Friday, January 1, 2010

SMALL TOWN GIRL (MGM 1953) Warner Archive Collection

Directed by Leslie Kardos, Small Town Girl (1953) is a minor musical offering from MGM that, like so many from its vintage, has much more to offer an audience than either its title or reputation since would suggest. The film stars Jane Powell as Cindy Kimbell, the daughter of a judge, living out her youth in the pastoral and innocent enclave of Duck Creek.

Seems Judge Gordon Kimbell (Robert Keith) is none too pleased with visitors who violate the speed limit in his tiny hamlet. Of course, it doesn't help matters that on this occasion the culprit happens to be Rick Belrow Livingston (Farley Granger); a non-repentant jet setter with a certain disregard for the simple folk of Duck Creek.

Incarcerating Livingston for 30 days, the Judge is confronted by the boy's mother (Billie Burke) who, at first tries to persuade the Judge to reconsider - then realizes that her son would be better served by having his own pomposity tested with a stint in jail.

However, from the moment Livingston begins to serve his sentence in county lockup he concocts a wily way to get back at the judge - by having Cindy fall in love with him. Meanwhile, Livingston's fiancée, Lisa Bellmount (Ann Miller) is growing ever impatient in between performances on Broadway.

Add to this mix one of American cinema's true treasures, the irascible S.Z. Sakall, cast as Eric Schlemmer, the easily flustered proprietor of a small department store whose son, Ludwig (Bobby Van) dreams of a future hoofing it on Broadway. Unfortunately for Ludwig, it is Eric's hope that he will settle down, marry Cindy and take over the family business. Quell tragedy!

The screenplay by Dorothy Cooper and Dorothy Kingsley is razor sharp in its astute assessments of the clash of wills between small town and big city America. Dialogue is witty and charming and the entire cast seem imbued with a sense of wonderment as they move through the conventional plot with gusto.

The best part about Small Town Girl is, however, its musical offerings. From leggy Ann Miller's terpsichorean precision in 'I've Gotta Hear That Beat' inventively staged by Busby Berkeley, to Bobby Van's spring-legged bounce through town in 'Take Me To Broadway' and beyond - with winning performances by Powell and a cameo from Nat King Cole - rendering the haunting 'My Flaming Heart' as part of a New York nightclub act - Small Town Girl is a movie musical that delights effortlessly enough as it passes the time.

The Warner Archive edition of Small Town Girl leaves something to be desired. Although the image can look relatively smooth with rich colors, occasionally the image is softer than it ought to be with a loss of fine detail as the direct result. Contrast levels are generally well balanced, although occasionally they seem slightly below par. So too do flesh tones appear a tad muddy. Film grain and age related artifacts intrude now and then. The audio is mono, though quite acceptable.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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