The Girls of Les Girls
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I recently had the pleasure of meeting the Finnish-born dancer and actress Taina Elg, star of this week's DVD Tuesday pick, the musical Les Girls (1957). Hear me out before you stop reading because you don't like musicals - I'm not wild for them generally, but over the years I've been steered to some great ones by friends in the know. Les Girls is a little gem I discovered on my own, and all because someone sent me an Ask FlickChick query (scroll down) about what had become of the gamine Miss Elg. I discovered that she was alive, well and living just a few blocks from me, and subsequently had a thoroughly delightful phone conversation with her, some of which wound up in my answer. Then last week I found myself at a publicity event where I was able to meet Miss Elg in the flesh and she was even more charming. Right then and there, I decided to try to turn a few people on to the criminally underrated Les Girls.

Les Girls is the Rashomon of MGM musicals, and if you can't imagine such a thing, well, there's the first reason to check it out. It opens in England in the then-present day, as a high-profile libel case is about to start at the Old Bailey. The defendant is Lady Sybil Wren ( Kay Kendall), who's recently published a racy memoir of her days in post-WWII Europe as a member of the cabaret revue Barry Nichols ( Gene Kelly) and Les Girls. The other two "Girls" - French ballerina Angele (Elg) and American hoofer Joy ( Mitzi Gaynor) - take strenuous exception to Lady Sybil's version of events, and use their day in court to set the record straight. Of course, each has her own version of who was having an affair with whom and callously two-timing her fiancé in the process, who was a gin-soaked harridan and who tried to kill herself, setting the stage (as it were) for a series of contradictory flashbacks.

For a long time, Les Girls was available only as a carelessly panned-and-scanned tape, but in 2003 it finally came to DVD in all its wide-screen splendor. To be fair, the Cole Porter score isn't his best but second-rate Porter isn't chopped liver. The production numbers are really clever, including a spoof of biker-movie posturing and a Martha Graham-style modern dance parody; Kelly contributed some of the film's dance numbers because credited choreographer Jack Cole fell ill during production. And the costumes are terrific: Those backless Marie Antoinette outfits are so low, low, low that if it weren't for the big blue bows, they'd have been illegal in several states. Thank goodness Les Girls were appearing in oh-so-continental Europe. Patrick McNee, later of TV's The Avengers, plays a barrister. And the Girls themselves are a terrific mix: Gaynor is the curvy, uncomplicated, girl-next-door type, Elg is all European sophistication (wink, wink) and really shines in the flashback that paints her as a gold-digging little minx, and Kendall is a revelation, a cool, lanky Brit with devastating comic timing. Sadly, Kendall - who was married to Rex Harrison - died of leukemia only two years after Les Girls was released.

Things to consider:

How do you feel about the flagrant artificiality of classical musicals: Love it, hate it, just don't get it?

Do you find it easier to suspend disbelief in backstage musicals, where the production numbers spring from the show business setting?

How about newer musicals - Rent, Chicago, Idlewild , Dreamgirls?

Do you have a favorite musical (or musicals)?

Any you hate with a passion?

Send your movie questions to FlickChick;.

Previous DVD Tuesday blogs:

The Girl Who Knew Too Much
The Queen
Expresso Bongo
I'm Not Scared
Shocking Grindhouse Double Bill! - Scanners and The Candy Snatchers
Don't Look Now
Re-Animator
Casino Royale
http:/ / community. tvguide. com/ thread. jspa? threadID= 800073953#comments"> Pi
The Prestige
13 Tzameti
The Departed
Suspiria
Kiss and Make Up
Kiss Me Deadly
The Long Good Friday
What Alice Found
The Devil's Backbone
The Descent
The Devil Wears Prada
Pandora's Box
The Thief and the Cobbler
Nashville
Panic in the Streets/Jack Palance Interview
The Pusher Trilogy
Scarface
Slither
Sunset Blvd.
In Cold Blood
Brick
Also: This week's new DVD releases