Cast & Crew
At the London Royal Courts of Justice, Angele DuCros is suing fellow dancer Sybil Wren, now known as Lady Wren, for allegedly defaming Angele in her memoir. The book recounts Sybil's days with "Barry Nichols and Les Girls," a large vaudeville troupe directed by famed dancer Barry Nichols. In one of her chapters, Sybil suggests that Angele, now married to French businessman Pierre DuCros, attempted suicide over her unrequited love for Barry. The first to take the stand, Sybil relates the following testimony: In a 1949 Paris engagement, Barry hires brassy French dancer Angele as part of the starring trio, which consists of Sybil and American dancer Joanne "Joy" Henderson. Despite agreeing to Barry's stern insistence on being "prompt, persistent and private" and refraining from marriage while in the troupe, Angele reveals to Sybil and Joy, who have invited her to room with them, that she is engaged to a young man named Pierre. One night in the girls' dressing room, after the troupe performs their elaborate stage show, Angele expresses a romantic interest in Barry despite Joy and Sybil's warning that Barry is a conceited playboy. Late that evening, Barry is so entranced by Angele's performance during a private rehearsal, that he begins a secret affair with her. One day, while Angele is out with Barry, Pierre arrives at the apartment to surprise his fiancée. Sybil and Joy dutifully lie for the girl, reporting her amazing progress as a nursing student, the vocation Angele told Pierre she was studying. When Angele finally returns home, Pierre excitedly explains that his parents are in Paris to meet her, the final step in their engagement. Without telling Pierre about the troupe and unsure about which of her suitors she prefers, Angele continues with her plans to perform the following evening. Before the show, Angele begs Barry to declare his love for her, but he manages to elude answering. On stage during the trio's flirtatious and comedic ladies-in-waiting number, Joy claims to see Pierre and his parents in the audience. Angele, not wanting to be seen in the compromising role and crushed by Barry's rejection, bumbles through the remaining steps and runs from the stage. Believing she has ruined her chances with both men, Angele weeps to Sybil. Later that evening, Sybil returns to the apartment and finds Angele passed out from inhaling gas fumes. Back in the courtroom, Sybil explains that Angele clearly wanted to die because of Barry. In their hotel room that evening, Pierre, now married to Angele, is humiliated by the alleged affair during their engagement and bitterly argues with Angele. The following day in court, Angele describes her version of the events: When Sybil's fiancé, London businessman Gerald Wren, pays her a surprise visit in Paris, Joy and Angele use clever tactics to prevent him from seeing her in an attempt to protect Sybil, who is horribly drunk. Soon after, Barry discovers Sybil's weakness for alcohol when he finds Sybil wildly slurring the lyrics to an opera while parading around the apartment. Barry threatens to replace her, until the loyal Angele convinces him that Sybil's condition is due to her unrequited love for him. Barry is so flattered that he takes pity on Sybil. Weeks later, after Barry charms Sybil into attaining sobriety, they embark upon an affair. While the troupe is on tour in Grenada, Gerald pays Sybil another surprise visit and offers Barry a place to perform in London, hoping that Sybil will then return to London. Barry eagerly considers the offer. Later that evening at a flamenco club, Sybil lies to Barry, telling him that Gerald recanted the offer after learning that she and Barry were lovers when she has actually not revealed anything about the affair to Gerald. When Gerald unexpectedly returns to club, Barry immediately denies having a romantic relationship with Sybil. Gerald, shocked by the news of the affair, starts a fistfight with Barry. Later, Sybil attempts to apologize to Barry, but he adamantly denies any real interest in Sybil, claiming that his behavior was motivated out of pity for her alcoholism. Ridiculed, Sybil takes to drinking again. When the troupe returns to Paris, Sybil's drunken slapstick performance on opening night causes Barry to fire her. When Angele returns to the apartment that evening, she finds Sybil passed out from inhaling gas fumes and assumes she attempted suicide. After the court is adjourned, Sybil claims that Angele invented everything, but Gerald says their marriage is over. The next day, Barry comes forward to reconcile the disparate testimonies: Barry actually falls in love with the quieter and more wholesome Joy. He repeatedly tries to court her, but Joy is unwilling to risk her reputation to date the womanizing Barry. When Barry persists on escorting the exhausted dancer home one evening, Joy suggests that he propose to her if his intentions