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Friday, December 7, 2007

Victor Victoria (1982)


The disguise surprise comedy of the year!

Set in 1930s Paris, starving opera singer Victoria (Julie Andrews) is aided by gay cabaret performer Toddy (Robert Preston). When Victoria dons Toddy's ex's clothes and then sends the abusive ex flying with a booming shout and an equally booming right hook, Toddy is hit with inspiration: he'll pass her off as a female impersonator. A woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman? It all goes well until Chicago "businessman" King Marchand (James Garner), starts to investigate, sure that a man like himself could never fall for another man! The revelation of Kings infatuation brings his body guard 'Squash' Bernstein (Alex Karras) roaring out of the closet and his spurned moll Norma Cassady (brilliantly acted by Leslie Ann Warren) off to Chicago to plan revenge with King's other "business associates".





Blake Edwards's delightful Victor/Victoria may be one of the last of the great, old-style movie musical comedies--it is so good, it was turned into a hit Broadway stage musical years later. And both versions starred Edwards's wife Julie Andrews (the former Mary Poppins) in the title role--as Victor and Victoria. She's a down-and-out singer who hooks up with a flamboyantly gay theatrical veteran (Robert Preston), and together they become the toast of 1934 Paris by dreaming up a provocative nightclub act in which Victoria assumes the identity of a man in drag. So, in other words, Andrews plays a woman playing a man playing a woman ... and that's only the beginning of the sexual identity confusions that provide the fuel for this splendidly classy slapstick musical farce. (Yes, it's all those things.) James Garner, as a Chicago club owner, finds himself strangely besotted with this stylish, androgynous creature--even though he thinks Victor/Victoria is a man. Legendary Hollywood composer Henry Mancini (a longtime collaborator with Edwards) won his last Oscar for the score; Andrews, Preston, and Lesley Ann Warren, as Garner's cheeky girlfriend, were also nominated. Musical highlights include Victor/Victoria's sizzling "Le Jazz Hot" (in which Andrews shows off her incredible vocal range); another showstopper for Victor/Victoria, "The Shady Dame from Seville"; Preston's witty ode to "Gay Paree"; Warren's hilarious burlesque number, "King's Can-Can"; and a charmingly casual yet elegant side-by-side number, "You and Me," done in a small club by Preston and Andrews in tuxedos. --Jim Emerson





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