In hindsight, Rouben Mamoulian’s Silk Stockings (1957) is one of MGM's last great musical masterworks. The film marks legendary dancer, Fred Astaire's final appearance in a musical worthy of his inimitable talents. Astaire is suave American film producer, Steven Canfield; that’s code for ‘rotten capitalist’ according to Communist, special envoy, Nina Yoshenko (Cyd Charisse).
Nina has been sent from Moscow to Paris to apprehend Russian defector, composer Peter Ilyitch Boroff (Wym Sonneveld) and the three Commisars initially sent to Paris to apprehend him; Brankov (Peter Lorre), Bibinski (Jules Munshin) and Ivanov (Joseph Buloff). It seems that the pleasures of Paris, and one voluptuous actress named Peggy Dayton (Janis Paige) have seduced these stoic comrades from fulfilling their duty to Russia.
Nina arrives in town and quickly makes contact with her three wayward comrades. She reigns in their social decadence and crass spending before approaching Steven with the demand that he release Boroff from his commitment to score Steve's latest film project starring Peggy Dayton.
Steve tries everything to win Nina's heart. He introduces her to the playful pleasures of the city of light. But Nina is not so easily swayed. In fact, she is downright cold and unfeeling. Gradually, these icecaps melt, especially when love itself becomes the great leveler in this Cold War melt down.
Silk Stockings is absolutely marvelous entertainment from start to finish. A musical remake of Mamoulian's own Ninotchka(1939) starring Greta Garbo, Silk Stockings abounds in chic good taste and riotous comedy. In hindsight the original non-musical comedy seems rife for a musical retelling. Cyd Charisse may not be Garbo, but she gives a very competant reading of Nina and her dancing (a skill Garbo lacked) is beyond reproach.
Astaire and Charisse perform the stunning pas deux to Cole Porter’s sumptuous, ‘All Of You’, then later, ‘Fated to be Mated.’ Charisse is also given a luxurious striptease in which Nina discovers first hand that silk and satin are more pleasurable against the skin than buckram and wool.
Paige and Astaire lampoon film technology in the rousing, ‘Glorious Technicolor’ and Munshin, Lorre and Ivanov bitterly muse of their pending fate in ‘Cheery Siberia.’ Silk Stockings is an elegant musical from MGM, a studio synonymous with ultra gloss and high sheen par excellence. Delightful and effortless, Silk Stockings continues to sparkle even as the vintage of its talents are long since a thing of the past.
WHY ISN'T THIS ON BLU-RAY YET?
Warner Home Video’s DVD is gorgeous. The anamorphic widescreen image exhibits a very sharp, nicely contrasted visual characteristic with bold colors. Flesh tones do appear a tad pasty, but overall this is a marvelous presentation. Age related artifacts are few and forgivable. There are no digital anomalies. The audio is a 5.1 Dolby Digital remastering of the original six track stereo elements. The acoustics are impressive, particularly during the musical portions. Extras include an all too brief featurette on the film and Cole Porter, hosted by Cyd Charisse. Recommended!
FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)