Sweet Charity (1969) B-
For his first feature as director Broadway choreographer Bob Fosse chose “Sweet Charity,” inspired by Fellini’s 1957 masterpiece, “Nights of Cabiria,” his last neo-realist film, starring wife Giulietta Massina.
“Sweet Charity” was adapted from the 1965 Broadway musical of the same name by Peter Stone (script) and Neil Simon (book). Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields wrote the terrific songs.
Shirley MacLaine plays Charity Hope Valentine, a dance hall hooker who, despite her job at a seedy dime-a-dance joint, is an incurable optimist and indefatigable survivor.
Charity never stops looking for true love and never seems to look for it in the right places. We first see her in the company of Charlie (Dante DiPaolo), a slime ball who steals her purse and pushes her into the Central Park pond. She then stumbles into a one-night stand with Vittorio Vidal (Ricardo Montalban), an egotistical movie star. When Vittorio’s contrite girlfriend Ursula (Barbara Bouchet) comes calling, it forces Charity to spend the night hiding in the closet. Desperate to escape the dance hall, Charity heads to an employment agency, where a bureaucratic clerk (Alan Hewitt) informs her she does not qualify.
Unhappily, Charity heads for the elevator, where she becomes trapped with the very shy and very claustrophobic Oscar Lindquist (John McMartin). Once they’ve gotten out of the stalled elevator, Charity begins dating Oscar, never telling him of her checkered past or her sordid dance-hall job.
Oscar eventually finds out but assures her that it doesn’t matter. However, at the engagement party held at the dance hall, Oscar walks out on Charity, leaving her alone and heartbroken once more.
With the help of a group of flower children (Bud Cort and Kristoffer Tabori), Charity picks herself up and start living “Hopefully Ever After.”
Among the good numbers are “Hey, Big Spender” and “If They Could See Me Now,” which showcases terrific dancing by Chita Rivera and Paula Kelly.
The cast also includes Sammy Davis Jr., as an evangelist, and Stubby Kaye and Ben Vereen.
“Sweet Charity” feels like a first film (it’s a bit shapeless), but Fosse would learn and master the narrative and technical skills that are required for a movie musical with his next feature, the 1972 Oscar-winning “Cabaret.”
Oscar Nominations: 3
Art Direction-Set Decoration: Alexander Golitzen and George C.Webb; Jack D. Moore
Score of Musical: Cy Coleman
Costume Design: Edith Head
Oscar Awards: None
The winner of Art Direction Oscar was “Hello, Dolly!”which also won the Scoring Award for Lennie Hayton and Lionel Newman. Margaret Furse received the Costume design Oscar for the historical melodrama, “Anne of the Thousand Days.”
Running time: 148 Minutes.
Directed by Bob Fosse
Written by Peter Stone
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