Gene Kelly's last musical under his contract at MGM, Les Girls on the surface seems like an opportunity for a magnificent star turn by the screen's most athletic hoofer; after all, he's the sole leading man among the four stars. Surprisingly, it turns out to be an ensemble piece, and a rather delightful one at that. Also surprisingly, it doesn't feel like a real musical. The "offstage" character numbers -- fine though they are -- could easily have been replaced with dialogue and there would have been little lost in terms of story, character development and emotional impact. This is probably testament to the strength of the script, which -- while decidedly light -- is nonetheless engaging. (Structurally it is flawed, in that the denouement that is supposed to set all things right really doesn't, but the viewer is happy to overlook this.) George Cukor's direction is smooth as silk, and Jack Cole's choreography (supplemented by Kelly) is always interesting and occasionally fiery. Kelly's dance duets with each of the girls are highly enjoyable, with special mention going to his and Mitzi Gaynor's "Why Am I So Gone About That Gal?" Gaynor is a delight, much more appealing than in South Pacific, and Taina Elg is a treat. Best of the ladies is delicious Kay Kendall, especially in her memorable drunk scene. Kelly has never been better, excelling at playing a character that is rougher and less charming than most of his roles. Production values are high; mention also must be made of the intriguing and bizarre geometric setting for the Kelly-Elg "rope dance." An enjoyable bauble, Les Girls is fizzy and frothy fun.
by Craig Butler review