Lawyer Thomas Farrell has made a career defending crooks in trials. He has never realised that there is a downside to his success, until he meets the dancer Vicki Gayle. She makes him decide to get a better reputation. But mob king Rico Angelo *insists* that he continues his services.
Robert Taylor ... Thomas 'Tommy' Farrell
Cyd Charisse ... Vicki Gaye
Lee J. Cobb ... Rico Angelo
John Ireland ... Louis Canetto
Kent Smith ... Jeffrey Stewart
Claire Kelly ... Genevieve, Farrell's Wife
Corey Allen ... Cookie La Motte
Lewis Charles ... Danny Rimett, Golden Rooster Mgr.
David Opatoshu ... Lou Forbes, Farrell's Assistant
Kem Dibbs ... Joey Vulner, Rico's Mgr.
Patrick McVey ... O'Malley, Detective
Barbara Lang ... Ginger D'Amour, Party Girl
Most any film directed by Nicholas Ray is usually worth watching, and "Party Girl's" no exception. Ray took here what might have been a quite routine movie under another director and turned it into something quite interesting.
He extracted an unusually strong performance from Robert Taylor, who celebrated his final MGM film here, and drew equally effective work from Cyd Charisse, who also demonstrated her formidable dancing skills.
Then there was that burly "brute" Lee J. Cobb doing his no-nonsense "gangster thing," which always rang true. Yes, "Party Girl" had lots of bite.
A bit of age comparisons are interesting here. Would you believe the actors playing the "handsome leading man" and "sinister character villain" were both born the same year? It was 1911 when Taylor and (gulp) Cobb entered this world. Adding to the mix, Ray was also born the same year, making for a perfect triumvirate. (Trivia note: Taylor and Ray both expired of the same terminal illness.)
Charisse showed what a 37-year-old-dancer-in-shape can do. Dig those mobile movements: cool hip action, fast torso turns, strenuous leg extensions and fantastic full-bodied falls. Cyd seemed one of the last holdouts as the film musical glory days "bit the dust."
The post-Lewis B. Mayer period allowed for more violence than ever before at MGM, and "Party Girl" had its abundant supply in the final gangland sequences.
"Party girl" is a peculiar movie, starting with its title. In fact, the title recalls a light comedy in the style of the 1930/1940s. On the contrary, we deal with a drama/gangster-story of rare toughness (for the standards of the 1950s). The violence of some scenes is really scary. We recognize the hand of director Nicholas Ray. We even have an excellent action sequence which anticipates a famous sequence of "The Godfather". The story is interesting, the cinematography is good and accurate.
Unfortunately, this is an unbalanced movie. Vicky, very well played by beautiful Cyd Charisse, is a rather innovative character. But her dance numbers, so patently instrumental to show Cyd's legendary legs and phenomenal dancing skills, are just stuck to the film. A thorough and interesting psychological study of Thomas Farrell (Robert Taylor) is made. But the film is nearly marred by a huge flaw. The badly crippled Farrell has a miracle-surgery in Europe (?) and returns perfectly healed! (alas! that's not yet possible in the 2000s, let alone in the 1930s). And then the formerly crooked corrupt lawyer Farrell turns into the noblest possible person. Come on! At any rate, Taylor gives one of the best performance of his career. John Ireland is a great thug. Lee J. Cobb (as usual looking twenty years older than his actual age) makes an outstanding job as the suave, cruel gangster Rico. The action scenes, though well-filmed, are too scarce for a gangster movie. Besides the magical surgery, other twists of the plot are unlikely.
You see, "Party girl" has remarkable merits and flaws, as well. All in all, not a bad movie.
Interesting movie. Very interesting, though the title is inexcuseably misleading. Nicholas Ray directs and, not surprisingly, makes novel use of shadows, bold colors and wild camera angles. There is a bravura montage of an explosion of mob violence which is sudden and startling. Ray, best known as the director of "Rebel Without a Cause", takes a smart, tough script and; unlike many crime movies which contain similar ingredients but fail to resonate, gives the movie a soul. There's something about its tone and feel, some simmering menace and creeping regret that reminds one of another mob movie which would be released 15 years later: "The Godfather". And as in that classic, the Lawyer/Mob Boss relationship is complex and fascinating.
While much of the credit deservedly goes to Ray's maverick methods and genius, the cast is also very good. Robert Taylor never developed the kind of easily identifiable screen persona of a Bogart or Jimmy Stewart, but he was a sturdy leading man who usually served the material and could be depended upon to anchor a film. He pours his heart into this part, his last as an MGM contract player. Cyd Charisse was never known as a great actress but she is capable in her role as a feisty Show Girl, and she gets a good opportunity to show off perhaps the most eye-popping, perfectly sculpted figure in the history of motion pictures. And of course, nobody was better at playing hot-tempered thugs than the great Lee J. Cobb.
Turner Classic Movies is such a goldmine. It's so satisfying to see movies, such as this one, that know how to introduce plot points and convincingly tie them up and bring things full circle. "Party Girl" may not be quite a great film, but it is very, very good.