Cobb's Consigliere needs a Consigliere of His Own
"Party Girl" is a fascinating movie not so much for how esteemed director Nicolas Ray directs it or for the performance of Robert Taylor and Cyd Charisse but because of the storyline and how it progresses. It takes us on a journey as we have two lost souls who inhabit a world they don't like, through their friendship they both find something more to life a new world together but then their previous existences come back to haunt them preventing them from having this life. This journey may not be that original and with this drama featuring a showgirl, lawyer and a mob boss the characters are not that original either but it strangely works. Or at least it works for the most as a couple of musical scenes which feature Cyd Charisse dancing are so out of place you wonder if you're watching a different movie.
Following another night at the Golden Rooster showgirl Vicki Gaye (Cyd Charisse - The Band Wagon) ends up at a party held by mob boss Rico Angelo (Lee J. Cobb - Call Northside 777) where she meets Tommy Farrell (Robert Taylor - The Law and Jake Wade) lawyer to the criminal underground who has a knack of getting blatantly guilty men off. It is Vicki who manages to get behind the barriers which Tommy has erected and makes him see that there is more to life than just helping the guilty beat the system. But Rico is not happy when Tommy decides he wants to move on from defending criminals and will do whatever he needs to make sure that Tommy remains loyal to him.
So as already pointed out "Party Girl" is not so much a movie about the big things which happen but the progression of two characters, those of showgirl Vicki Gaye and Lawyer Tommy Farrell. At the start of the movie both Vicki and Tommy inhabit worlds which they don't enjoy, Vicki as a showgirl goes with the flow, attending the parties not doing it for the fun or the men but purely for the money, whilst Tommy is a genius lawyer, expert at defending the guilty despite not liking those he works for such as mob boss Rico Angelo. Both these characters are islands, protective of the barriers they put up, disliking what they do but never criticising it either and as such are drawn together through a series of events.
As these two get closer we learn a lot about them, why Tommy became a lawyer, how he got a gimpy leg and why he never bothered with women after a failed marriage. And we also learn all about Vicki, a dancer who to makes ends meet did what ever was necessary and again shielding herself from emotional commitment after something which happened to her as a 15 year old. Basically these two help bring meaning to each other's lives and whilst Vicki is not keen on Tommy defending the likes of Rico is still supportive. And she is also supportive when Tommy heads abroad for a year to fix his gimpy leg.
All of which brings Tommy and Vicki to the edge of happiness, she visits him in Europe and they have the most wonderful time. Yet their pasts still have hold over them especially when it comes to Rico who refuses to let Tommy quit, controlling him with threats. And so we watch Rico's actions get increasingly more dangerous as things spiral out of control, the law closing in on him and anyone who worked for him.
It's this story, this semi romantic drama which makes "Party Girl" so entertaining as we warm to the relationship which forms between Tommy and Vicki always knowing that trouble is never far away. And whilst there are elements of Nicholas Ray's directional skill which help make it entertaining it is a movie which stands up because of the storyline rather than anything else. Even the acting from Robert Taylor, Cyd Charisse and Lee J. Cobb as Rico isn't what makes it tick although all three give good performances.
But whilst the storyline is fascinating and the progression of the characters draws you in "Party Girl" is by no means perfect and the musical side of it sticks out like a sore thumb. By musical I am on about two dance numbers which seem to have been thrown in because of Cyd Charisse and whilst Charisse was the most beautiful and brilliant of dancers these scenes feel awkward. Not only do the dances feel a bit too artsy for what a bunch of mob men would go and watch but Charisse ends up dancing to the camera staring straight down the lens and it just doesn't work.
What this all boils down to is that "Party Girl" is an entertaining movie with a decent storyline about two lost souls finding a reason to live together but being held back by the lives they are trying to leave behind. But it does also feel at times awkward especially when it comes to a couple of musical numbers, presumably thrown in because of it starring Cyd Charisse.