ON THE RIVIERA
MOVIE: *1/2 (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **1/2 (out of 5)
Danny Kaye as JACK MARTIN / HENRI DURAN
Gene Tierney as LILI DURAN
Corinne Calvet as COLETTE
Marcel Dalio as PHILIPPE LEBRIX
Jean Murat as FELIX PERITON
Henri Letondal a LOUIS FORAL
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Walter Lang
BY KEVIN CARR
One of the things I do enjoy about my job as a film critic is that it gives me an excuse to see older and classic movies that I otherwise wouldn’t get around to seeing. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I’m going to like them. Even classics like “Sunset Boulevard,” which I hadn’t seen until I was in my late 30s, have occasionally failed to impress me. (Seriously… I’ll never live down the two-and-a-half-star review I gave that movie.)
“On the Riviera” is one of those classic movie musicals that I have missed over the years, and its recent release onto Blu-ray has given me a chance to see it for the first time. Unfortunately, it falls into the category of films I didn’t particularly like.
It’s not the stars, mind you. Danny Kaye is an icon of the movie musical, and he gives it his all in this film. Similarly, Corinne Calvet is adorable in the film, and Gene Tierney is beautiful as well. Where “On the Riviera” lost me was with the story… or the lack there-of.
“On the Riviera” follows a night club singer named Jack Martin (Kaye) in France who discovers he is the spitting image of famed industrialist and aviator Henri Duran (also Kaye, with a mustache). As a lark, Martin impersonates Duran, but he is soon swept into Duran’s life when he must serve as a double for him in France while the industrialist heads to London. Soon, many of the women in Duran’s life – including his wife – confront Martin, putting him on the spot.
I understand that the movie musical was often less about the story than the songs, but still I’ve been spoiled by greater stories that we see in classics such as “The Wizard of Oz” and “Singing in the Rain.” Like a 3D movie that relies too much on the gimmick, “On the Riviera” puts the story and characters in the back seat to the musical numbers.
To that end, the musical numbers are well done and often quite inspired (including a brilliantly choreographed marionette number). However, the glue that should hold these production numbers together just isn’t there. It’s a story that has been told a couple times before – and I haven’t seen those version, either – but it just seems thrown in as an afterthought to getting Danny Kaye to wow the audience with song and dance.
Considering all this, “On the Riviera” has more in common with director Walter Lang’s other Hollywood jukebox film “There’s No Business Like Show Business” than it does with the really great musicals that are fueled by a solid plot and good characters.
If you like this sort of thing, then by all means, check this one out. The musical numbers are pretty strong, and they cover a wide array of genres. However, if you’re looking for story and characters – even rudimentary ones that you’d see in a run-of-the-mill movie – you might look elsewhere.
Along with the soft plot, the image transfer on “On the Riviera” has some serious problems. At times, the digital noise reduction is too much, so much so that a relatively untrained eye such as my own notices the problems. Additionally, the colors are patchy, sometimes making the characters look orange rather than properly skin-toned.
There are some decent special features, but it’s still pretty slim, which is to be expected from a movie that’s more than 60 years old. Bonus material includes a lengthy look at the various versions of the film in “The Riviera Story: A Remarkable Impersonation,” along with spotlights on both Danny Kaye and the choreographer Jack Cole.