Finally, we are back with a full-on, legit, single film update post. It has been a while, TCM; thanks for finally ponying up a good one. This one fits into a few of my favorite categories. Foremost, it’s another entry from 1940 where the costume director didn’t get the memo about that regrettable sea change in fashion. It is also another entry in the “I Love 30’s and 40’s Film Star Lucille Ball” category. Too bad her career fizzled, and she never got into television. (Sarcasm, for the impaired.) Finally, yes, there’s a divorce. However, it’s only a subplot in this one. It’s time to Dance, Girl, Dance.
Dance, Girl, Dance (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
Format: Blu-ray, Subtitled
Dance, Girl, Dance – The Film
A story of rags to burlesque to ballet riches about dancer Judy (Maureen O’Hara) and her friend/rival/friend again Tiger Lily (nee Bubbles), played by Miss Ball. Both end up competing for the affections of the same man, rich guy Jimmy, whose soon-to-be ex-wife we will see shortly. After Judy’s dreams of becoming a ballerina take a detour through Bubbles’ burlesque show as a “stooge,” their relationship strains a bit, leading to fisticuffs and an appearance in night court (not the one with capital letters, John Larroquette, and a pretty decent selection of 80’s foxes in the early seasons). Oh, and Jimmy ends up with Judy because it’s a lighthearted comedy from 1940.
Dance, Girl, Dance – The Furs
Bubbles’ rise from bit chorus girl to Tiger Lilly, the burlesque queen, is documented with her furs, and fortunately, the focus is heavily on the latter end of that dramatic arc. Miss Ball doesn’t support the film alone. As alluded to earlier, Judy’s love interest is rich and divorcing, and his ex-wife has a lot of furs to keep her warm. If you’re a fan of the lead, Maureen O’Hara, and hoping she’s in fur, I’ll disappoint you upfront.
Bubbles may be a poor bit player, but, in those days, poor bit players could afford a cruddy red fox stole with bits attached. In terms of costume contributing to the story, this outfit certainly suggests Bubbles hasn’t entirely made it yet.
We switch to Jimmy and his pre-divorce wife Elinor, played by Virginia Field, coming home in this full silver fox fur wrap. She’s certainly made excellent use of her husband’s money.
Bubbles attends an audition in this white fox stole with the extra parts attached. Don’t worry; eventually, she becomes wealthy enough to afford furs that are actually finished.
There is a good, short close-up where it doesn’t matter what leftovers are still hanging onto the stole.
Bubbles eventually makes it, becoming Tiger Lilly, but starting slow with a relatively conservative set of silver fox cuffs. Sadly for much of this sequence, she’s also accessorizing with a small dog as well. Here, she “propositions” Judy with an offer to perform ballet at the burlesque show.
Judy is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, so she accepts. She performs ballet for the burlesque crowd, to their great dismay. All part of the act, the recently minted Tiger Lilly appears to save the show and put on a little more “suitable” entertainment. She appears thusly:
Hey, I’d cheer for that. Miss Ball performs most of the act wearing this white fox beauty, the showpiece of the entire film, and a fur documented as richly as it deserves to be.
I’ve included a lot of shots from the act in the gallery. It’s a rather entertaining bit where she slides effortlessly between a “society” accent and something a bit more common.
Trying to keep up, Elinor breaks out a big lynx fur collar. What better way to serve the divorce papers to Jimmy?
This is another well-filmed fur, with quite a few close-ups that let us enjoy Virginia Field’s face framed by the high, fluffy lynx.
Tiger Lilly is back, competing collar versus collar, with this fox-trimmed coat. This collar displays one of the most important aspects of a good collar: beyond shoulder coverage. For the record, the best collars have trouble fitting through doorways.
This is yet another well-filmed fur to add to the film’s impressive total.
There are brief wide shots where you can see it’s not just the collar but also some trim at the bottom. Yes, it seems the cuffs are notably absent, so I have to dock some points for that.
Finally, and fittingly, the white fox makes a return engagement as the ladies are hauled into court after a bit of an altercation. Here, we see that Bubbles seems to have taken the greater amount of punishment.
The scene includes some nice shots of the back of the coat. Obviously, the ideal would be to add the last collar to this coat, lengthen it with a four-foot train, add some elbow-length cuffs, some additional fringe, turn the collar into a hood… Whoops, train of thought kind of ran away there for a moment.
But wait, there’s more! Elinor shows up to the trial sporting a silver fox fur muff. I like the entire outfit here; the pinstripe suit and hat mix well with the muff.
Both together, you say? Sure!
Even better than that last one? Sure!
Wow, this one works on several levels. It’s got an excellent marquee fur supported with a deep selection of additional pieces, all of which are well filmed. The furs that aren’t well filmed, particularly the few early pieces worn by Bubbles, don’t deserve it anyway. Miss Ball is lovely as ever in this period, still likable despite playing what amounts to the villainess of the piece. Granted, comparing Bubbles to Judy’s rather pedestrian aspiring ballerina is probably not even fair. Finally, at 13%, it’s a solid ratio, most of it supported by the best fur in the film.
Fur Runtime: approx 12 minutes
Film Runtime: 90 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 13%