Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

On the Riviera


Danny Kaye was a huge musical comedy star back in the ‘50s, probably as big as Kelly or Astaire. His films were carefully tailored vehicles for his singular talents, which included wildly original patter songs and athletic dancing skills. They were usually quite funny, with him usually playing an incompetent of some kind, in films like The Court Jester and The Inspector General. But tastes moved on, and his career dwindled in the early ‘60s. He had a TV show for a few years, and then there was hardly anything.

I’m a big fan of his, but this is definitely a minor effort. He plays two parts: a dashing French aviator and a nightclub performer who is a dead ringer. It was the second remake of a play called The Red Cat. Tired old plot, used to death. There are some good musical numbers, highlighted by an uncredited performance by Gwen Verdon. There is also a nicely-staged but painful-to-listen-to number called “Popo the Puppet,” where that inexplicable ‘40s and ‘50s tendency to think that grown men talking baby talk was funny is shown to its worst advantage. It’s not funny, it’s embarrassing.

One thing I wish I could have seen more of was the airplane the aviator flew in on at the beginning. It seems to have been some sort of jet-powered flying wing capable of flying around the world non-stop, but we never get a very good look at it. Something else that’s curious: At various points people watch television … and it’s in color. (Also high-def, but that’s because it was actually film shown in a box.) Wiki tells me that color TV was not available in the US until 1953. Don’t know about France, where this was supposed to be taking place. But I wonder what audiences thought? Was this supposed to be in the near future?