Cover Girl (1944): Classic Movie Review

Cover Girl 1944 starring starring Rita Hayworth and Gene KellyThe 1944 classic Cover Girl is reviewed by Guest blogger Angela Petteys:

While working as a dancer in a nightclub, Rusty Parker (Rita Hayworth) hears about a contest being run by Vanity magazine to find a new face for their big 50th anniversary issue.  She goes to audition for Cornelia Jackson (Eve Arden), who isn’t impressed by her, but she does catch the eye of publisher John Coudair (Otto Kruger).  Cordelia doesn’t know what he sees in her, but it turns out Rusty is a dead ringer for a woman he had been in love with 40 years earlier named Maribelle Hicks. When he finds out that Rusty is Mirabelle’s granddaughter, she wins the magazine’s cover spot.

When her magazine cover hits the newsstands, Rusty becomes a local celebrity.  Her boyfriend Danny McGuire (Gene Kelly), who also owns the nightclub she dances at, is glad to see Rusty’s dreams coming true, but he wishes she were becoming famous as a dancer instead of being just a pretty face.  He’s also afraid her newfound success will drive her away from him.  Thanks to Rusty, Danny’s nightclub suddenly becomes the hot place to be, and one person who comes to see her is Noel Wheaton (Lee Bowman), the owner of a theater on Broadway.  He wants to put her in a show, but she doesn’t want to leave Danny’s club.

Noel and Coudair won’t take “no” for an answer and keep trying to get Rusty to come to Broadway, which continues to drive a wedge between Rusty and Danny.  Eventually, Danny decides the best thing he can do for Rusty is let her go.  She finally goes off to Broadway and becomes a big star, while Danny and his best friend Genius (Phil Silvers) close up the nightclub and head off to entertain the troops.  Before too long, Noel proposes to Rusty and although she doesn’t love him, she reluctantly accepts since Danny is gone.  When Danny hears about her engagement, he decides to make one last attempt to win her back.

Cover Girl is the best musical MGM never made.  It’s got Gene Kelly, great Gershwin songs, nice bright Technicolor, and is just pure, exuberant fun.  This is one of those movies I can put on when I’m having a bad day and it will never fail to cheer me up.

Cover Girl came pretty early in Kelly’s career and I think it’s one of his more underrated films.  I’ve always been a huge fan of the “Alter Ego” dance scene where Gene dances with himself.  It’s too bad this was the only movie Gene made with Rita Hayworth; I really would have liked to have seen them together again.  What’s really remarkable about Cover Girl is that even though Gene had been only been making movies for two years, he was given a lot of creative control over it.  Maybe that’s part of the reason why I have a tendency to forget it was made at Columbia, not MGM.

Angela runs the blog The Hollywood Revue and is a classic film enthusiast from Detroit. To keep up with the latest from The Hollywood Revue, please join her on Facebook.

  • Richard

    Just to be clear, the music  was by Jerome Kern and the lyrics were by Ira Gershwin. George had died several years earlier. A great musical, to be sure.

    • Buddy Mantia

      Richard is right.It was Kern’s and Ira Gershwin songs.The movie was made by Columbia Pictures,not MGM.

  • Ellen Urie

    This sounds like a very interesting movie. It has a lot of good stars in it. I never knew that Rita Hayworth was a singer/dancer long before her great acting roles. While in the hospital a month or so ago I could not sleep. All night long I watched movies on the TCM channel. One movie was with Rita H. & also Fred Astaire. It was really good. Most of the older films had such good stories & great acting.

    • Richard

      Yes, she made two films with Fred Astaire “You’ll Never Get Rich” and “You Were Never Lovelier.” Both have exquisite dancing by Fred and Rita. Alas, her voice was not considered good enough by the studio boss Harry Cohn, so in all her films at Columbia her singing was dubbed. But with someone so beautiful and talented, that hardly matters. Glad she and Fred helped with you recovery!

    • Jay

      This movie is on You Tube…search Rita Hayworth.

  • Bjodrie

    I liked the song,Poor John sung by Rita.

    • LoF

      Of course you realize that Rita didn’t do any of her own singing in her movies. She was always dubbed.

    • LoF

      Of course you realize that Rita didn’t do any of her own singing in her movies. She was always dubbed.

  • Gemini09

    Cover Girl is one of Rita’s and Genes better movies and I agree it was a pity they didn’t get to co-star again.

  • georgetta ross

    this is a great movie, if you are into musicals

  • Ralph

    Actually it was a turning point in Kelly’s career. After  his debut in FOR ME AND MY GAL Metro didn’t really know what to do with him and his next four assignments there prove it. It was at Columbia that he had his chance at choreographing and the Alter Ego  number was the first of the Kelly miraculous creations.

  • JackJones

    Hayworth and Bowman also starred in “Tonight And Every Night where she, to me, never looked better.

  • Joel

    Too bad someone didn’t think to co-star Susan Hayward and Rita Hayworth in “My Sister Eileen”.  I think it would have been a hoot!

  • John

    Great review.  The teaming up of Rita and Gene was perfect for this movie.  Whether the dances were done as solos or paired together, all were magnificent.  Rita Hayworth had a special quality in her dancing coupled with her beauty, poise and facial expression that made her the most enjoyable female dancer to watch.

  • fredjay

    Nice revue for a nice musical, but the music is by Jerome Kern — lyrics by Ira Gershwin). The song “Long Ago and Far Away” is one of the classics of the Tin Pan Alley era.

    • John

      You are absolutely right. This is the second film Jerome Kern wrote the music for a Rita Hayworth musical…the first one “You Were Never Lovelier” in 1942 he teamed up with Johnny Mercer for the lyrics. Great songs in this film also.