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Henry Mancini won one of his four Oscars for the tuneful comedy Victor/Victoria (1982), sharing the award with lyricist Leslie Bricusse for Best Original Song Score. The MGM-UA movie, a remake by producer-writer-director Blake Edwards of the German film Viktor und Viktoria (1933), stars Julie Andrews as a poverty-stricken soprano trying to find work in turn-of-the-century Paris. With the guidance of a gay entertainer (Robert Preston), she creates an alter ego named Victor, a "man" who performs as a female impersonator. She/he becomes a hit and falls for a guy (James Garner) who's troubled about his attraction because he thinks Victor is a man.
In a trend set by Cabaret (1972), all musicals numbers are performed in a nightclub, making Victor/Victoria a movie with music rather than a movie musical. The Mancini/Bricusse songs include "You and Me," "Gay Paree," "Le Jazz Hot," "Crazy World," "Chicago, Illinois" and "Elegant." Mancini was a longtime Edwards collaborator, having previously worked with him in TV's Peter Gunn and Mr. Lucky series and numerous films including Operation Petticoat (1959), The Great Race (1965), Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), Days of Wine and Roses (1962), Darling Lili (1970) and the Pink Panther movies.
Along with the laughs and Mancini's music, Victor/Victoria offers amusing observations about gender perceptions and the nature of sexual attraction. Writer-director Blake Edwards originally conceived the movie as a vehicle for Andrews (his wife) and Peter Sellers, another frequent Edwards collaborator. After Sellers' untimely death in 1980, Robert Preston stepped into the role of the irrepressible Toddy, giving one of his liveliest screen performances and winning an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor.
Victor/Victoria also was nominated in categories of Best Actress (Andrews), Supporting Actress (Lesley Ann Warren, for her hilarious turn as a screechy-voiced chorus girl), Adapted Screenplay (Edwards), Art Direction and Costume Design. Edwards won a Writers Guild of America award for his screenplay, and Victor/Victoria was named Best Foreign Film in France's Cesar awards.
Victor/Victoria was eventually transformed into a Broadway musical in 1996, again written and directed by Edwards and starring Andrews. By then the star appeared to have made peace with the role that, despite her dazzling success with it, had troubled her at the time the film was made. "There were so many things to be worked out," she said. "As someone who likes to be in control, I felt wobbly. There was something else, too: When you get older, you kind of get on to yourself. You know the tricks you play to get by, and you like them less and less if you care about your work. I was trying hard to get away from them and was sometimes falling back."
Producers: Tony Adams, Blake Edwards
Director: Blake Edwards
Screenplay: Blake Edwards, from Hans Hoemburg/Reinhold Schunzel screenplay
Production Design: Rodger Maus
Cinematography: Dick Bush
Costumes: Patricia Norris
Editing: Ralph E. Winters
Original Music: Henry Mancini, Leslie Bricusse
Choreographer: Paddy Stone
Principal Cast: Julie Andrews (Victor/Victoria), James Garner (King Marchand), Robert Preston (Toddy), Lesley Ann Warren (Norma), Alex Karras (Squash), John Rhys-Davies (Cassell), Graham Stark (Waiter)
C-134m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Roger Fristoe