In 1966 the play “Sweet Charity” opened on Broadway and starred Gwen Verdon in the title role. Three years later Shirley MacLaine recreated that role for film.
Bob Fosse choreographed both productions, and Fosse directed the film. It was his first time directing a movie. The movie is now available on Blu-ray with both the theatrical release as well as an alternate version (which I personally prefer), and includes some bonus features.
The story is about Charity Hope Valentine, an eternal optimist looking for someone to love her. She is not educated, yet her outlook on life is wonderful. Working as a dance hall hostess, Charity is always looking for a way out and longing for a loving relationship. She is a fun-loving and naive young woman, and someone that will instantly win the hearts of viewers.
Charity’s friends/roommates/co-workers are Nickie (Chita Rivera) and Helene (Paula Kelly). She meets a famous Italian actor (Ricardo Montalban) and has an interesting scene with a hippie leader named Big Daddy (Sammy Davis Jr.).
Then one day, just by chance, she meets Oscar (John McMartin), an insurance actuary, and the two start up a relationship. This is the first relationship for Charity that involves an upstanding man, not a low-life. He is enchanted by her bubbling personality and her consideration of his feelings, and she is taken with his attention to her. But should she tell him the truth about her life or let him believe she works in a bank? What will happen to their relationship once he knows the truth about her?
The theatrical and alternate versions of the movie have different endings, however, although they are completely different, they both have a positive outlook for the delightful Charity Hope Valentine. She is a girl that is always smiling, singing, and enjoying life no matter what is thrown at her.
A bonus feature is a look at how Fosse took the story from stage to screen. He describes the enormity of making a movie with about 500 people versus a cast of about 29 on Broadway.
A second bonus is costume designer Edith Head describing how the wardrobe for the film was designed. She emphasized that each one of the dance hall hostesses had over-done makeup and each one of the hippies in the Sammy Davis scene had individually created outfits that fit the scene.
The movie was nominated for three Academy Awards: Score of a Musical Picture, Best Costume Design, and Best Art Direction/Set Decoration.
Many people first heard about the story of “Sweet Charity” during the recent limited series “Fosse/Verdon.” Fosse definitely put his mark on the film. All the song and dance numbers bear his trademark moves.
The personality of MacLaine is what makes this a fun story. She is a hopeful romantic and someone who always sees the glass as half full. Her energetic performance makes this a movie to enjoy. This Blu-ray edition hit the shelves Tuesday.