On the Riviera (1951)

Genres - Comedy, Musical  |   Sub-Genres - Comedy of Errors, Showbiz Comedy  |   Run Time - 90 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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On the Riviera is the third film version of a rather forgotten 1931 stage play. The material really is not strong enough to have deserved so many filmings, but this 1951 version is justified due to the presence of Danny Kaye in the lead. Indeed, it's a part that could have originally been written with Kaye in mind, had he been a star performer at the time. Kaye is playing dual roles, two people from different backgrounds who share an amazing physical similarity. It's a familiar set-up, and one which Kaye had exploited onscreen previously, but the comic attacks the part as if it were fresh ground. The tongue-twisted devil is a delight throughout, taking shtick that shouldn't work after having been done so many times and imbuing it with a freshness that makes it seem newly minted. He gets some lovely support from Gene Tierney and Corinne Calvet, and Jack Cole supplies some dandy dance moments (sometimes featuring a young Gwen Verdon.) As usual with a Kaye project, the star's wife, Sylvia Fine, supplies a few musical numbers which, if not outstanding musically, are extremely well-tailored to the comic's unique talents. The "Popo the Puppet" number is especially noteworthy. Walter Lang directs with a dash of style and a steady eye on the star, and the production design is quite good.