Okay, okay, maybe Rusty (Rita Hayworth) doesn't exactly have her name in lights on Broadway, but she's carved out a pretty terrific life for herself in the Big Apple. I mean, she's one of the star attractions in an intimate little club in Brooklyn, plus she has a thing kinda/sorta going with the ridiculously good looking choreographer who owns the joint (Gene Kelly). Rusty doesn't just pal around with her best guys -- cracking oysters open every Friday night with 'em in the hopes of unearthing a big, beautiful pearl -- they're practically roommates. It's a
happy, cozy life. ...oooohhh, but there's an itch Rusty can't help but scratch, and when ritzy fashion magazine Vanity puts out an open call for a fresh-faced cover girl, she's right there in line with half of the other twentysomethings in New York.
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Her ego's not all that bruised when she takes the wrong advice and blows her audition with fashionista Cornelia "Stonewall" Jackson (Eve Arden), stepping onto the stage at Danny McGuire's afterwards with every bit as much enthusiasm and pizzazz as ever. As luck would have it, Vanity's head honcho (Otto Kruger) happens to be in the crowd, eyeing some other talent, and he's immediately smitten. Turns out Rusty is a dead ringer for her dearly departed grandma, the love of Mr. Coudair's life, so guess who makes it onto the cover of Vanity a few weeks later...? I know! A star is born. Crowds are lined up out the door, McGuire's club is overflowing with photographers, newspaper reporters, autograph hounds, and bouquets of roses, and I haven't even gotten into the whole thing with big-time Broadway producer Noel Wheaton (Lee Bowman) yet! Wheaton has his eye on a new starlet and a blushing bride, transforming a love triangle into an...I don't know, love quadrilateral. Everyone but everyone knows what they're trying to get outta Rusty, but...gulp! What does she want out of all this?
There's kind of a lot to love about Cover Girl. I'm a sucker for backstage musicals, first of all, and Rita Hayworth in full Technicolor splendor sure does sweeten the pot. This 1944 film is the first musical where Gene Kelly was given full reign over his choreography and staging, and he makes the most of this early opportunity, including a show-stopping number in which Kelly dances alongside himself (!). Kelly, Hayworth, and co-star Phil Silvers are having such a blast together on-screen that it's absolutely contagious. Ditto for the musical numbers by Jerome Kern and Ira Gershwin, most memorably the Academy Award-nominated instant classic "Long Ago (and Far Away)". There's definitely something to be said about the endlessly charming pairing of Gene Kelly and Rita Hayworth, they're surrounded by a particularly terrific supporting cast, the choreography inspires more than a little awe, and the songs are superhumanly catchy. Does it blaze any brave, new, previously uncharted territory? Not really, but I can't say that I mind. In a word, Cover Girl is fun, and that's exactly what I want out of a musical. Recommended.
Film preservationist Robert A. Harris has opined that, from the look of things, pristine Technicolor elements for Cover Girl apparently weren't in any sort of usable shape when the film was remastered for a
high definition release. I've had nothing but the most enthusiastic praise to lavish upon the other titles I've seen from the Sony/Columbia library that Twilight Time has brought to Blu-ray, but Cover Girl falls short of those dizzyingly high standards. The general appearance does strike me as several generations removed from the source, judging by the contrastiness of it all, less distinct definition and detail, and exaggerated veneer of grain. Though it's expected that the image will degrade during fades and other assorted optical work, crispness and clarity are variable even in normal cuts, perhaps suggesting that this HD master was culled from a variety of sources. Expand the screenshot at right to full size for one disappointing case-in-point. I'd have expected Cover Girl to be a bright, vivid explosion of Technicolor whimsy. There certainly are bursts of color along those lines, if rarely as striking as what I'd envisioned. Far more often, though, Cover Girl is surprisingly dark and drab.
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I absolutely don't want to make it sounds as if Cover Girl is some sort of unwatchable abomination. It really is a rather nice looking disc; it's just not the breathtaking stunner I feel it ought to be. It's appreciated as ever that the sheen of grain hasn't been digitally smeared away, and the AVC encode is lavished with a high enough bitrate to accommodate that filmic texture. There's no wear or damage to speak of whatsoever. The image is without hesitation sufficiently well-defined and richly detailed to outclass anything a standard definition DVD could ever hope to capture. Heck, the clarity of each granule of film grain certainly speaks to how much care and consideration went into bringing Cover Girl to Blu-ray. I do feel as if Sony did the most masterful job possible given the likely available elements, and I'm thrilled to be able to experience such an infectiously charming film in high definition in any form. Still, Cover Girl isn't in the same dazzlingly gorgeous league as the other Twilight Time titles I've had the pleasure of watching on Blu-ray, and I can certainly understand why those with more of a casual interest might be hesitant to spend $30-plus for it.
Cover Girl arrives on a single layer Blu-ray disc at its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.37:1.
Cover Girl boasts a very respectable 24-bit, monaural DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Clarity and fidelity don't belie Cover Girl's age but are entirely appropriate for a musical of this vintage. The dialogue and musical numbers alike are rendered as cleanly and clearly as I could possibly hope to hear. The audio is free of any pops, clicks, dropouts, or distortion, and the very mild background noise is readily overlooked. I wouldn't characterize it as startlingly impressive or anything, but I'm really not left with any meaningful complaints either. This lossless soundtrack is precisely what I'd hoped it would be.
Also included are optional English subtitles (SDH).
There aren't any extras on the disc itself, although Cover Girl does come packaged with a booklet featuring a terrific set of liner notes penned by Julie Kirgo.
The Final Word
A deliriously fun and infectiously catchy musical like Cover Girl makes for a very inspired addition to Twilight Time's eclectic library. I've been so wholly impressed with the boutique label's other releases to date that I walked into Cover Girl expecting a strikingly beautiful Technicolor fantasy, and I have to admit that this presentation falls short of that. Though it does strike me as a very meticulous remaster of the best available elements, and the authoring of the disc leaves no room for complaint, Cover Girl isn't the candy-colored knockout it seems to want to be. Still very much Recommended, but hopefully this isn't the last we'll see of Cover Girl on Blu-ray.
A Few More Screengrabs...!