Starring the indomitable Rita Hayworth and Gene Kelly, Charles Vidor’s Cover Girl was Columbia Pictures first ever musical. The big-budget production features two of Hollywood’s most beloved stars wrapped in lavish costumes and vivid technicolour. While the pair’s charisma and talent is certainly apparent, not even Hayworth and Kelly can escape the hackneyed script from Virginia Van Upp.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Rusty (Hayworth) is a nightclub dancer at her boyfriend Danny’s (Kelly) club. She lives a comfortable life, but when she wins a contest to be the cover girl of a prestigious magazine, she is propelled into stardom. This forces Rusty to decide whether to soar to infinite fame, or to stay with her small-town partner. The script weaves through cliché after cliché until in stumbles to its clearly signposted conclusion. Puzzlingly, there is a considerable amount of time devoted to an intrinsically uncomfortable subplot, in which the magazine’s editor takes Rusty under his wing because of his relationship with her grandmother many decades prior. I’d imagine it felt disturbing back in 1944, and has only grown increasingly unpleasant over time.
Still, there are a couple decent musical numbers. ‘Make Way for Tomorrow’ is a delightful romp with Hayworth, Kelly and Phil Silvers, a dance number with Kelly and his projection showcases his tremendous abilities, and ‘Long Ago and Far Away’ highlights the leads solid chemistry. Unfortunately, most of the numbers are forgotten as soon as they conclude.
While Cover Girl occasionally indulges in the razzle-dazzle of classic Hollywood musicals, the film far too frequently focuses on its banal story, particularly indulging in its creepy subplot. For fans of the film, Eureka has provided a strong audio and video presentation, though it’s disappointing to see a single special feature: a brief discussion of the film from director Baz Luhrman. Despite Hayworth and Kelly giving it their all, Cover Girl is a misfire, and certainly not among the finest studio musicals.