Western

Heller in Pink Tights (George Cukor, USA, 1960)

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Has any director loved actors more than George Cukor or done better by them? Heller in Pink Tights is his ode to performers and performing. The story takes place in a Western setting. There are places called Bonanza, and covered wagons, and Indians and shoot-outs but it would be a stretch to call it a Western; none are as light or as pretty; and the only sensation this film wants to elicit is a sigh at the gorgeousness of costume against landscape, at the romance, at the delicacy of feeling even vaunting ambition can’t spoil.

There’s a plot about gambling and Sofia’s virtue  but who cares about plot when you can look at Sofia at her most glamorous or at Anthony Quinn, very touching in a rare restrained performance. Cukor not only directs his actors to advantage but presents them beautifully. Loren gets a magnificent star entrance  (see clip above); and Quinn, finally filmed by a connoisseur of male beauty, is shown to to have  eyelashes that in their own way are as luscious and startling as Gary Cooper’s. The mise-en-scene here is not only the orquestration of cinematic elements around actors with the goal of exploring performance  but  is itself a tour-de-force of gorgeous performativity.  George Hoyningen-Huene is credited with the marvellous use of colour. It’s a joy to see Eileen Heckart in her prime, a declining Ramon Novarro as an ageing villain, and an attempt at an adult role by Margaret O’Brien.  A minor gem.

José Arroyo

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