Party Girl (1958)

Party Girl (1958) is a brassy blast of 50s technicolor dance and jealous showgirl murder misogyny film noir.

Directed by Nicholas Ray and starring Robert Taylor, Cyd Charisse and Lee J. Cobb, and filmed in CinemaScope, Party Girl celebrates like few other mediocre classics, the gazing male and the prancing half naked female, along with such blasts of wowed brass instruments the sound of those fat horns lingers painfully after the fact.

The movie we are talking about describes a perspective often portrayed in media and art that tends to objectify and depict women from a particular viewpoint. 

This perspective often emphasizes certain physical attributes or characteristics of women, positioning them as objects of desire rather than fully realized individuals. 

It can manifest through the framing of shots, the focus on specific body parts, or the portrayal of women in passive or submissive roles, catering to the perceived desires or fantasies of a presumed audience. 

This perspective has been critiqued for perpetuating gender stereotypes and reinforcing power dynamics that prioritize the man's perspective over the agency and autonomy of women.

Yah. In the gritty underbelly of media and art, there's a shadowy angle that paints dames in a certain light. It's all about framing, see? Capturing them just right to highlight the curves and contours that tickle the fancy of a certain crowd. They're not individuals, not in this game. They're objects, props in a scene where the spotlight shines on their every curve and pout.

John Ireland in Party Girl (1958)

You'll see it in the way the camera lingers on those ruby-red lips, the curve of a hip, or the sway of a skirt. It's all about catering to desires, feeding into fantasies spun from the threads of a man's mind. These dames, they're just players in a game where the rules are set by someone else, someone who calls the shots and pulls the strings.

But don't be fooled, pal. This ain't no fairytale romance. It's a hardboiled reality where dames are relegated to roles that fit the script, where their agency takes a backseat to the whims of a world that sees them as nothing more than objects to be ogled and possessed. It's a tough world out there for dames caught in the glare of the spotlight, where the only gaze that matters is the one that sees them as less than human.

In the depths of a jazz joint, where the smoke hangs heavy and the glasses clink like secret whispers in the night, the blare of a trumpet or the smooth croon of a saxophone casts a spell that's hard to shake. It's raw, it's primal – a beckoning call that reaches deep into the soul and stirs up desires better left buried.

When the censors held the reins tight and filmmakers danced around the edges of taboo, those brass notes became more than just music – they were a language of lust and longing. The sharp blast of the trumpet, the sultry wail of the saxophone – they painted pictures of bodies swaying in the dim light, of eyes locking in heated stares across a crowded room.

But it's not just the sound itself that oozes sexuality; it's the world it inhabits. In the shadowy realm of film noir, where morals are as murky as the bottom of a whiskey glass and desire lurks around every corner, the music sets the stage for a dance of danger and deceit. It's the backdrop to a world where secrets are currency and passion is a double-edged blade.

In the end, the trumpet's blare and the saxophone's croon became more than just notes on a page – they were symbols of desire, danger, and the thrill of the forbidden. They spoke a language of longing and lust, whispered in the dark corners of a jazz club and echoed in the beating hearts of those who dared to listen.

It is not just the murky depths of 1950s Hollywood that are providing the gaze, but Party Girl (1958) is a gaze study for all time, arguing that the glittering façade of glamour and glitz which may be broadcast in any of many forms is in fact a darker than direct reality – a reality where women were reduced to no more than objects of desire, their worth measured by their ability to tantalize and titillate rather than their talents or intellect.

In reality, the success of color film noir depends on several factors, including the director's vision, the cinematographer's skill, and the thematic elements of the story. When executed thoughtfully, color can be used to create striking visual compositions, evoke specific moods, and deepen character development.

Shadows of copland in color with Cyd Charisse in Party Girl (1958)

In film after film, from the steamy dramas to the glossy romances, women were portrayed through a narrow lens of sexuality, their characters often little more than two-dimensional stereotypes designed to cater to the male gaze. Whether they were the sultry femme fatales of film noir, the doe-eyed ingénues of the musicals, or the buxom bombshells of the comedies, these women existed primarily to fulfill the fantasies of their male counterparts.

A Cyd Charisse female fainting fit in film noir Party Girl (1958)

But behind the glitz and glamour lies a tale of betrayal and disillusionment. For director Ray, the making of Party Girl was a journey fraught with disappointment and disillusionment. Stripped of creative control and confined by the constraints of studio protocol, Ray's vision was stifled by the very industry he sought to conquer.

