Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.
USA, 1969. Universal Pictures. Screenplay by Peter Stone, from the New York stage production by Neil Simon, based on the screenplay Nights Of Cabiria by Federico Fellini, Tullio Pinelli, Ennio Flaiano. Cinematography by Robert Surtees. Produced by Robert Arthur. Music by Cy Coleman. Production Design by Alexander Golitzen, George C. Webb. Costume Design by Edith Head. Film Editing by Stuart Gilmore. Academy Awards 1969. Golden Globe Awards 1969.
You’d never know that Bob Fosse would go on to become such a great filmmaker when you only view this terrible film version of his Broadway play. Based on Federico Fellini’s Nights of Cabiria, it tells of a dance-hall hostess named Charity (Shirley MacLaine) who is constantly thwarted in her ambition to find true love. When she meets a regular, nice guy (John McMartin) who seems to truly love her, she’s afraid that her career will scare him off and so lies and tells him she’s a bank teller. The Dorothy Fields-Cy Coleman score, which sounded so exuberant and fun on the stage, sounds overdone and laboured here, and the energetic dance numbers end up becoming too much to handle; once you’re past the second hour and the film still hasn’t given up you’ll be ready to pack it in. MacLaine, herself an excellent dancer, didn’t often get the chance to show off her skills in the movies she made (Can-Can is another one that comes immediately to mind). Her acting leaves a lot to be desired, however, as her Charity is unguarded and desperate, begging not only for her suitors’ approval but for the audience’s as well, and she too will eventually wear out your nerves. Where is the guarded, classy vixen who ruled The Apartment? Whatever the reason, she’s had better days than this one, as has director Fosse, who went on to make the greatest musical of the seventies, Cabaret.