Party Girl

1958, Movie, NR, 99 mins


A hard-hitting crime drama, PARTY GIRL is a portrait of the Roaring Twenties in Chicago and, in particular, the story of a criminal lawyer, Taylor, who represents crime czar Cobb, whose role is based on the bestial Al Capone. Taylor is a brilliant attorney, crippled and walking with a cane, an affliction he uses to good advantage when addressing juries, pleading the cases of Cobb's lethal underlings. He gets hit man Ireland off on a murder charge. To celebrate, Cobb gives Ireland a big party, inviting dancers from one of his nightclubs, including leggy, sexy Charisse. Ireland makes a play for the curvacious showgirl but she rejects him, more interested in keeping company with the aloof Taylor. The lawyer slowly gets involved with Charisse, and she begins working on him to quit Cobb and his mob and go straight. He tells her he's married to a woman who has rejected him because he is a cripple, even though he goes on supporting her. Disillusioned and hating the world, Taylor begins to soften as his affection deepens for Charisse. He then resolves to go to Sweden where experts claim they can repair his leg. Following the operation, he walks on two good legs and right into the arms of Charisse. The showgirl has been loyal to him, despite the fact that she's been visited by Taylor's wife, Kelly, who tells her that she has no legal claim to the rich attorney, and now that her husband has been cured she intends to hold onto him. Taylor, however, plans to divorce his shrew of a wife and marry Charisse. He is also ready to break with Cobb but he takes on one more case. The defendant, one of Cobb's top guns, is killed along with other goons in a gang war, and Taylor is wounded in the gun battle. Police arrest him as a material witness, and prosecutor Smith tells him that he will go to prison and never see party girl Charisse again unless he testifies against Cobb. Taylor demands that Charisse be given police protection and Smith agrees. But when Taylor begins to reveal the mob secrets, Cobb's goons grab Charisse, and the attorney finally goes to the crime boss and tries to reason with him. Cobb only sneers and tells Taylor that he's going to reduce Charisse's lovely face to pulp with acid. Taylor smacks him, and the acid splashes onto Cobb, sending him reeling backward in screaming agony toward a bank of windows. Police outside spray the gangster, and he falls dead with myriad bullets in his corpulent body. Taylor and Charisse embrace, finally free of the mob.

PARTY GIRL offers only a standard story, but director Ray makes more of it through clever setups and inventive techniques, drawing forth excellent performances from Taylor (who is playing a role loosely based on Dixie Davis, lawyer for mob boss Dutch Schultz of New York, who later turned informant and married a beautiful showgirl). Cobb turns in a "Wild-Man-of-Borneo" performance wherein he not only eats the scenery but spits it out and chews on it again and again. Charisse, who performs two sensuous nightclub dances, does a commendable job with her cliche role. Ireland is only a hulking thug hissing lascivious comments toward Charisse when on screen, calling her "Puss." Taylor was 47 years old at the time of this film, his last for MGM after serving the studio for 24 years. leave a comment

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