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Part 2 in a 284 Part Series of What Could Have Been...

6.19.2008

This one's a real heartache!

The 1957 film Les Girls was originally going to star Leslie Caron, Cyd Charisse, Carol Haney, and Jean Simmons. Are you freaking kidding me??? Stab me in the heart, why don't you!

Leslie Caron!

(Seen here with co-star and choreographer, Gene Kelly).

Star of An American in Paris (1951), Lili (1953), Gigi (1958), Daddy Long Legs (1955), and more! Lovely is the only word to describe Leslie's partnership with Gene Kelly.

Cyd Charisse!

(Seen here with co-star and choreographer, Gene Kelly).

Star of Singin' in the Rain (1952), The Band Wagon (1953), Brigadoon (1954), Silk Stockings (1957), and more! Cyd was a dynamic partner for Gene Kelly.

Carol Haney!


(Seen here (and there and there) dancing with choreographer and boss, Gene Kelly).

Featured dancer in Kiss Me Kate (1953), On the Town (1949), Summer Stock (1950), and star of The Pajama Game (1957)! Uber talented Carol Haney for many years worked as a choreography assistant to Gene Kelly.

Jean Simmons!

(Seen here with Marlond Brando as Sky Masterson. A role--you wish I was kidding--that was ORIGINALLY INTENDED FOR GENE KELLY.)

Who, granted, never worked with Gene, but she proved her acting/singing/dancing chops in Guys and Dolls (1955)! And she starred in wonderful movies like The Big Country (1958) and what we can definitely assume is the amazing Until They Sail (1957).

So what's the (practically) common thread between these four actresses besides the fact that they are the Cream of the Crop, the Best There Is, the Quartet to Usher in Musicals Nirvana?

A certain person they all (or almost) worked with. The leading man in Les Girls is--you guessed it--played by Gene. Effing. Kelly. A film where he could choreograph three of his greatest muses. Together. For his last film at MGM.

So, if you were anything like me (and at this point let's be honest--you're sincerely glad and/or hoping you're not), you would wonder, perhaps aloud, what stopped this film from being one of the greatest musicals ever set to film? A revelation and icon of dance and music? A film to be revered for the ages? A tour de force addition to Gene's, Leslie's, Carol's, Cyd's, and Jean's canon of classic films?

The answer: none of these incredibly talented women made it into the film. Not a one. Are you crying yet? Because I sure the hell am.

They cut the roles down from four to three. And who replaced these irreplaceable, once in a lifetime women?

Kay Kendall.


Who? you say. Who indeed. Star of: nothing I've ever heard of.

Taina Elg.


zzzz.....

zzzz.....

*SNORK* Wha? Wha? Oh I'm sorry, I must have FALLEN ASLEEP ON MY KEYBOARD! She went on to be in The 39 Steps (1959) and Barbra cast her as a 'female professor' (aka, you are not important enough to be assigned a name) in The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996). Gripping.

Mitzi Gaynor.


I'm only familiar with Mitzi from the color-tasphrophe that is South Pacific (1958) (I'm pretty sure I speak for everyone when I say that it was a great idea to give Mary Martin's broadway role in The Sound of Music over to the very, very capable Ms. Julie Andrews. Her originating role in South Pacific being given to Mitzi Gaynor? A complete tragedy? You decide.).

Apparently she's also in There's No Business Like Show Business (1954) and Anything Goes (1956). I've seen neither, but at least she co-starred with some greats: Donald O'Connor, Bing Crosby, and Ethel Merman. I'm convinced I would have enjoyed any of three of those people in Les Girls more than her.

The final dis-cast-er:



Now don't get me wrong. This musical is likeable enough. I can't say that I don't enjoy watching "Why Am I So Gone About That Gal", "You're Just Too Too", or even "Ça c'est l'amour". The reason for this is probably due to the fact that Kelly is at least breathing, if not dancing, singing, or talking on screen. And the women aren't terrible. I'm sure they are (or were) all very nice people with some considerable talent.

But when watching the film I will now have to mentally constrain myself from imagining Gene being serenaded in a boat floating down a river by Leslie, or ripping up the dance floor with Cyd, or breaking choreography barriers with Carol, or making love (old movie style, people. You know, they hold each other fully clothed and nuzzle into one another's necks) to Jean. Or...dare I type it? A ballet with Gene, Leslie, Cyd, and Carol. It's too much. It's just too FREAKING MUCH!

The movie could have been 10 times what it was. It was directed by the wonderful George Cukor, but was largely ignored by the public and did not usher in the hoped for renaissance of MGM musicals. I wonder why...

Now we must all be tortured by What Could Have Been...

Good grief, I need a drink.

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