Robert Taylor considers brandy in Party Girl (1958)

The sexualization of women in 1950s Hollywood was pervasive and insidious, permeating every aspect of the industry. From the casting couch to the cutting room floor, women were routinely objectified and exploited, their bodies commodified for the pleasure of male audiences. Even the most talented actresses were often reduced to mere eye candy, their talents overshadowed by their so-called physical attributes.

Cyd Charisse in Party Girl (1958)

But perhaps even more troubling than the sexualization of women was the way in which they were often portrayed as passive objects, devoid of agency or autonomy. They were the damsels in distress, the prizes to be won, the objects of desire to be pursued and conquered by the male protagonist. Rarely were they allowed to be fully realized characters in their own right, with their own desires, ambitions, and flaws.

And then there's jazz itself – born from the smoky depths of speakeasies and dive bars, it carries with it an air of rebellion and defiance. It's the sound of the outsider, the renegade, the rebel – a siren call to those who dare to break free from the shackles of society's expectations.

In short, the sexualized and objectified representation of women in 1950s Hollywood was not only morally reprehensible, but it also perpetuated harmful stereotypes and reinforced patriarchal power structures. It's a legacy that continues to haunt the industry to this day, a reminder of the need for greater diversity, representation, and respect for women both on and off the screen.

Robert Taylor in Party Girl (1958)

The sultry strains of Party Girl croon through the smoky haze, setting the stage for a tale as gritty and dangerous as the city itself. Composed by the maestros Nicholas Brodszky and Sammy Cahn, this seductive melody, delivered by the velvety voice of Tony Martin, weaves its spell over the audience, drawing them into a world of glamour and intrigue.

In this shadowy realm, Robert Taylor's Tom Farrell prowls like a lone wolf, his every step haunted by the specter of Dixie Davis, the lawyer who danced with danger in the den of mob boss Dutch Schultz. Yet, amidst the flickering neon lights and whispered secrets, it is Louie Cuttner, the lawyer of the infamous Al Capone, who casts a shadow over Farrell's path, his presence a chilling reminder of the city's dark underbelly.

Male gaze, female coercion and submission, striptease and conservatism and just about everything else in Party Girl (1958)

As Farrell limps through the labyrinthine streets, director Nicholas Ray captures his every move with a keen eye for detail, channeling the intensity of Method acting into Taylor's performance. From consulting with an osteologist to perfect his character's limp to delving deep into the psyche of a man caught between law and lawlessness, Taylor's portrayal is nothing short of mesmerizing.

So never shall we forget the rampant ramped-up rampageous misogyny that permeated many of these films, with female characters routinely subjected to violence, degradation, and abuse at the hands of their male counterparts. Whether it was the slap of a jealous lover or the slapstick antics of a bumbling male lead, women were often treated as little more than punching bags for the amusement of the audience.

Yet, it is Lee J. Cobb's Rico Angelo who truly embodies the essence of the city's sinister allure. A not-so-veiled caricature of the infamous Al Capone, Angelo's brutality is matched only by his cunning, his every action a testament to the ruthlessness of power.

Yet, amidst the chaos and confusion, Ray's use of color shines like a beacon of hope, illuminating the darkness with a brilliance that is nothing short of dazzling. In the end, "Party Girl" may be a lousy film noir, but in the hands of a master like Ray, even the darkest shadows can't hide the brilliance beneath.

Cyd Carisse in Party Girl (1958)

In the shadowy realm of Party Girl, Tommy Farrell emerges as the focal point, his journey from sleazy lawyer to reluctant hero unfolding with a mesmerizing intensity. Robert Taylor's portrayal is nothing short of outstanding, drawing the audience into Farrell's world with a raw, visceral power that commands sympathy despite his murky past.

Director Nicholas Ray's masterful touch is evident in every frame, his keen eye capturing Farrell's evolution with a subtlety that speaks volumes. It's in the silent moments, the wordless exchanges, that the true depth of Farrell's character is revealed. Watch Taylor's face as Charisse faces danger at the hands of Cobb – the flicker of emotion, the silent resolve – a testament to the actor's prowess and Ray's directorial finesse.

Ultra-violent Lee J. Cobb in Party Girl (1958)

Indeed, much of the film's lack of overall power lies in these quiet moments, where emotions simmer beneath the surface and words are rendered unnecessary. Take, for example, the scene where Taylor waits for Charisse outside her workplace, their unspoken connection crackling with a pretended tension that makes an effort to electrify the color screen.

In the end, Party Girl aims to transcend its title to become a poignant character study, a testament to the transformative power of love and redemption. And at its heart lies Taylor's portrayal of Farrell, a man haunted by his past yet determined to forge a new future, his journey a captivating exploration of the human spirit in all its complexity.

