanks to her scandalous burlesque baggage. Hannegan decides what Doll Face needs is “culture” and he hits upon the idea to hire literary author Frederick Manly Gerard, (Stephen Dunne) to ghostwrite Doll Face’s autobiography.

The marketing and publicity campaigns to makeover Doll Face’s image lead to lots of musical numbers, some romantic misunderstandings and various mishaps in this pleasant little film about the Burly-Q crowd. One of the most interesting aspects of this film is that it’s an example of metafiction–or metafilm, in this case–as it presents a Broadway show about Doll Face’s life within a film about Doll Face. At one point, for example, the fictional Doll Face plays a fictionalized version of herself on Broadway, and Brazilian singer Chita Chula (Carmen Miranda) is told she can play a part that is similar to … Carmen Miranda. Anyway, it’s a nice example of metafiction/metafilm. Keep your eyes open for crooner Perry Como.

The Critic’s Choice DVD isn’t the greatest quality. The picture lacks a good crisp black and white look, and in some shots, features are bleached out. Horizontal lines shiver through the film at a couple of spots, and big white blotches appear randomly at the top left and right corners of the screen. Towards the end of the film, there’s a black thing dangling down across the picture (not sure what this is–a hair, a wire, or just damaged film?). There’s a background crackle through some of the film, and towards the end of the film this morphs into the sound of a skipped record. I wasn’t expecting much in the way of film quality, and the problems noted didn’t really annoy me that much or distract me. The quality is what I’d expect if I had a well-worn VHS tape made from a television film. There’s an extra feature here–a 26-minute episode of the Dennis O’Keefe Show: “It’s Only Money.” Doll Face directed by Lewis Seiler is based on a play written by Gypsy Rose Lee.

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