Friday, April 12, 2019

Victor Victoria

Victor Victoria ran on TCM during 31 Days of Oscar, and never having done a blog post on it, I decided to DVR it so I could watch and do a post.

It's a movie where most people probably already know the story, or at least the basic hook of Julie Andrews dresses as a man to play a female impersonator. It's a little bit more complicated than that, but not much. Andrews plays Victoria, a struggling opera singer in 1934 Paris who can't pay the rent, or even the restaurant tab. One evening, she meets Carole Todd (Robert Preston), a gay cabaret singer who has recently lost his job, so he's in much the same boat as Victoria. But Carole has an idea: since female impersonators are a thing in the gay cabaret scene, Victoria would be great as a woman. Of course, she already is a woman, so she's going to have to be the gay Polish Count Victor Grazinski, a heretofore unknown impersonator who was disowned by his Polish family for being gay.

Carole then manages Grazinski (I'll use "Grazinski" for when Victoria is passing herself off as a man), and gets him an audition with one of the swankiest cabarets in all of Paris to play Victoria. Of course Victoria is great being a natural woman, and the Grazinski act becomes the hit of Paris. Visiting Paris is American gangster King Marchand (James Garner), together with his underling Squash (Alex Karras) and girlfriend Norma (Lesley Ann Warren). King falls in love with the stage Victoria, although when he finds out that it's Grazinski doing an act he's not so sure what to do, since he's not gay. But he also suspects that Grazinski might not be what he's claiming.

King isn't the only one who suspects, as a waiter at the club turns out to have seen Victoria and Carole together at the restaurant where the two first met, and reports this to the owner. This sets the club owner to investigating. Meanwhile, King figures out that Grazinski really is a woman, and wants her to give up the act and be with him. The problem is that it's a very lucrative act, and what's that going to do to Carole?

The idea behind Victor Victoria is one that is a fertile ground for comedy, and unsurprisingly, the movie takes all those opportunities. All of the leads give good performances, with one possible exception. Julie Andrews is completely unconvincing as a man. It's easy to see why King wouldn't believe Grazinski, but why everybody else apparently does is mystifying. However, I have a feeling it was intenional to have Andrews' original Victoria be unconvincing as Grazinski.

The other problem I had is that the musical numbers bordered on the interminable. Obviously, Andrews has to perform a few at least, first in order to get the job and then to wow King, while the final musical number also needs to be in the movie. But the movie was directed by Blake Edwards, also Mr. Julie Andrews, so I couldn't help but wonder whether he was adding musical numbers to showcase his wife.

Still, Victor Victoria is a lot of fun, and well worth a watch. It's available on DVD from the Warner Archive Collection.

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