Directed by: Vincente Minnelli
Johnny Parkson Riggs
Victor Budlow Trout
Produced by: Arthur Freed, Roger Edens (Associate)
Written by: Ludwig Bemelmans, Irving Brecher, Jacques Théry
Choreographed by: Eugene Loring
Cinematography: Charles Rosher
Words and Music by: Harry Warren, Arthur Freed
Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Metro
Premiere: New York, November 22, 1945
Synopsis (from VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever 2001): A charming, forgotten effort from the Arthur Freed unit about a con man who convinces a virginal South American heiress that he is her guardian angel. Songs include a lengthy Dali-esque ballet built around "Will You Marry Me?" (2½ out of 4)
They say you either love or hate “Yolanda and the Thief”. I fall firmly into the former camp. Sadly, I am very much in the minority. I think the main problem is one of realism. The movie is meant to be a light fantasy, and it succeeds in this very well, but it’s not removed enough from reality to convince its audience. A similar movie would be “the Wizard of Oz”, which has a very convincing separation from reality via the travel over the rainbow into the land of Oz. However, “Yolanda” takes place in this world, and so suffers from it.
Once you set aside the question of reality, though, the movie’s all right. The actors do pretty good jobs. The Aunt delivers her cornball lines with honesty and manages to carry them. Lucille Bremer, a former chorus girl and Rockette who’s primarily a singer and dancer, does decently in only her second speaking role. Sure she’s a little wooden at times, and struggles mightily in her close-ups, but then so did most of Fred’s other leading ladies. Fred is sharp as the con man, playing out his internal conflicts on his face as he struggles to come to grips with his situation. Frank Morgan does his usual character, no changes there. Leon Ames is smooth and nonchalantly strolls into every scene as if he belonged there.
The dances were not choreographed by Fred, but by Eugene Loring, and it shows. There are more repeated movements than any other of Fred’s dances. However, this is particularly effective in “Coffee Time”- when combined with the floor and the build up of tempo it creates a hypnotic effect that draws you in. You just want the dance to go on and on and on! The dream sequence has its moments, despite a lack of sustained dancing. The shifts in tempo and volume catch you by surprise. Fred’s prowling deliberateness is a rarity and a treat, given his usual quick fluidity. The best bit, though, is all Fred- his quick impromptu shuffle by the harp. Of course, knowing Fred, he probably rehearsed the short sequence for a week or two.
I understand that the editing on this movie was botched. Scenes were moved around and placed in a differing order from the script in an attempt to give it more balance and space out the dancing. That is quite possible, given some incongruencies in the movie.
Still, there’s a lot to be said of “Yolanda and the Thief”. It’s got nice music, wonderful colour, really exotic sets and good direction by Vincente Minnelli, whose talents were especially suited for an artsy and avante guarde film like this one. At the end of the day, I think the success of the film depends on what you want to get out of it. If you’re willing to shelve any need for realism and just enjoy the fun, the silliness, the exoticness, the whole bizarre mess, then you’ll be fine.
I’m glad Fred did this movie. He wasn’t afraid to take risks with his career and do something out of the ordinary. At this point he couldn’t have done much wrong anyway. My only regret is the death knell this movie gave to Bremer’s career. She could’ve been great, but we’ll never know.
The final word:
|Dancing value: 8/10|
Acting value: 7/10
Entertainment value: 7.5/10
Overall Ranking: 20/31
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