DANCE GIRL DANCE lost money for RKO in 1940, but it’s an interesting film by one of the very few classic era women directors,Dorothy Arzner.
A young Maureen O’Hara plays an aspiring ballet dancer who is coached by Maria Ouspenskaya who is reduced to finding work for her students in burlesque houses.
Lucille Ball is the complete opposite of Maureen – brash, self confident and desperate for money and success.
Lucille becomes a burlesque queen. She’s angry at Maureen because Louis Hayward prefers Maureen. Lucille offers Maureen a spot in her show, allowing her to do a ballet routine, knowing the audience will laugh at her – which they do.
Maureen doesn’t give up her dreams but one night, she finally snaps,stops her dance and tells the men in the audience what she thinks of them – “Go on, laugh,get your money’s worth…….what do you suppose we think of you up here……”
The whole speech is so unexpected and powerful,I’m not surprised that short scene is generally what this film is remembered for.
But the film changes tone. Lucille softens, and Maureen,after a lot of silly mix-ups, realises that Ralph Bellamy is a ballet impressario who can give her the chance she wants.
So a fairy tale ending for what could have been a more powerful film of lost dreams.
Maureen O’Hara is very good in the less showy part, but it is Lucille Ball’s film.
As usual, there is an impressive supporting cast including Virginia Field,Katherine Alexander,Ed Brophy ,Walter Abel and Harold Huber.
Best part of the film for me was two numbers Lucille does. Waiting to go on stage, Ed Brophy says to her, “Give all you got,Baby” to which Lucille replies as she sweeps on stage, ” They couldn’t take it!”
Looking like she has seen Gypsy Rose Lee in action, a blonde Lucille strides across the stage as she sings “Mother what do I do now” and “Jitterbug Bite”. ( Both can be seen on YouTube )