Like High Society the year before, Cole Porter’s musical Silk Stockings reworks a classic 30s film with great success. While High Society was based on The Philadelphia Story, Stockings is based on Ninotchka (which had been advertised with the tagline “Garbo laughs!”). And despite being nearly 60-years-old, FRED ASTAIRE delivers yet another bravura performance, as a Hollywood producer discovering that the Red Menace is actually far from menacing.
Silk Stockings (which ran for 478 performances on Broadway) is set in Paris, and sticks loosely to the Ninotchka storyline. Steve Canfield (Astaire) is in France to persuade a famous Russian composer, Boroff (WIM SONNEVELD), to write a film score for his next movie, a musical about Napoleon and Josephine. With the Cold War at its frostiest, though, three Russian emissaries – Brankov (PETER LORRE), Bibinski (JULES MUNSHIN) and Ivanov (JOSEPH BULOFF) – are despatched from Moscow to get the composer to return home. But when they too are seduced by the wiles of Paris and the West, a high-ranking commissar, Ninotchka (CYD CHARISSE), is sent after them to sort things out. Things turn even more complicated, however, when Ninotchka and Canfield meet and fall in love.
Cole Porter wrote two new songs for the film version of Silk Stockings (‘Fated To Be Mated’, ‘The Ritz Roll And Rock’), with a total of 13 song and dance numbers illuminating proceedings. The dancing between Astaire and Charisse (the two had previously starred together in The Band Wagon) is superb, with the long-legged actress delivering arguably the finest performance of her career (although her singing is dubbed by CAROLE RICHARDS). The film is also notable for being the last major film musical in which Astaire’s dancing is still hypnotic and at its peak.
USA / MGM / 116 minutes / 1957 Metrocolor and Cinemascope
Writer: Leonard Gershe, Leonard Sigelgass (based on the musical play by George S Kaufman, Leueen McGrath, Abe Burrows / Music: Cole Porter / Musical Director: Andre Previn / Cinematography: Robert Bronner / Producer: Arthur Freed / Director: Rouben Mamoulian
Cast: Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Janis Paige, Peter Lorre, George Tobias, Jules Munshin, Joseph Buloff, Wim Sonneveld