John McMartin

Sweet Charity (1969)

Sweet Charity

When Charity (Shirley MacLaine) isn’t dancing at the Fandango Ballroom, she’s desperately on the search for love.  When we first meet Charity, she’s positively elated over the fact that she thinks she’s finally found the love of her life.  But when they meet up on a bridge in Central Park, he pushes her off the bridge and robs her.  It’s an experience that would make a lot of people want to completely give up, but not Charity.  She still has faith that her one true love is out there and isn’t about to let anything get in her way of finding it.

One night, she runs into movie star Vittorio Vitale (Ricardo Montalban).  He had been planning to go out with his girlfriend Ursula, but when they get into a fight, he winds up going to a club with Charity instead.  He takes Charity back to his place for dinner and Charity can’t believe her luck, but then Ursula drops by and Charity spends the rest of the night hiding in Vittorio’s closet.

Charity’s night with Vittorio only makes Charity more determined to better her life.  When she decides she wants to leave the Fandango Ballroom, she goes to  an employment agency.  But while she’s there, she ends up getting stuck in an elevator with Oscar Lindquist (John McMartin).  After she helps him cope with his claustrophobia, she and Oscar begin seeing each other.  Once again, Charity thinks she has found what she’s been looking for, but there’s just one problem — Oscar doesn’t know about her job at the Fandango Ballroom.  He’s under the impression that she works in a bank.

Soon enough, he finds out the truth and he tries to be okay with it.  They plan to get married, but after he goes to her farewell party at the Fandango, he realizes he can’t marry her.  Left alone at the marriage license bureau, Charity starts walking home completely heartbroken.  But as she walks through Central Park, she realizes that she shouldn’t give up hope just yet.

On the surface, Sweet Charity has much to offer.  Shirley MacLaine was perfectly cast as Charity and with Bob Fosse directing, you know it’s got to be loaded with style and panache.  However, this was the first time Bob Fosse had directed a film and it showed.  Sweet Charity would have greatly benefited from being about twenty minutes shorter.  No matter how marvelous MacLaine was or how stylish the dance numbers and costumes were, those things simply weren’t enough to hold my attention through the full two-and-a-half-hour runtime.