Party Girl (1958 film)

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Party Girl
Party Girl poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Nicholas Ray
Produced by Joe Pasternak
Screenplay by George Wells
Story by Leo Katcher
Starring Robert Taylor
Cyd Charisse
Lee J. Cobb
Music by Jeff Alexander
Cinematography Robert J. Bronner
Edited by John McSweeney Jr.
Production
company
Distributed by MGM
Release dates
  • October 28, 1958 (1958-10-28)
Running time
99 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1,758,000[1]
Box office $2,380,000[1][2]

Party Girl is a (1958) American film noir, directed by Nicholas Ray and starring Robert Taylor, Cyd Charisse and Lee J. Cobb. It was the last film Taylor did under contract for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.[3]

Plot[edit]

Slick lawyer Thomas Farrell has made a career of defending Chicago mobsters in court. At a party for mob boss Rico Angelo, he meets chorus girl Vicki Gaye, who accepted $100 to attend the party and another $400 from another gangster, Louis Canetto, from his gambling winnings.

Farrell gives her a ride home, each expressing disapproval at the way the other makes money. Vicki finds her roommate Joy dead by suicide, pregnant by a married criminal. After a long night of questioning by police, Farrell asks that Vicki be given a raise and featured number on stage at the Golden Rooster club, which Rico owns.

The lawyer and Vicki begin a romance. She's struck by the way Farrell, who is lame, uses his disability to manipulate jurors while getting Canetto off on a murder charge. A surgeon is found who might be able to properly mend Farrell's hip, so he goes to New York for the operation.

A cold-blooded killer, Cookie La Motte, is coming up for trial, but Farrell's frame of mind has changed and he would rather not defend such a man. Rico threatens violence against Vicki if the lawyer doesn't do his job. Cookie jumps bail, tired of the long wait in court, and plans to eliminate prosecuting attorney Stewart while at-large. Cookie and his men are gunned down by other racketeers, however, at an Indiana diner.

Stewart decides to pressure the mob by going after anyone connected to it. He begins by placing Farrell under arrest. Canetto goes to Vicki offering to protect her, but takes her prisoner instead. The district attorney releases Farrell, hoping to smoke out the mobsters who employ him. Canetto, caught in a crossfire, is killed.

Farrell then confronts Rico, but the gangster picks up a bottle of acid that he intends to disfigure Vicki with if the lawyer refuses to do what he says. A fight erupts, with the bottle smashing into Rico's face. Eyes and face burning, he plunges from a window to his death.

Production[edit]

Rico Angelo is probably a composite based on figures like Al Capone and Lucky Luciano. Elements in the film may be very loosely based on Luciano's feud with Dutch Schultz, but an episode where Angelo attacks someone with a metal cue may be based on a similar incident involving Capone. Farrell is loosely based on a real lawyer, Dixie Davis.

Main cast[edit]

Box office[edit]

According to MGM records, the film earned $1,130,000 in the US and Canada and $1,250,000 elsewhere, resulting in a loss of $454,000.[1]

Critical reaction[edit]

A. H. Weiler, film critic for The New York Times, gave the film a mixed review: ""Party Girl," it should be noted at once, is handsomely accoutered in color and CinemaScope and professionally handled by Nicholas Ray, director, and Joe Pasternak, producer, who approach their subject as if the explosive Chicago of the early Thirties was something they had just discovered. The fact is that "Party Girl," like the Charleston, is old hat, an old hat that would be amusing if it weren't so frighteningly reminiscent of a past best forgotten...There is little that is novel or exciting about this "Party Girl," despite her trappings or the occasional gunplay that surrounds her.[4]

TV Guide's review praised the performances: "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 cliché role."[5]

Film critic Bruce Eder liked the film and wrote, "Party Girl is regarded by many Nicholas Ray fans as the most beautiful looking of all of his films. Shot in CinemaScope and color, and starring Cyd Charisse (with Robert Taylor), it gave cinematographer Robert J. Bronner one of the best showcases he ever had for his work, and was a treat to the eye of the viewer, a veritable explosion of color and motion for many of its best sequences."[6]

Film critic Dennis Schwartz wrote, "Ray does wonders with George Wells' slight script through his masterful use of the camera to evoke the characters' alienation and vulnerability, and by also including exotic dance numbers and diverting costumes he creates some stunning visuals that have an eye-catching surreal look...It's a honey of a film, never mind the superficial flaws."[7]

The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 80% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on ten reviews.[8]

DVD[edit]

This film has been released on DVD in the Warner Archive Collection (individual DVDs), but is now only available online.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study .
  2. ^ Domestic take see - "1959: Probable Domestic Take", Variety, 6 January 1960 p 34
  3. ^ Party Girl at the Internet Movie Database.
  4. ^ Weiler, A.H. The New York Times, film review, October 29, 1958. Last accessed: November 26, 2009.
  5. ^ TV Guide film review. Last accessed: November 26, 2009
  6. ^ Party Girl at AllMovie.
  7. ^ Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, January 4, 2004. Last accessed: November 26, 2009.
  8. ^ Party Girl at Rotten Tomatoes. Last accessed: November 26, 2009.

External links[edit]