Feb 28, 2014

[Movies] Victor Victoria (1982)

There are a lot of musicals that have been adapted as films, and there are a few movies that that have become musicals in turn. In the case of Victor Victoria, this was actually a movie musical that was later adapted as a stage musical, which is sort of interesting. Most movie musicals are adaptations of their stage equivalents, but this production when the other way.

It rather surprised me that Julie Andrews agreed to take on this role - the classic woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman premise that we've seen a heck of a lot before (Shakespeare) and after (Connie and Carla) this movie came out. But it certainly managed to present it in a manner that made it highly accessible to a wider audience. It's hard to say no to Dame Julie Andrews after all.

It's interesting how the 1980's included a few movies like this that included drag as a central part of the story (think Tootsie). LGBT representation may not have been all that public during this period, but it was certainly something that a lot of people were thinking about more than expected, I think.

Synopsis: Victor Victoria is a musical comedy movie written and directed by Blake Edwards based on the 1933 German film, Viktor und Viktoria. The movie received a number of Academy Award nominations and won Best Original Song Score.

In 1934 Paris, we meet the somewhat older Carroll "Toddy" Todd (Robert Preston), a homosexual performer at the Chez Lui. After another night with some hustler he goes on to see the club owner, Labisse (Peter Arne), and he happens to walk in on the audition of one Victoria Grant (Julie Andrews). Despite her impressive vocal talents, they don't feel she's a good fit for the club and she's dismissed. Later that night, Toddy gets into a fight with Richard (Malcolm Jamieson), the hustler, and his companion and is eventually fired.

Toddy and Victoria bump into one another at a restaurant where Victoria has ordered a rather lavish dinner. Her plan is to let out a cockroach in her purse onto her food in order to give her license to demand for her entire dinner to be paid for by the restaurant management. The ploy doesn't work out exactly as planned and evetually Victoria crashes with Toddy since she doesn't have the money to pay for the rent for her apartment and won't be let in. The next day when Richard walks in on them, it's Victoria who manages to drive him out, convincing him that Toddy had spent the night with another man. This inspires an unusual idea in Toddy's mind - to get Victoria to pose as a man and audition as a female impersonator.

I was a little worried that this movie might end up feeling like Cabaret. As much as the music in that movie is a lot of fun, a lot of the dramatic bits sort of dragged out longer than expected and weren't quite as entertaining. At least this movie began with movie sensibilities in mind, so the non-musical bits were equally entertaining from a classic comedy perspective. To be fair, a lot of the musical bits were strictly performances by the characters - they weren't exactly singing their lines or working through their challenges in life through song.

Julie Andrews is Julie Andrews, but to be fair, I think she did a decent job of trying to pretend to be a man. This is not to say that I'd ever be convinced that she was in fact a man or anything like that. But she's such an amazing singer and her on-screen presence is just amazing, so it's hard to be mad at her for this sort of thing. And besides, we tune in because we want to hear her sing, and man does she put on a show in this movie.

Robert Preston was an interesting choice as the older gay man who sort of comes up with this scheme and keeps the wheels turning. He didn't overplay being the gay man despite this being a comedy - and we all know just how easy it is to cross that line in the name of a half-decent joke. And I sincerely enjoyed him as an interesting contrast to Julie Andrews.

The pursuit by King (James Garner) did have him sort of reliving a sort of Maverick type of role, but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. However as the movie progressed, I felt the angle of him being suspicious of Victoria being a woman and not a man pretending to be a women grew old rather quickly and was stretched out a bit too long. But hey, it sort of reflected the comedic pacing of the era, in a way.

Victor Victoria as a movie musical isn't the greatest bit of entertainment around, but it certain holds a special place in movie history - and not just LGBT history mind you. It has great moments and a lot of Julie Andrews being spectacular and that's all just marvelous. The movie itself rates a good 4 glass-shattering high notes out of a possible 5.

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