Down to Earth (Columbia). In Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941), a suave master of celestial ceremonies helped the soul of a dead prize fighter to inhabit the body of a surviving one, with happy results in the ring and at the movie box office. This time Mr. Jordan reaches higher for heavenly intervention, and escorts it a bit lower. The rosy shade of Terpsichore (Rita Hay-worth), outraged by a Broadway work-in-progress called Swinging the Muses, comes down to earth and gets into the act. She immediately dances herself into the lead of the show, and into a fine kettle of fish.
The show's producer (Larry Parks) has staked his life as collateral against a gangster's backing of the show. He plans to put on one of the most sodden of those productions whose success depends on a snarling contempt for any form of art higher than a Rockette's hip joint. Terpsichore nags him into trying the only thing worse: really bad "Art." Played her way, the show flops in Philadelphia. Played his way, it is a smash hit in New York. At this point Terpsichore is reluctant about returning to heaven; she has, of course, fallen for the Duffy Square Diaghilev.
The film may annoy those who do not thoroughly enjoy "swinging" everything in sight. It is also mildly dismaying to see that when the Muse of Dancing is really being herself, in her own ballet sequence, she can't even get up on her points. Put after all, Down to Earth is a musical, and musicals are forgiven almost anything.
There are saving graces. Some of the side comedy, especially as handled by James Gleason as a Broadway agent, is very helpful. Miss Hayworth's first dance, in a vivid sea-green dress, is a pleasure to watch. At moments it looks as if the ballet number might amount to something; and the finalea sort of genteel Walpurgisnacht in an enormously enlarged Gramercy Parknearly picks the heavy show up and carries it places. The picture has really attractive songs by Allan Roberts and Doris Fisher (best: Let's Stay Young Forever and People Have More Fun Than Anyone).
Desert Fury (Hal Wallls; Paramount) is easy to take with tongue in cheek, impossible to take with a straight face. The story: Mary Astor, who runs a Western gambling joint, doesn't want her daughter, Lizabeth Scott, to take up with Gangster John Hodiak, who is acquiring a sun tan in the neighborhood. Burt Lancaster, a state trooper, loves her, and that ought to be enough for any girl. But there is no holding Lizabeth from love's false course until, in a frenzy of fisticuffs and old-fashioned auto-chasing, she realizes that Hodiak is a bad 'un in dead earnest.
These intricate difficulties are presented in a leathery, smart-cracking kind of dialogue that sounds like an illegitimate great-grandchild of Ernest Hemingway's prose. A remarkable amount of footage is devoted to the way Miss Scott walks, chews over a line like a bit of Sen-Sen before getting it out, and tools a high-powered convertible around a curve. This is, in fact, one of the most auto-maniacal movies since James Cagney's racing classic, The Crowd Roars (1932).