Party Girl, 1958, is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Wednesday, March 8, at 4:15 p.m. est. Closed captioned. (Now Playing magazine)
Nicolas Ray uses color in this movie like some directors use dialogue. It is spectacular to look at with reds and blacks predominate all through the film. It is old-fashioned in it’s appeal to the film noir lover. This is the last film Robert Taylor did for MGM, and it is a great performance. The character of Tommy Farrell is, if you excuse the pun, tailor made for Taylor. Again he is the man with a secret past, as he has been in other film noir classics such as the High Wall, and Rogue Cop, two of his better roles. He is a mob attorney who is drawn to the “fastest way,” which in this case is working for Rico Angelo (Lee J Cobb). Cobb is always wonderful to watch and his role here is one of overstated ignorance, and brutal power. Tommy walks with a limp due to a childhood accident, and hates women because of his ex-wife’s repulsion of his crookedness. She destroyed his masculinity, by denying him access to both her bed and her love. He meets Vicki, played well by Cyd Charisse, at a party given by Angelo, takes her home to find her room mate dead in a bloody tub scene. He is drawn to her, but chases her away telling her “a girl deserves what she can get,” after Vicki wants him to return money given to her by John Ireland at the party.
She follows him to court and watches as he uses his limp to get sympathy from the jury, freeing murderer Ireland. His unique approach also includes the use of an old simple watch that he tells the jury was given to him by his father while he was in the hospital as a boy. It is the secret to his success with the jury. She tells him if that is what he wants “pity” then he has hers. He snarls at her telling her to get out. Afterwards he goes to the club where she is a dancer, every night finally taking her home, and telling her about his past with the wife. They fall in love and that is the beginning of the end for Farrell. She wants him to quit, he can’t. He does go to Europe to have his hip fixed and they vacation, until Rico summons him back to Chicago. There is finds that Rico has a job for him, defending a young gangster who Farrell refers to as a “dog with the rabies.” He tries to leave only to find that Rico will disfigure Vickie if he doesn’t go along. Reluctantly he agrees and in the pursuit there is a massive machine gunning down of the young gangster and his associates.
Farrell escapes unharmed, and goes to Vicki, telling her they must run. She refuses, and the cops take them both to jail. In the end he rats on Rico to save Vicki, he thinks, until he is taken to a broken down meeting hall, where Rico presents Vicki to him, wrapped in bandages. They unveil her still perfect face, but also a bottle of acid, which Rico tells Tommy he will use if he doesn’t take back the testimony. The cops were tipped where to find Rico, and they attack the hall with a hail of bullets causing Rico to tip the acid on his own face, falling to his death through a plate glass window. Vicki and Farrell leave, meeting the District Attorney on the way, with Farrel giving his watch to Kent Smith, “as a remembrance.”
The wonderful thing about this performance by Taylor is that his looks only add to the sadness of the character, his blue eyes showing the conflict within this man. Still magnificent to look at we feel for his plight with the crooked body, not be able to love again until Charisse loves him as is. Taylor is just great here, a mature, restrained Tommy Farrell, in love at last but conflicted about his job, and how he gets his money. A must see film noir. Revew by Mamalv, United States for the IMDB.
Some behind-the-scenes photos:
Left to right: Off-Stage Star: The cameraman catches Robert Taylor during some “away from the camera moments” on the set of “Party Girl.” The film, which stars Taylor, Cyd Charisse and Lee J. Cobb, is a Euterpe production produced by Joe Pasternak for MGM release. Nicholas Ray directed. (original caption); Robert Taylor and Cyd Charisse.