Victor/Victoria Movie Review

I love musicals, and 1982 saw the release of one of my favorites and another one that haunts me. I'm talking about Blake Edwards' Victor/Victoria and Francis Ford Coppola's One From the Heart.

Coppola's project (it came off his unbelievable string of '70s hits that started with The Godfather and ended with Apocalypse Now) was a technologically adventuresome movie that had one little problem--everything. The songs were bad (Raul Julia and Frederic Forrest sang), the actors appeared to have been fed a diet of sedatives and wine, and there was no cast chemistry or energy provided among the millions of dollars Coppola lavished on this neon turkey.

Victor/Victoria, a remake of a 1933 German film, does just about everything right. The script (which Edwards co-wrote) is breezy and fun; the actors sparkle. Most importantly, the songs are great. It also helps that you have three talented singers in the cast. In fact, some three years after first watching Victor/Victoria I often find myself humming bars from "Le Jazz Hot" or crooning "someday we'll have an airport" in Lesley Ann Warren's ditzy twang. I guess that's still why I'm single.

Anyway, the movie (the good one) takes place in 1930s Paris, where Victoria (Julie Andrews) is struggling to make it as a singer. She meets and befriends Teddy (Robert Preston), a gay nightclub singer, who soon develops an ingenious idea. Why not have Victoria tour clubs as a man, but dressed and singing as a woman?

It sounds preposterous, but Victor/Victoria finds herself/himself the toast of Paris' nightclubs. But life isn't all hotel suites and champagne glasses. A virile American gangster (James Garner) falls in love with the gender-bending singer, starting a whole mess of a trouble and raising questions about his own sexuality.

Garner and Andrews both shine in their roles, but the supporting actors are all splendid. The late Preston tackles his role with a winning mix of foppish charm and wit. His humor comes across naturally, not from his character's sexual background. Alex Karras, possibly the best professional athlete turned actor ever, succeeds as Garner's burly bodyguard and secret admirer. And Warren, as Garner's annoying girlfriend, is a singing, dancing, and comic dynamo. She's also sexy as hell and a great dancer, with her talents on full display in her "Chicago, Illinois" number.

All and all, Victor/Victoria is a vastly entertaining movie, which would explain why it enjoyed so much success when it opened on Broadway several years ago. It's also a reminder of the not-so-distant past: Andrews' prowess as an all-around entertainer, Garner's reputation as your father's George Clooney, and that Karras' acting ability extended beyond punching horses and raising courteous black tots.


Comments

Victor/Victoria Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: PG, 1982

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