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Down to Earth

Down to Earth(1947)

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teaser Down to Earth (1947)

By the mid-1940s Rita Hayworth came to embody the Hollywood ideal as a love goddess, so Columbia Studios cast her as Terpsichore the Greek Muse of Dance who comes 'down to Earth' when she hears that a musical is to be based on her and the other Muses.

Down to Earth went into production on March 25, 1946 and as John Kobal wrote in his book Rita Hayworth: The Time, the Place and the Woman "was in production the rest of 1946. At a loss for a story that could accommodate the talents of Hayworth and Larry Parks, who had impersonated Al Jolson in The Jolson Story that same year, a sequel was concocted to Here Comes Mr. Jordan a successful Columbia fantasy of 1941 which had featured Claude Rains as a sort of executive advisor to the Almighty coming down to Earth to straighten out some celestial mix-up. Down to Earth was to retain the Mr. Jordan character (played this time by Roland Culver), two of the original cast (Edward Everett Horton and James Gleason), and the original director, Alexander Hall.

Like all patchwork it required much cutting and stitching which, added to the elaborate production numbers, made it one of the costliest pictures ever undertaken at Columbia. [Studio chief Harry] Cohn would fret whenever the shooting fell behind schedule, then withheld the film's release for a good eight months, giving time for The Jolson Story to saturate the American public and make Larry Parks a star.

The production was somewhat hazardous. Once, during the shooting for the grand finale, a gilded elevator cage bearing the nine muses was being hoisted in the air for a lighting set-up when a cable snapped and sent it crashing to the floor ten feet below. Fortunately Rita was not present at this particular rehearsal for she was supposed to have been hanging outside the cage, waving her arms in mid-air. The chorus girls were hysterically screaming for help, unable to extricate themselves from the debris while the assistants rushed to summon a photographer who busied himself taking pictures for the insurance company. Five minutes later, Cohn was on the set wanting to know what had happened. He accepted what was merely an unforeseeable accident, then instructed [choreographer Jack] Cole to devise a new finale that would not require Rita to be up in the air. The original number had necessitated the building of an expensive monorail; it was totally discarded and is nowhere to be seen in the release print."

Down to Earth opened on August 21, 1947 to reviews which were generally favorable. Bosley Crowther in The New York Times of September 12, 1947, wrote that the plot of a Muse coming to Earth and starring in a musical " is used to base a frame for the display of a good lot of song-and-dance shenanigans which have some rather striking screen vitality. Indeed, it is mainly in these numbers - oh, where have we heard this before! - that the notable pleasures of this picture are likely to be found. For color and music and movement-the coloring, incidentally, is superb - are combined here to stimulate the senses in a splashy, luxurious way..."

Crowther also added, "Most ambitious of the members is a Carousel type of thing done to an eccentric rhythm, entitled People Have More Fun . A neoclassical hodgepodge of leaping and gliding girls and boys, labeled (we believe) a Greek Ballet, is also a pictorial thing. And a rather fancy ululation on a boogie-woogie beat insulting the nine (count 'em) muses is colorful to observe. Also a couple of song numbers, This Can't Be Legal and They Can't Convince Me, given much more to snappy lyrics than to melody, are stimulating, too. Marc Platt, who leads the dances, is sure a fellow with two feet off the ground...After the heavenly body of Rita Hayworth has been removed from a Greek gown in a dry-ice Olympus to a mink coat on a Broadway stage, the fantasy generally degenerates into a typical boy-girl backstage yarn. It is true that Roland Culver as Mr. Jordan and, of course, our old friend, Edward Everett Horton, as Messenger 7013, do pop in occasionally to remind Miss Hayworth that she is not of mortal flesh. But that doesn't keep her from behaving with Larry Parks in a bleakly mortal way. In fact, Mr. Parks, who is no Barrymore, might wish, indeed, that his Terpsichore could act."

Producer: Don Hartman
Director: Alexander Hall
Screenplay: Edwin Blum, Don Hartman, Harry Segall (play)
Cinematography: Rudolph Mate
Film Editing: Viola Lawrence
Art Direction: Stephen Goosson, Rudolph Sternad
Music: George Duning, Heinz Roemheld
Cast: Rita Hayworth (Terpsichore/Kitty Pendleton), Larry Parks (Danny Miller), Marc Platt (Eddie), Roland Culver (Mr. Jordan), James Gleason (Max Corkle), Edward Everett Horton (Messenger 7013).

by Lorraine LoBianco

SOURCES:www.nytimes.comThe Internet Movie Database Rita Hayworth: The Time, the Place and the Woman by John Kobal

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