Black Tights (1962) - Cyd Charisse in a Ballet Pastiche

A diamond! Snack time!

Black Tights (1962) is composed of a quartet of ballets. It stars dancers Cyd Charisse, Moira Shearar, Zizi Jeanmaire and Roland Petit of the Ballet de Paris.

My first foray into ballet vignette films was Gene Kelly’s thoroughly enjoyable financial flop, Invitation to the Dance (1956). It was a good 15 minutes before I warmed up to Black Tights, though. I watched it for Cyd Charisse, who doesn’t show until the third ballet. In her autobiography, The Two Of Us, the MGM star describes this, her first movie after leaving  her old studio, as “a labor of love.”
Cyrano sandwiched between Roxane and Christian

The film starts with La Croqueuse de Diamants (The Diamond Cruncher) - a story about a jewel thief (Jeanmaire) who eats her profits. It then goes into a stunningly beautiful, if overlong Cyrano de Bergerac piece. The "New York Times" calls Cyrano, “ponderous, sentimental and fustian.” Still, Ms. Shearar is alluring as Roxane.

The last ballet, Carmen,  returns Ms. Jeanmaire to the screen as the fabled dangerous woman and Mr. Petit as bullfighter Jose, who, in this case, steals the famed "Habanera" score from the title character to introduce himself and his profession more fully.
Duel in 24 Hours - Stickershock!

My favorite ballet, of course, is the silliest one, - Deul en 24 Heures - which stars Ms. Charisse as a merry widow who has her husband killed in a duel because he won’t buy her the outfit she wants. She also flirts with the winner of the duel after playing hard to get, then goes out for a night on the town at Maxim’s in her new black dress.
Duel - The new black dress
Each act is about 30 minutes and altogether is a lot to take in at one time. Still, it’s colorful and fairly entertaining.


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