LADY IN THE DARK seemed like a breakthrough on Broadway, where it featured Danny Kaye and Victor Mature in support of Gertrude Lawrence. Unfortunately, none of these suitably cast players made it to the screen version, and the loss is evident. Also regrettable is the excising of several
wonderful Weill-Gershwin tunes from the play in favor of new songs that don't enhance the plot. As if all this weren't enough, even the original's book doesn't seem quite as good as its reputation would suggest.
Ginger Rogers (in her first color film) is Liza Elliott, a magazine editor who's on the verge of a nervous breakdown, partly because she has too many men in her life. She seeks help from a psychiatrist (Sullivan), and her sessions with him and some dream sequences provide the material for the
film's production numbers. Vying for Liza's attention and threatening her job security are Charley Johnson (Milland), the advertising manager for her magazine; recently divorced Kendall Nesbitt (Baxter); and handsome hunk Randy Curtis (Hall).
This expensive film made a lot of money upon its 1944 release, when audiences were clamoring for something light to relieve wartime anxieties. The story was unusual then, dealing as it did with Liza's position in a high-pressured man's world, her precarious emotional state (presented in Freudian
terms that were still fairly novel for most moviegoers), and her inability to make a decision. It's all lavishly presented with glamorous style, but it's almost as if director Leisen cared more about the look of the film than its content.
Rogers has a good (if too distantly filmed) dance number with Don Loper, and she does a fine job singing the amusing "The Saga of Jenny", but her performance is uneven. The same goes for most of the cast, and even the storyline, missing the crucial song "My Ship" (from the heroine's childhood),
seems a little out of kilter in retrospect. The result is a glitzy but superficial marriage of musical comedy and pop psychology.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: LADY IN THE DARK seemed like a breakthrough on Broadway, where it featured Danny Kaye and Victor Mature in support of Gertrude Lawrence. Unfortunately, none of these suitably cast players made it to the screen version, and the loss is evident. Also regrett… (more)