George Cukor‘s Rashomon-like 1957 musical comedy Les Girls is our film club title for the month of October.
When a former dancer publishes a tell-all book about her days in a dance troupe, she is sued by a fellow dancer who has a different recollection of the events surrounding a love affair with the troupe’s male dancer. In the resulting trial we are given three different versions of this single narrative that do not agree with one another, leaving us uncertain of what really happened.
The film stars Gene Kelly, Kay Kendall, Mitzi Gaynor and Taina Elg. It was written by John Patrick, based on a story by Vera Caspary.
We are watching Les Girls as part of our exploration of Rashomon, which started in August with Rashomon and continued last month by looking at The Usual Suspects. Unlike The Usual Suspects which borrows only one feature of Kurosawa’s film, Les Girls utilises its structure more fully.
Dolores Martinez, in her discussion of Rashomon remakes, argues that Les Girls (alongside the Italian film Four Times That Night) is in fact a truer example of a Rashomon permutation than the faithful remakes such as the 1964 The Outrage, for it displays a closer relationship with Kurosawa’s film.
While Kurosawa gives us a film about the chaos that ensues when everyone tells their version of the truth, Cukor gives us a rather different film about how relationships are maintained by the lies we all agree on. Marital discord occurs only when competing narratives are examined and compared, something that happens especially, it is implied in the final scene, when a woman wants to discuss a man’s fidelity or lack of it. Moreover, anticipating Lerner’s and Lowe’s bittersweet duet, I Remember It Well, from Gigi (Minelli 1958), this film makes a point about the different ways in which men and women remember what is important. It reduces the complex issue of finding the truth about a crime to a sexual comedy, and yet, perhaps because of Cukor’s own concerns with social deceptions, it is a sex comedy with a valid point to make. For the Hungarian based in Hollywood, Cukor [who was homosexual], the human condition was one in which it was necessary to lie in order to survive in a world dominated by an accepted construction of “normal” gender relations; for Kurosawa it was one of guilt redeemale only by accepting one’s responsibilities to other people. No clearer example could be made of how culture, history, and even sexuality can affect the way in which a narrative might be told, reshaped and retold. (68)
So, get ready for some song and dance, then let us know in the comments what you think of Les Girls, its relationship with Kurosawa’s Rashomon and Matinez’s interpretation of the film.
For the full Akira Kurosawa film club schedule, check out the film club page.