are honorable. After Barry stammers a suggestion for a long engagement, Joy leaves to change into something more comfortable, returning in hair curlers and an oversized robe. Barry promptly leaves in frustration. Several days later, Pierre and Gerald ask Barry to dismiss Angele and Sybil so that they can marry the girls. Enticed by the thought of being alone with Joy, Barry plans to free himself of the girls without having to fire them. After performing a rough and rousing dance number with Joy one night, Barry feigns a heart condition to win Joy's sympathy. He then reluctantly admits that, although he has been diagnosed with a terminal condition, he has not given up the act for fear of putting the girls out of work. Despite promising to keep the illness a secret, Joy rushes home, where she tells Sybil and Angele that Barry is sacrificing himself for their benefit. Angele and Sybil then vow to quit during an anniversary party they are throwing for Barry the following evening. During the party, Barry begrudging accepts Sybil and Angele's resignations and asks Joy to escort him home. Once at his apartment, Barry, still feigning illness, tries to embrace Joy, but she runs from his clutches and orders him to be calm for fear he might suffer an attack. Frustrated, Barry admits to the ruse in hopes of embracing Joy. Furious, Joy runs from the apartment and Barry runs after her. As Barry stands at her locked gate screaming that he loves her, Joy hides in a nearby alcove witnessing his proclamations of love. When he finally reaches her apartment, he finds Angele and Sybil passed out, both having accidentally been overcome by gas fumes from a faulty heater. He finishes his testimony, explaining that the girls were taken to the hospital, but "Les Girls" was never performed again nor was the cause of their near asphyxiation ever explained to them. The mystery resolved, Sybil accepts Angele's motion to withdraw the case. As they leave the courthouse, Sybil and Angele, now insulted by their husbands' attempts to end their careers, embrace each other. Barry joins Joy, who is now his wife. Joy, who has listened to the testimony from the back of the courtroom, suspects Sybil and Angele did not completely fabricate their relationships with Barry, which causes another dispute over romance to ignite.
Marcel De La Brosse
Maya Van Horn
Wilkie De Martel
Honorable Basil Black
William A. Horning
Dr. Wesley C. Miller
Sol C. Siegel
Sol C. Siegel
Edwin B. Willis
Best Costume Design
Best Art Direction
Spiegel had worked with writer John Patrick and songwriter Cole Porter the year before on High Society, the musical version of The Philadelphia Story. For this film, he told the writer to not even bother reading Caspary's story, but just to see what he could do with the basic situation. Patrick decided to tell the story in conflicting flashbacks after one former chorus girl sues another for libel. When Patrick finally met Caspary, she thanked him for making her the industry's top-paid writer. She had gotten $80,000 for just two words - the film's title, Les Girls (1957).
Patrick didn't meet with Porter to discuss the songs until after the first draft was completed. Then they discussed the best places for them. Porter only asked for one change in the script. One of the leading ladies was named Samantha, and Porter protested that there was no way to rhyme it. When Patrick suggested "Lovely as a panther," Porter threw him out of his home.
During the initial casting, Cyd Charisse, Leslie Caron and Carol Haney were announced to play the three chorus girls, but by the time the film got into production all that was changed. Finnish ballerina Taina Elg, who was being groomed for big things that never really happened, was cast as the French girl. British comedienne Kay Kendall all but stole the show as the tipsy British dancer and Mitzi Gaynor played the American. The latter choice almost cost Siegel George Cukor's services as director.
Cukor had come to the project late and, according to some participants, resented not having any input on the script or casting. He decided to make a stand against Gaynor, only to be told that he could work with her or go on suspension. He stayed with the film, but focused all of his energies on the visual elements. As he often had in the past, he used fashion photographer George Hoynigen-Huene as a color consultant. They developed a washed out color scheme that captured the squalor of the low-rent musical act while still providing a rich palette for the complex story.
In fact, Cukor's concentration of the film's look paid off. It freed Kelly to design a series of dazzling dance numbers ranging from the modern-dance parody performed with Elg to a show-stopping, seemingly improvised number with Kendall. It also brought the film its only Oscar® recognition, earning a nomination for Best Art Direction and the Oscar® for Orry-Kelly's costumes.
