Sunday, October 30, 2005

Wow, this place is sure full of celebrities. I'm the only one in here I've never heard of.

That was the best quote in Sweet Charity, possibly the campest film ever made. It stars a youngish Shirley MacLaine doing her best Shelly Winters impression (a big dumb gaping smiling mouth showing the top set of teeth and hair like a mad wig put on back to front). Shirley plays Charity, a 'gentleman's' dancer at a tacky nighclub - it's about 1 step up from actual prostitution. And Shirley is desperate to get out of it. Cue a series of disastrous episodes with men - the first one pushes her off a bridge and steals her purse. The second is a rich movie star but ends up locking her in his closet when his girlfriend wants him back. And the third is a Tab-Hunteresque neurotic insurance man who can't get past her "sordid" past.

But the plot, like with most musicals is peripheral to the colours, costumes and crazy show-stopping numbers. And this film is a Queen's Dream. There's Big Spender, performed by a gang of women dressed as past-it drag queens (Chita Rivera is my favourite - she looks and acts exactly like Terrence Stamp in Priscilla Queen of the Desert.)

They're all playing that game where they have to hold a balloon between their thighs

Hey Big Spender, come up and spend some time with me - you can use my Stannah Stairlift - I only cost 10 shillings. Just be careful you don't accidentally break my wizened hands.

There's "If They Could See Me Now", featuring Shirley doing her thing with a top hat and cane. Then Sammy Davis Jr makes a somewhat incongruous appearance - he has his own religion called The Rhythm of Life (the song was recently ripped off for a beer advert!) and Sammy plays a drugged-out preacher called Big Daddy who leads his hippie congregation in a psychedelic dance number, which ends in a trade-marked Sammy Big Finish. I love Sammy Davis Jr (I have a shameful number of his cds, and can't believe I'd never come across this song before.)

But the best musical number comes near the beginning when Charity visits a weird New York "celebrity" nightclub (populated by people who seem to have just arrived via a spaceship from the planet Sogo in Barbarella). They perform a series of bizarre, complicated, kitchsly stylised dances - something you could only get away with in 1968.

If you haven't seen ths film - then it has a Trash Addict Seal of Approval :)


DazPaz said...

Have you really only just discovered the joys of Sweet Charity? Mary - i'm shocked!

matty said...

You really do have incredible taste! Wish I knew you!

I make a point of watching Sweet Chairty at least twice a year. I like to sit really close to the screen and just be amazed.

I had a little party when it came out on DVD --- the soundtrack FINALLY came out on CD last year!!!

DazPaz said...

Soundtrack is all well and good - But, much as I love Shirley and her 'kooky' ways, I'm much more a fan of the Juliet Prowse and Gwen Verdon versions.