Party Girl, 1958. 7/10

Really a stunning production. The use of color, especially during the dance sequences, was mesmerizing. It seems odd to say that about what is essentially a film noir, but the fireworks of sets and costumes make Party Girl unique.

Still, it takes at least an hour for the plot to get rolling. Then the sociopath Cookie suddenly puts Robert Taylor’s character in jeopardy; and Taylor isn’t in the clear until the last scene. All the while we’re left wondering if Cyd Charisse’s character is going to be doused with acid. Fortunately, the prosecutor comes up with a clever strategy to force Lee J. Cobb’s hand.

It would seem obvious, though, that Vicki (Cyd Charisse) will be abducted by Angelo’s (Cobb’s) goons. Also, after Taylor’s released from jail and finds Cobb, why would the police launch an all-out assault on the building, since Taylor could easily get killed too? The fact that he had a sentimental talk with the cops at the very end shows that they were on the same side.

The movie almost lost me with the side-trip to Europe. What was the purpose of Taylor’s having an old injury that needed surgery anyway? If we had gone directly from Taylor’s romance with Charisse right to the complications with Cobb and Cookie we would have lost nothing. We would’ve been spared the rare on-location driving scene from the doctor’s office in which (as noted in the Goofs column) all the other cars are from the 1950s.

Which leaves me wondering: why the movie was set in the ’30s?
There were still plenty of ruthless gangsters to worry about in 1958. And, well, why not make Cobb an Irish gangster? He looks about as Italian as a Viking.

Taylor’s plea to Cobb that, despite all his bravado, the gangster is really a decent guy, who wouldn’t stoop so low as to disfigure a woman, is full of tension. It’s clear that Cobb is fascinated by Taylor, almost spell-bound; but never has the courage to stop striking out against his perceived enemies. Except for that well-written scene, though, Taylor’s performance isn’t very nuanced, not even as much as Cobb’s. The fact that Taylor’s Farrell is married has almost no bearing on the plot. That would be strange in any era, even more so in the ’30s or ’50s.

A strange, awkwardly-paced, but extremely watchable movie. Charisse’s dancing is great stuff, and that nightclub just glows beautifully. Cobb is at his caged-animal best, and there’s plenty of wild gun-play. Party Girl is definitely worth looking at. 7/10.

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