Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Roxie Hart (1942)

“The knees, Roxie, the knees!”

            So how many of you knew that the musical Chicago is based off Roxie Hart?
            Back when Chicago the musical was made into a movie I must have played it and the soundtrack to death and have not seen it since my sophomore year of high school. To this day I am still baffled at how Renée Zellwegger got the part of Roxie Hart, she was not terrible but next to Catherine Zeta- Jones who has immense singing and acting talent and Richard Geer she was ok.
            Anyway enough about Chicago the musical this post is about the hilarious Roxie Hart.

            We all know the story by now: Roxie is accused of killing her lover Fred Casely and her husband, Amos, takes the blame but then he and the police figure out Roxie knew who Casely was and Amos puts the blame on Roxie and she’s arrested. Well, that’s similar to what happened in this film but because of the Production Code, Roxie had to be innocent and just admit she did it since being a killer would make her famous.
            This film had me laughing from beginning to end. Ginger Rogers gives one of her best performances as Roxie. Her facial expressions alone cracked me up. She was excellent as the gum-chewing airhead who had nothing but fame on her mind. One of the best scenes of the film is when Roxie and Velma Kelly (whose character is only seen for about three minutes) start cat fighting- complete with cat noises. She starts off by billy goating Velma then proceeds to get into a slap fight that winds up with both women on the floor.
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            The courtroom scenes are some of the funniest scenes ever in a comedy. Everyone is nervous and excited which brings out all the characters’ funny sides. The whole courtroom is a circus listening to Roxie’s sob story of how they Casely took advantage of her and how they “both reached for the gun” then “everything went… purple.” The all male jury cannot take their eyes off her for one second and Roxie uses this to her advantage and lifts her dress up a little more exposing her knees. Adolphe Menjou as Billy Flynn, silently mouths the rehearsed words as Roxie is put on the witness stand. Before court he is well put together, dressed nice and his hair neatly combed; in court he makes his hair and moustache a mess and his clothes are old and frumpy looking. They really did work up quite a lot of sympathy.

            Although this is a straight up comedy there are two small dance numbers. In the jail one of the reports wants Roxie to show off her dance skills so with not much coaxing she does and soon enough all the reports are up and dancing as well. The other one Roxie does a little tap on the stairs for the young reporter Homer- “Grab ‘em by the horns and hit it while it’s hot”. Ginger Rogers wrote in her autobiography that when the writer for Chicago the musical watched Roxie they wanted to put the dance on the stairs into the play but they could not find a spot to put it in (*I say thank God… I cannot imagine Renée Zellwegger pulling the tap dancing off gracefully) Even though she had not done a musical in a few years Rogers could dance like no one else.
            Ginger Rogers made Roxie Hart after winging her first and only Oscar for her role as the title character in Kitty Foyle. You can see that Rogers was no longer just the straight laced serious one from her movies with Fred Astaire. She had tremendous talent to pull off a role as serious as Kitty Foyle then going on to be hilarious as Roxie.
             Roxie Hart is a great comedy film it is so much fun to watch. It is silly, funny, and a bit dramatic. The ending is one of my all time favorite movie endings. There are so many funny scenes that will have you talking about Roxie Hart for a while.