Ricardo Montalban

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.

On an Island With You (1948)

Navy Lieutenant Larry Kingslee (Peter Lawford) is one of actress Rosalind Reynolds’ (Esther Williams) biggest fans.  He even had a chance to meet her during World War II when she was doing a USO show and chose him to do an act with her.  During her act, she kissed him, but even though it was just part of her job to Rosalind, it meant a whole lot more to Larry.  Luckily for Larry, though, he gets to meet Rosalind again a few years later when she films a movie where he’s stationed.  Since the movie is about Rosalind’s character falling in love with a Naval officer, Larry is asked to serve as a technical consultant.  The only problem is that Larry is still carrying a torch for Rosalind and her fiance Ricardo Montez (Ricardo Montalban) is playing the Naval officer her character falls in love with.

While shooting one day, Larry feels like Ricardo isn’t playing the scene with enough passion, so he tries to demonstrate how he thinks the scene should be played (because apparently technical consultants have directorial authority over a movie).  During his demonstration he kisses Rosalind and decides that he’s going to get Rosalind away from Ricardo if it’s the last thing he does.  His love of Rosalind is hardly a secret, though.  When the crew goes out to a nightclub one night, Rosalind turns down his offer to dance so she doesn’t lead him on and Buckley (Jimmy Durante) tries to get him to go after fellow actress Yvonne (Cyd Charisse) instead.  Even though Yvonne is Rosalind’s friend, she’s secretly got a thing for Ricardo.

Back on the set, Larry is needed to circle his plane around with Rosalind on board.  However, he doesn’t just circle around once like he’s supposed to.  Instead, he flies off with Rosalind to the secluded island where they first met years earlier.  At first, he just intends to be gone for an hour so he can make Rosalind dance with him and declare his love for her.  But then some of the island natives take some parts from his plane and they’re stranded.  Rosalind is furious and tries to explain that she was just doing her job at that USO show.  To prove that she can kiss someone without feeling anything, she kisses him again, but this time she does feel something.  The next day, Larry sets out to find the natives and get his parts back, but while he’s gone, Ricardo, Buckley, and a search party come and rescue Rosalind.  Buckley stays behind to find Larry and finds him having a feast with the natives.  When they get back, Larry finds himself in plenty of hot water for this stunt.  Not only is he fired from the movie, but he’s also in trouble with the Navy for improper conduct.  Rosalind tries to save him, saying going to the island was her idea, but he insists on taking the blame.  The relationship between Rosalind and Ricardo just isn’t the same after she returns and he begins to go after Yvonne instead.  When Larry comes to apologize to Rosalind, she kisses him and they live happily ever after.

On an Island With You just fell flat all around.  It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t remarkable either.  There was nothing noteworthy about the story and the way Larry dragged Rosalind off to an island and made her dance struck me as creepy and stalkerish rather than romantic.  Esther Williams, Ricardo Montalban, and Peter Lawford all have made far better movies, but if you’re a Jimmy Durante fan, you might want to see this one.  Even though Esther, Ricardo, and Peter were the stars, Jimmy Durante was a total scene stealer.  Even during Esther’s swimming scenes, I was more eager to see Jimmy again.    I’d watch it again if nothing else was on, but I’d be hard pressed to highly recommend it to anybody other than Jimmy Durante fans.