Dorothy Arzner is the name on the lips of many a classic film feminist scholar. Arzner has a wealth of credits but it is true she was the first woman to join the Directors Guild of America and the first woman to direct a sound film. DANCE GIRL DANCE was her second to last film and one that has gained critical clout (if not box office reward). CRITERION have decided to let us all see the feminist fable, which would be aptly titled, The male gaze through a female daze.

A dance troupe have a problem. Their former place of employment Palais Royale in Akron, has been raided. It was a front for hot gambling and naughty activity. Now Bubbles (Lucille Ball) and Judy O’Brien (Maureen O’Hara) meet Jimmy Harris, wealthy smoo. They decamp to New York, where Bubbles finds work in a burlesque club, while Judy starts working with Madame Basilova, a dance teacher. There lives will change and auditions for with ballet impresario Steve Adams might make them rich. Or maybe it could be a rouse for something else.

A failure on release, DANCE GIRL DANCE suffered from being obviously ahead of its time. Ok, so film geeks with talk about Arzner and then drop in Robert Wise (two time best director oscar winner) and then mention the cast as being a TV star and a film star. However this all feels like they want to have its cake, eat it and then burn it off. Ignore them and focus on the product in hand. You will get the obvious feminist qualities of the film. You will get that it is obvious in its critique of male exploitation. However I would say watch how smooth the film is. How well paced, directed, edited and rhythmic the whole is. Its a delightful piece of 40s cinema that is best enjoyed, firstly from afar and then explored for the obvious and the divine.


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