Dance, Girl, Dance (1940) starring Lucille Ball, Maureen O’Hara
Hard-working ballet dancer Judy O’Brien (Maureen O’Hara), and her street-wiseÂ gal-pal Bubbles (Lucille Ball) work as members of a small-time dance troupe operated by Madame Basilova (Maria Ouspenskaya). The story begins with their dance troupe performing in a seedy nightclub in Akron, Ohio, where a rich young man named Jimmy Harris (Louis Hayward) is drowning his sorrows — his marriage is falling apart. No sooner do the dancers finish their number when the place is raided by the police for illegal gambling. Jimmy makes eyes at Judy — which irritates Bubbles, since she’s always the first to get a man’s attention. Since Judy reminds him of his wife, however, he goes off with Bubbles, leaving Judy behind to focus on her true love – ballet dancing.
Back in New York City, the troupe is desperately trying to find a new job, auditioning for a hula dance routine — which is failing until Bubbles returns, and auditions an earthy hula dance — and gets the job. Â The rest of the troupe, however, is out of luck. After 3 days of her hula dancing, Bubbles is “discovered” by “Dwarfie” who turns her into Tiger Lily White, the queen of burlesque.
When Bubbles leaves to become a burlesque headliner, Madame arrangesÂ for Judy to get her big break with New York’s leading ballet company…until a typical Hollywood plot twist prevents it. Instead, Judy is recruited as the “stooge” for Bubbles in her burlesque act., doing a legitimate ballet dance after Bubbles’ sexy “Mother, What Do I Do Now?” act — getting the rowdy crowd to demand more of Bubbles.
Complications arise when recently-divorced Â Jimmy HarrisÂ comes back onto the scene, falling for Judy — but marrying Bubbles while inebriated. Bubbles doesn’t love him, but sees him as a source of money — which putsÂ some steel in Judy’s spine, as she tells off the audience, leading them to applaud her instead of Bubbles,Â leading to an all-out catfightÂ between Judy and Bubbles on stage, which ends up in night court. At the court, the talent agent Steve Adams (Ralph Bellamy) — who Judy was supposed to audition for earlier, and who has been keeping an eye on her — offers to pay her fine, but Judy’s feminine pride gets in the way — for a little while.
The film ends on a happily ever after note, with Jimmy Harris reconciled with his wife, Judy dancing the ballet she loves, and Bubbles now $50,000 richer for her convenient divorce from Jimmy. In all,Â Dance, Girl, Dance is an excellent film, with Lucille Ball giving a good performance, both comedic and dramatic, as the gold-digger with a heart of gold. I rate it 3.5 stars out of 5.
Quotes fromÂ Dance, Girl, Dance
Dancer: If you fell in the gutter, you’d come up with a diamond necklace.
Bubbles / Tiger Lily White (Lucille Ball): Listen, squirt! I don’t fall in gutters. I pick my spots.
Dancer: Nice fur; is it from Sam?
Bubbles / Tiger Lily White (Lucille Ball): Yeah, it’s fox; but there’s a little skunk in Sam, or I wouldn’t be here.
Stage manager: Give ’em all you got, baby!
Bubbles / Tiger Lily White (Lucille Ball): They couldn’t take it.
Bubbles / Tiger Lily White (Lucille Ball): You never told me he had money!
Bubbles / Tiger Lily White (Lucille Ball): [to Judy] I married a friend of yours … James Harris, Jr.
Judy O’Brien (Maureen O’Hara): Go on, laugh, get your money’s worth. No-one’s going to hurt you. I know you want me to tear my clothes off so you can look your fifty cents’ worth. Fifty cents for the privilege of staring at a girl the way your wives won’t let you. What do you suppose we think of you up here with your silly smirks your mothers would be ashamed of? We know it’d the thing of the moment for the dress suits to come and laugh at us too. We’d laugh right back at the lot of you, only we’re paid to let you sit there and roll your eyes and make your screamingly clever remarks. What’s it for? So you can go home when the show’s over, strut before your wives and sweethearts and play at being the stronger sex for a minute? I’m sure they see through you. I’m sure they see through you just like we do!
Trivia forÂ Dance, Girl, Dance
- Lucille Ball and Maureen O’Hara became inseparable friends while shooting this film, and remained lifelong friends until Ball’s death in 1989. O’Hara was having lunch with her when Ball first saw her future husband Desi Arnaz.
- Lucille Ball met her future husband, Desi Arnaz, while she was shooting the picture. On the very day she first met him, she was made-up to look like she had just emerged from a catfight with scratches, a black eye and bandages which resulted in Arnaz not paying much attention to her. The next time he saw her, she was not in costume and he was instantly smitten.
- A critical and commercial failure in its day, RKO ended up losing $400,000 over the film’s underperformance.