Color film noir is a contentious topic among cinephiles, sparking debates about its authenticity and effectiveness. Traditionalists argue that the stark contrast and shadows characteristic of film noir are best portrayed in black and white, as it adds to the atmosphere of mystery and tension. However, proponents of color film noir believe that color can enhance the visual storytelling and add layers of complexity to the narrative.

in Party Girl (1958)

For example, color can be used symbolically to highlight themes of corruption or moral ambiguity. Vivid hues may contrast with the dark subject matter, creating an unsettling juxtaposition that underscores the film's themes. Additionally, color can be used to evoke specific time periods or settings, adding richness and depth to the storytelling.

Ultimately, while black and white may be the traditional choice for film noir purists, color film noir has the potential to be just as compelling and impactful when executed with skill and intentionality. It may not work for every story or aesthetic, but when used effectively, color can breathe new life into the genre, offering audiences a fresh perspective on classic themes of crime, betrayal, and redemption.

In the mainstreamed vision of the city, where shadows dance and secrets lurk, criminal lawyer Thomas Farrell finds himself ensnared in a web of deceit and desire. It's a world where the allure of danger and the promise of redemption collide, and Farrell is caught in the crossfire.

Directed by the enigmatic Nicholas Ray, this film noir unfolds like a kaleidoscope of color, painting a vivid portrait of a world teetering on the brink of chaos. But beneath the glitz and glamour of the neon-lit nightclubs lies a darkness that threatens to consume all who dare to venture too close.

The fatalism that permeates the noir genre is palpable, yet there's an undeniable allure to the flashy and extravagant world presented onscreen. It's a world where vice and virtue collide, and where love and betrayal walk hand in hand.

Kent Smith in Party Girl (1958)

At the center of it all is Cyd Charisse, a vision of beauty and grace amidst the chaos. Her performance as the captivating showgirl Monica adds a touch of glamour to the proceedings, yet even her considerable talents are unable to elevate the film beyond its shortcomings.

Robert Taylor, with his stoic demeanor and bland charm, fails to ignite any real passion in his portrayal of Farrell. His character remains a distant and uninteresting figure, leaving audiences struggling to connect with his plight.

Jack Lambert in Party Girl (1958)

There is a great excessive Frankie Gasto scene, often imitated and usually imitated much better, but has crazy mob excess, in which Lee J. Cobb's mob boss goes for the celebrate-my-friend but actually have a public punishment beating in mind trope, ajnd it's the best part of the film, perhaps, and apparently something that Al Capone did indulge in, killing at least two men, we hear.

Lee J. Cobb, in a role that begs for a touch of excess, delivers a restrained performance that ultimately falls flat. His character, the menacing mob kingpin Rico, lacks the larger-than-life presence that could have elevated the film to greater heights.

Despite occasional moments of brilliance and skilled direction from Ray, the film ultimately fails to leave a lasting impression. It's a minor entry in the director's illustrious career, a disappointment that fails to live up to the promise of its premise. In the end, it's an inconsequential footnote in the annals of film noir, a missed opportunity from a usually great director.

Lee J. Cobb, Cyd Carisse and John Ireland in Party Girl (1958)


Party Girl (1958) is not the most memorable of color film noir productions, and does deserve merit for at least being directed by Nicholas Ray, which is probably what brought most people to it. And incredible to think that this same hand directed Rebel Without A Cause (1955) On Dangerous Ground (1950) and In A Lonely Place (1950), but so it is. Tiring blasts of horn and technicolor dance sequences are not the favourite fruits of noir, but there are murders, and there is sleaze, and there is a confused Robert Taylor extending courtroom scenes to infinity. There is a rather rushed and predictable climax that looks and feels like it was thought up on the spot, and this is not even Cyd Charisse's best film.

Films directed by Nicholas Ray

They Live by Night (1949) Knock on Any Door (1949) A Woman's Secret (1949) In a Lonely Place (1950) Born to Be Bad (1950) Flying Leathernecks (1951) On Dangerous Ground (1951) The Lusty Men (1952) Johnny Guitar (1954 ) Run for Cover (1955) Rebel Without a Cause (1955) Hot Blood (1956) Bigger Than Life (1956) The True Story of Jesse James (1957) Bitter Victory (1957) Wind Across the Everglades (1958) Party Girl (1958) The Savage Innocents (1960) King of Kings (1961) 55 Days at Peking (1963) We Can't Go Home Again (1976) Lightning Over Water (1980)

Party Girl (1958)

Directed by Nicholas Ray

Genres - Drama, Misogyny, Romance, Gaze |   Sub-Genres - Crime Drama  |  

 Release Date - Oct 28, 1958 (USA)  |   Run Time - 99 min. | Wikipedia

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