Cover Girl (1944, Charles Vidor)

A breakout role for Gene Kelly, who was starting to come into his own after the draft-dodging nonsense in For Me and My Gal. He runs a nightclub, is best friends with dancer Rusty (Rita Hayworth, before Gilda and Lady From Shanghai) and comedian Genius (Phil Silvers, TV’s Sgt. Bilko). Obviously Gene and Rita like each other, but Gene has to make the first move because it’s the 1940’s and he’s not good with feelings, so when she becomes a popular magazine cover girl, he lets her run off to a larger theater instead of asking her to stay.

Eve Arden, the best part of One Touch of Venus (she’s the poyle in the erster), plays the same sardonic type here, cutting through the music-fantasy atmosphere whenever she’s onscreen. She works with businessman Otto Kruger (High Noon, Power of the Press), who has movie-padding flashbacks to when he almost married Rita’s grandmother. Now Rita is being pushed to marry her new theater manager Lee Bowman (I Met Him In Paris, House by the River), and there’s kind of an interesting ending, as Kruger gets her to leave him for Gene, leaving Lee to a life of romantic regret identical to Kruger’s.

Not very memorable songs (the weird “Poor John” sung by flashback-Rita is all that comes to mind) but a decent movie. Nice man-vs-reflection street dance number for Gene. Weird trick-photography montage at the end with all the popular magazines’ latest cover girls (IMDB says one had already been in numerous movies, one was Harold Lloyd’s daughter, and another would marry Jean Negulesco). Leslie Brooks, also with Rita in You Were Never Lovelier, is good as her dancer-frenemy. And Genius, well, he’s grating and horrible as a comedian, but as a buddy of Gene and Rita, I eventually came around to him.

Sequel Xanadu came out almost 40 years later.

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