By 1953 the great movie factory MGM was already winding down. With talent contracts not being renewed, the musical film units were the last to remain intact. Singing star Jane Powell stars in 1953's Small Town Girl
as Cindy, a judge's daughter in the tiny hamlet of Duck Creek. She meets big-city playboy Rick (Farley Granger) when her father locks him up for speeding. This causes romantic repercussions as far away as Broadway, where Rick's fiancée Lisa (Ann Miller) is a big dancing star. Cindy's beau Ludwig (Bobby Van) would really rather escape to New York and dance as well. Dorothy Cooper and Dorothy Kingsley's screenplay exalts the virtues of small town life even as the impressive Technicolor musical numbers celebrate New York glitz. Jane Powell sings in church and at a big society party, but also watches guest star Nat King Cole perform in a Manhattan nightclub. Ann Miller lights up the screen with two tap dances. Choreographed by Busby Berkeley, the dynamic "I've Got to Hear that Beat"
sends Miller tap-tapping amid an orchestra reduced to Dali-esgue dismembered arms and hands, sticking up through the dance floor. Bobby Van's energetic novelty number "Street Dance" shows the seemingly inexhaustible entertainer high hopping like a pogo stick for minutes on end. The two dancing stars were also a big hit in the same year's 3-D attraction Kiss Me, Kate
, but the days of the MGM musical were fading fast. The talented Bobby Van's screen career ended before it could properly begin.
By Glenn Erickson
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