“Keep your nightlife down and your hopes up.”
Fans of the glorious Rita Hayworth will want to check out her 1944 film Cover Girl, a musical directed by Charles Vidor and costarring Gene Kelly. In the film, Brooklyn chorus girl Rusty Parker (Rita Hayworth), the love interest of theater owner Danny McGuire (Gene Kelly) enters a competition to become cover girl for the 50th anniversary issue of Vanity Fair. Nervous and armed with malicious advice from fellow chorus girl, Maurine (Leslie Brooks), Rusty blows the audition with Stonewall Jackson (Eve Arden), the wry assistant to magazine owner, John Coudair (Otto Kruger).
When Stonewall and Coudair travel to McGuire’s small Brooklyn theatre to check out Maurine as a possibility, Coudair catches a glimpse of the lovely Rusty on stage. She reminds him of the woman he loved and lost 40 years ago, and he’s determined not to let Rusty get away. Rusty become Vanity Fair’s cover girl, and soon conflicts with Danny push her away from McGuire’s theatre to Broadway. Here she’s courted by the wealthy Noel Wheaton (Lee Bowman).
Rita Hayworth sings and dances a number of songs here. The voice is not her own, but she still moves like a dream and what’s more she looks wonderful. My favourite Hayworth film is still Gilda, and Cover Girl is more of a wartime fluff piece than anything else. Cover Girl, with its theme that money can’t buy love or happiness, gives us another look at Rita (Mrs. Orson Welles at the time)–not quite as polished as she appeared in Gilda.
There is also one great dance sequence by Gene Kelly (on loan from MGM) as he dances with a shadowy alter ego. He makes a great dance partner for Rita, and in this film, the two main stars are teamed with a sidekick, named “Genius,” played by Phil Silvers. The film has shreds of humour, and Stonewall Jackson seems to have the best lines in the film:
“This mania you have for peering at these creatures in their native haunts.”
“I wear myself out wading through 10,000 girls, and out of the whole 10,000 you chose a red-headed nervous breakdown.”
“That one isn’t a girl–she’s a leaping thyroid!”