While the delightful 1946 romp Three Little Girls in Blue doesn't win any awards for originality, this bright 'n perky bit of Technicolor fluff sports the polish and gumption of the best vintage Fox musicals. Like much of their singing, dancing output, a predictable, paper-thin story is bolstered by pleasing production values, toe-tapping melodies, and the talents of its cast (in this case, the lovely trio of June Haver, Vivian Blaine, and Vera-Ellen). The m.o.d. (made-on-demand) DVD edition put out by Fox Cinema Archives is done up with their usual indifference, however, sporting a muddy picture that plunges entire scenes into an inky morass.
In case we weren't already well-informed of Three Little Girls in Blue's stylized, Meet Me in St. Louis-style merriment, the overall-clad male singing quartet shown in the movie's unusual pre-credits sequence spells it out for you: "This is nineteen hundred and two, these are the three little girls in blue." While pretty egg-farming sisters Miram (Vera-Ellen), Liz (Vivian Blaine) and Pam Charters (June Haver) at first appear to be living the life of Riley, their livelihood is put in jeopardy when a hoped-for inheritance fails to come through. The most logical thing to do, of course, is to take a trip to Atlantic City, New Jersey to snag a rich millionaire or three. Being low on funds, they pool their resources and book a stay at the city's swankest hotel under assumed identities with Pam as a wealthy heiress, Liz as her bookish secretary, and Miriam as the lady's maid. In no time at all, Pam captures the attentions of two rich playboys - the virile Van Damm Smith (George Montgomery) and the geeky, handsome Steve Harrington (Frank Latimore). Meanwhile, Miriam is carrying on her own flirtation with the hotel's wine steward, Mike (Charles Smith). With two romances heating up the summer months, Pam's dilemma is in choosing which guy to marry - until the man she truly loves abruptly breaks it off.
Three Little Girls in Blue maintains its cheery escapism pretty well, although the musical cools off a bit when the setting changes from glittering Atlantic City (will they come across a young Nucky Thompson?) to the luxurious Maryland horse farm run by the family of Steve Harrington. It's there that Pam and her sisters (still keeping up with the charade) meet Steve's flirty sister, Miriam, spunkily played by Celeste Holm in her first film appearance. This was a short time after Holm's breakthrough in the stage Oklahoma!, playing a role similar to the one she had in that Broadway classic. June Haver, beautiful and somewhat bland, maintains the icy elegance that her role requires, while the underused Vivian Blaine shows a lot of fortitude and poise as Liz. Good as they are, the real standout here is Vera-Ellen. She's the vivacious center of attraction for the score's only lasting tune, "You Make Me Feel So Young," in an elaborate dream sequence both vulgar and fascinating. Actually, her pert and perky charisma pretty much wipes the other two sisters off the screen - why Fox chose to develop Haver instead of her for stardom, the world will never know.
Unlike many of Fox's other nostalgic musicals, Three Little Girls in Blue succeeds in being winsome and appealing - avoiding going down like a treacly spoonful of syrup. Fox had already done this story as the comedy Three Blind Mice in 1938, then they musicalized it for Betty Grable as 1941's Moon Over Miami, yet strangely enough this treatment has a fresh feel of its own (maybe because the stars aren't the usual A-list names?). With wall-to-wall music, the first hour works startlingly well. The film becomes much more typical during the Kentucky scenes (including a fox hunt which must have inspired the makers of Auntie Mame). Celeste Holm's salty presence brings some zest to our inevitable "happily ever after" conclusion, however.
I was hoping Three Little Girls in Blue would look at least passably nice, but the blah picture looks like something from a Mill Creek public domain multi-movie pack. Dark levels are very murky, and color is faded and lacking in yellows and greens. The image also has a slight softness which suggests it's taken from a secondary source (film dupe or video).
Muddy sounding and limited in dynamics, the disc's sole mono soundtrack nevertheless manages to sound pleasant and mildly undistorted on the louder-pitched musical numbers. No subtitles are provided.
None. As with other Fox Cinema Archive discs, chapter stops are inserted every ten minutes in the film.
The fun, perky 1946 musical Three Little Girls in Blue traffics in 20th Century Fox's well-worn formula of lovely ladies + nostalgia + artifice. Vera-Ellen and Celeste Holm are the standouts in this tale of pragmatic sisters hunting for a wealthy bachelor in 1902 Atlantic City, a surprisingly engaging, colorful treat. What a pity that the Cinema Archives m.o.d. edition is nothing special, although vintage musical fans would be well-advised to seek it out. Rent It.
Matt Hinrichs is a designer, artist, film critic and jack-of-all-trades in Phoenix, Arizona. Since 2000, he has been blogging at Scrubbles.net. 4 Color Cowboy is his repository of Western-kitsch imagery, while other films he's experienced are logged at Letterboxd. He also welcomes friends on Twitter @4colorcowboy.