Pert Jane Powell has to pick between three different, worthy beaus in The Girl Most Likely. While the movie itself amounts to nothing more than cutesy, innocuous fluff, it has a place in history in being the very last release from the iconic RKO Radio Pictures. Yeah, it's true that splashy musicals were becoming anachronistic by 1958, but the made-to-order DVD from Warner Archive proves that Jane and company had a whole lot of fun frolicking in Squaresville, U.S.A.
The Girl Most Likely was capably handled by director Mitchell Leisen (Midnight; Remember the Night) as a carefree musical remake of Ginger Rogers' 1941 vehicle Tom, Dick and Harry. Where the earlier film was a straightforward romantic comedy, Girl Most Likely expands on the main character's dilemma with splashy musical numbers, creatively staged by Gower Champion. While with perky Powell and an engaging cast do admirably, in the end the movie is a minor-league affair which even sports a few vulgar, cringe-inducing moments.
The starry-eyed ingenue at the movie's center is Jane Powell's Dodie, a lady in her young twenties who still lives with her parents (Frank Cady and Una Merkel) and her smart-alecky little sister (Judy Nugent) in the seaside town of Balboa. Dodie works in an office with her jokey friend, Marge (Kaye Ballard), although they yearn for husband-material - especially the mysterious millionaire who owns a yacht in the bay where the two ride the ferry each morning. Despite already having a beau in Buzz (Tommy Noonan), a geeky yet ambitious real estate salesman, Dodie wants to keep her options open. She impulsively decides to dive off the ferry boat, catching the attention of a gent on a small boat leaving the yacht. Unfortunately, the affable young man who fishes her out of the bay is not the millionaire Dodie wanted but Pete (Cliff Robertson), a live-and-let-live mechanic satisfied with his lowly position. Pete winds up falling for Dodie and proposes, although the girl remains standoffish until she finally gets to meet the millionaire. Neil Patterson, Jr. (Keith Andes) turns out to be everything Dodie wished for - handsome, rich, and interested - but she's left in a dire situation after he, too, proposes.
Based on that plot, you can tell that The Girl Most Likely ain't exactly the most progressive-minded of musicals, although it fizzes along nicely enough on Powell's effervescence. She seems to be enjoying herself and has a good rapport with Ballard and her three male co-stars. The songs by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine are beyond forgettable, however. This was the team behind the new songs from Meet Me in St. Louis, although the likes of the stereotype-indulgent "All the Colors of the Rainbow" (Mexicans are lazy and drink a lot, but they looove those bright colors - Olé!) show how badly they've dwindled since the days of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." The forgettable music is mitigated somewhat with Leisen's practiced eye for intriguing imagery (notice how all the non-fantasy, non-musical segments are in shades of red, white and blue), while Champion's athletic choreography at least keeps things hopping. This movie actually has one terrific number - "Balboa," with Powell, Ballard, Robertson, and a small army of dancers splashing about on an elaborately done beachside set. While it's swell, one good number doesn't make for a keeper of a movie.
Warner Archive presents The Girl Most Likely in an acceptable looking 16x9 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Apparently the film was shot on 1.37:1 35mm film stock and exhibited in cropped 1.85:1 format, resulting in a grainy image lacking in fidelity. The Technicolor photography is merely decent throughout, at times appearing as if it underwent the older two-strip process, although the color truly pops during the fantasy musical numbers. While I wish this was put out on Blu-ray, the DVD edition will suffice.
The mono soundtrack is a decently mixed affair with some distortion on the louder moments. It's strangely balanced, however, with quiet dialogue butting up against bombastic musical sequences. We had to keep adjusting the volume levels manually on this disc - not a good thing, Warner Bros.! No subtitle track is included.
The disc only includes the film's Theatrical Trailer, presented in 4:3 aspect ratio.
Perky Jane Powell has a dilly of a pickle in The Girl Most Likely, finding herself with three fiancees and no clue as to which one to keep. This sometimes cute, often cringe-inducing 1958 musical signaled the end of RKO as a classic Hollywood entity. Based on this pallid throwaway, the famous studio couldn't have lasted too much longer. Rent It.