Producer: Saul Chaplin; Sol C. Siegel
Director: George Cukor
Screenplay: John Patrick
Art Direction: Gene Allen
Cinematography: Robert Surtees
Costume Design: Orry-Kelly
Film Editing: Ferris Webster
Original Music: Cole Porter
Cast: Gene Kelly (Barry Nichols), Mitzi Gaynor (Joy Henderson), Kay Kendall (Lady Sybil Wren), Taina Elg (Angele Ducros), Jacques Bergerac (Pierre Ducros).
C-115m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Frank Miller
If I was a man I'd have nothing to do with me.- Lady Sybil Wren
Would you like a glass of water?- Joy Henderson
Why, do you want to soak your feet?- Barry Nichols
The film's opening title cards read: "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents A Sol C. Siegel Production of Cole Porter's Les Girls." Throughout the film, an older man passes by the court building carrying a sign that asks, "What Is Truth?" According to a October 20, 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item, Leslie Caron, Cyd Charisse and Carol Haney were originally cast to star in the film, but were later replaced. According to a biography of director George Cukor, when M-G-M insisted on using actress Mitzi Gaynor, Cukor originally objected to the decision, but later relented after studio pressure. May and July 1956 Hollywood Reporter news items state that producer Siegel and Cukor had planned to scout locations in Paris, Lisbon and Moscow for the film, but, according to modern sources, M-G-M restricted the shooting to Hollywood due to budget constraints.
The film's credits list Vera Caspary as author of the story and John Patrick as the screenwriter; however, contemporary and modern sources differ as to the origin of the source material for the film. According to information on the film contained in the M-G-M files at the USC Cinema-Television Archives, an article in the July 1955 Atlantic magazine entitled Les Girls by Constance Tomkinson, which was later expanded into a book of the same name, was used by M-G-M in its initial treatments for the film; however, no correspondence between the author and the studio has been found. The autobiographical writings were about Tomkinson, a Canadian clergyman's daughter, who spent several months in the chorus line of the Folies Bergère and toured Europe with various dance troupes. Review of the contents of the files reveal that Tomkinson's writings bear a few similarities to the film's screenplay, but key elements of the film Les Girls, for example, the libel suit and the three female leads' relationships, are not found in Tomkinson's works. Modern sources state that after M-G-M bought Caspary's story Les Girls, Siegel instructed screenplay writer John Patrick not to read it. When the screenplay was finished, Cukor at first rejected Patrick's idea for the girls living in an attic apartment because of the difficulties in shooting in a long and narrow space. In a modern interview, Cukor said that he accompanied art director Gene Allen and color coordinator Hoyningen-Huene to Paris, where they visited French apartments and Folies Bergère performances to resolve the potential difficulties and do set research.
According to other information on the film contained in the M-G-M files, associate producer Saul Chaplin also worked on the score for the film. Only a limited number of the songs from Porter's score were included in the final film. Among those cut were "High Flyin' Wings on My Shoes," "Drinking Song," "I Could Kick Myself," "My Darling Never Is Late," "My Little Piece o' Pie," "What Fun" and "You're the Prize Guy of Guys." Modern sources state that these cuts were due to M-G-M budget constraints. According a May 17, 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item, choreographer Jack Cole became ill during the final weeks of production and Kelly directed the remaining dance sequences. Modern sources add that Kelly choreographed the dance sequence entitled "Motorcycle Ballet." Modern sources add Dick Alexander to the cast and state that, at one time, Jean Simmons was to co-star with Caron, Charisse and Haney.
The film won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design and was nominated for Best Art Direction and Best Sound. In addition, Les Girls was selected for Britain's Royal Command Performance, an honor bestowed upon only one, usually British, film each year. Patrick and Caspary won a Writer's Guild Award for Best Written American Musical.
Les Girls marked actor Gene Kelly's last film musical and his last M-G-M appearance until a small part in That's Entertainment (1974). For additional information on his career, please consult the entry for For Me and My Gal in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50. The film was also Porter's last complete score written directly for film, although he later created several musical numbers for the film version of his Broadway hit Silk Stockings (see below). British actress Kay Kendall (1926-1959) made her American film debut in Les Girls. As noted in reviews, her drunken, operatic rendition of "Habanera" served as one of the film's finest comic moments. She made only two additional films before her death from leukemia, The Reluctant Debutante and Once More with Feeling (see entries below).
Winner of the 1957 Writers Guild of America Award for Best Screenplay--Musical.
Voted One of the Year's Ten Best Films by the 1957 New York Times Film Critics.
Released in United States Fall November 1957
Released in United States Fall November 1957