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Cinematically the picture is, without pretentiousness, a masterpiece: wonderfully rich and supple, bursting at the seams with humane sympathy, wisdom and creative energy. There is nothing visually fancy about it, and nothing notably original; its beauty rests on its simple and impassioned use of basic principles which most studios have abandoned or emasculated. It is devoted to that fundamental of movie reality: picturing the way that places and things and people really look and act and interact, and making the information eloquent to the eye.
By American standards, Shoeshine was made on a shoestring: 31 million lire ($138,000). (Open City cost only $100,000.) But it was a long, hard scrimmage in the making. Neither Producer Paolo W. Tamburella (who thought up the idea), nor Director Vittorio De Sica, nor Sergio Amidei (who wrote Open City) and his three fellow writers are exactly yes-men. Finding the right actors and getting fine performances out of young amateursthey were all shoeshine boyswas no small job in itself. And there were plenty of subsidiary difficulties. (When Allied authorities forbade G.I.s to act in the filmand G.I.s were indispensable to the Roman scene of that periodthe producers made-do with five Italian ex-P.W.s in U.S. uniforms.)
And once the picture was finished, Government authorities were horrified. They were still more horrified when Signor Tamburella warned them of the publicity stench he could raise out of their refusal to allow the film's release. The authorities gave in.
Mother Wore Tights (20th Century-Fox) is a nice little movie starring Betty Grable. In most musicals, Boy & Girl break up over a trivial misunderstanding and treat each other, for the next several reels, like a couple of saber-toothed tigers. In this one, a song-&-dance team of the '90s meet, like each other, get married, have a couple of daughters, and live for years without ever regretting a minute of it.
This is all so very nice, in fact, that Mother is a trifle weak on dramatic interest. Audience tears are jerkedor jerked at, anyhowon behalf of the dear, dead days of the two-a-day. More tears are tried for when the two little girls, lonely for their touring parents, turn up for Christmas and are entertained by the whole troupe. Some tension develops when the older daughter (Mona Freeman) falls in love with an adolescent socialite and becomes embarrassed about her cheerfully gaudy parents. But Father & Mother are so thoroughly kind and understanding that no harm and very little drama ever really develops.
All in all, Mother Wore Tights is a rather tepid but likable show. It is at its best during the vaudeville numbers, and there are some pleasant songs (best: Kokomo, Indiana). Brash Dan Dailey (Father) has a personality as sharp and convincing as a breath of stage-door air: he can really sing, really dance and really act. Miss Grable can sing too; her pleasure in playing a generous and happy woman is contagious enough to make up for her shortcomings as an actress. What she can really do, of course, is dance. And she still holds undisputed title to the most gorgeous legs in the business.