Cinema: One Sharp, One Flat

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Three for the Show (Columbia). "A good Hollywood musical," a director once remarked, "is like a fine glass. It only rings true when it's absolutely empty." By this standard, Three for the Show is a good musical—the best so far released in 1955. It has the inimitable zing of vacuity, and it has something more important: a fundamental lilt that travels from scene to scene and makes the picture musical even when the sound track is silent.

The lilt gets a lift from the story, a merry little jape that was cribbed from a 1940 movie, a comedy called Too Many Husbands, which in turn was borrowed from a comedy by Somerset Maugham, who had lifted the theme from a gloomy narrative poem by Tennyson, who had got the idea from a sculptor friend who heard the tale told in Suffolk.

In this version, Betty Grable is a musicomedy star whose songwriter husband (Jack Lemmon) is reported dead in Korea. After a suitable period of mourning, she marries her husband's partner (Gower Champion). So, of course, Lemmon turns up alive, and the fun begins. Gower glowers, Lemmon sours, and Grable plays the queen in a giddy double checkmate. The best scenes in the picture are those in which the two men dance attendance on their mutual wife to some pretty, witty choreography by Jack Cole. All the dances, in fact, have just the right sort of scratchpad casualness, and in a couple of them Marge and Gower Champion actually manage to make precision footwork look like Saturday night luck. The songs (Someone to Watch Over Me, I've Got a Crush on You, How Come You Do Me Like You Do?) have been heard before, but they are not too hard to hear again. Betty Grable is still a fairly potent whiff of H202, and Jack Lemmon, who showed in It Should Happen to You and Phffft! that he is an expert comedian, proves in this picture that he can sing and dance very winningly too.

Hit the Deck (MGM) also has its distinctions. It is the only Hollywood musical about the U.S. Navy that has been released this week. As usual, the sailors (Tony Martin, Vic Damone, Russ Tamblyn) are assigned to watch not foreign straits but domestic curves (Ann Miller, Jane Powell, Debbie Reynolds); and they dance so well it makes a taxpayer wonder if ballet lessons are now part of boot training. The dialogue offers few surprises. "I worship the ground you walk on," says Tony Martin. "Now he's talking real estate," says Ann Miller. The songs are old too. Somebody even sings a cheery, beery Ciribiribin. And yet, the picture is not without an esthetic quality: it contains a splendid shot of the Golden Gate bridge.