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Silk Stockings

Silk Stockings(1957)

Remind Me

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The film's opening title cards read: "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents an Arthur Freed Production starring Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse in Silk Stockings." Melchior Lengyel's story Ninotchka was first used as the basis for the 1939 film by the same title starring Greta Garbo and directed by Ernst Lubitsch (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50). Actors Gregory Gaye and Rolfe Sedan appeared in both Ninotchka and Silk Stockings, although not in the same roles. On February 24, 1955, a musical stage version of the story, entitled Silk Stockings, with songs by Cole Porter, opened on Broadway, directed by Cy Feuer and starring Hildegard Neff and Don Ameche. According to a June 22, 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item, Porter and Feuer originally wanted Gloria DeHaven for the picture, presumably for the role played by Charisse. As noted in the May 20, 1957 Daily Variety review, Porter created two new compositions, "Fated to Be Mated" and "Ritz Roll and Rock," for the film to augment his original Broadway score. Two songs from the Broadway show were not included in the film: "Hail Bibinski" and "As Through the Seasons We Sail."
       Like the Broadway musical, the film had some differences from the original story and film. In the original story, the three Russian envoys are in Paris to sell jewelry for money to buy tractors. The character "Ninotchka" is sent to retrieve them in Paris, where she meets a French aristocrat, instead of the Hollywood producer in the musical version. According to a biography of Silk Stockings Rouben Mamoulian, the director also lengthened several dance sequences to allow them to embody the emotional transformation of the characters.
       Silk Stockings marked the second of two films in which Astaire and Charisse co-starred. Their first co-starring picture was the 1953 M-G-M musical The Band Wagon (see entry above). Although Astaire and Charisse also appeared in the 1946 M-G-M production of The Ziegfeld Follies (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50), they appeared in different sequences. Silk Stockings also marked the first time that Astaire worked with Barrie Chase, his dance partner on several television programs, beginning with the multiple-Emmy-winning 1958 special An Evening with Fred Astaire.
       According to a biography of Astaire, choreographer Hermes Pan deliberately included acrobatics in the dance numbers to prove that the 57-year-old Astaire was still an athletic and talented dancer and a convincing love interest for the 35-year-old Charisse. In his autobiography, Astaire claims to have had the idea for the ironic twist on the "Ritz Rock and Roll" song and dance number in which "swells" interpret the new musical form. Another biography of the dancer claims that both Porter and Astaire were saddened by the growing popularity of rock and roll music, which Astaire referred to as having a "sameness" to it. Silk Stockings was Astaire's last film as the dancing debonair romantic lead for which he had become famous and was his last film for M-G-M until the 1974 historical compendium That's Entertainment. Silk Stockings was also the first film Mamoulian had directed in nine years and was his last.
       During the duet "Stereophonic Sound," Astaire and Janis Paige's voices are over amplified while singing the chorus lines "stereophonic sound." As noted in the Daily Variety review, Silk Stockings marked the American film debut for Dutch actor Wim Sonneveld. A January 7, 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item adds ballerinas Pat Tribble, Gloria Stone, Sally Whalen, Charlene Baker, Iona McKenzie, Pat Wharton, Ann Mauldin and Francesca Balleni to the cast, and a December 6, 1956 Hollywood Reporter news items adds Florence Wyatt to the cast; however, their appearances in the film have not been confirmed. The first stage production of Ninotchka opened in Paris on April 4, 1950 and starred Sophie Desmarets and Henri Guisal. An ABC Special television production of Ninotchka aired on the network on April 20, 1960, directed by Tom Donovan and starring Maria Schell and Gig Young.