Party Girl (Ray, 1958)

With Party Girl, as in his Jesse James western, Nicholas Ray, infuses little if any innovation in this sometimes inane musical/gangster melodrama. To a great extent, Party Girl is the worst Ray I’ve seen, by a long shot too when you consider his work as a whole. Robert Taylor injects the only sign of life in an otherwise uninspired cast, which is hilarious considering he’s a notoriously bland and wooden actor. Ray jumbles many genres here, intercutting dancing/musical numbers shamelessly showcasing star Cyd Charisse’s physical attributes, then moving back into traditional waters with the rich bitch wife, the two-bit hoods, and the chivalrous prosecutor. The crime end of the picture has even less impact, especially since the storyline involving gangsters, a conflict with their lawyer (played by Taylor) and the inevitable trouble which follows, is on permanent re-cycle, overlapping plot points with reckless abandon. Party Girl, a title so mismatched with the actual story it’s funny, I guess is supposed to show the underbelly of a supposed freewheeling lifestyle paralleled through it’s many cliched characters. But hey, when you’re dealing with such meandering and trite material, it doesn’t matter much. Every director has a stinker, and I’m sure this is Ray’s.

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