DuBarry Was a Lady (1943)- Musical with Lucille Ball, Gene Kelly and Red Skelton



Cole Porter's big hit DuBarry Was A Lady ran on Broadway from 1939 to 1940 in over 400 performances. It starred Bert Lahr as a washroom attendant who dreams that a nightclub singer that he loves (Ethel Merman) is King Louis XV's mistress - Madame DuBarry.


Fast forward to 1943. MGM releases the film version of the stage hit, making the washroom attendant a cloakroom attendant played by Red Skelton. They pair him with another redhead who would become a television star - Lucille Ball, as the nightclub singer.

Skelton, Ball and Kelly: Show biz legends in the making
Gene Kelly is on hand to give Skelton some competition for the young lady's affection. This is the dancer's second movie; he's not a legend yet. The studio is still figuring out what to do with him, so he is not given much to do. Thus, DuBarry is not really a Kelly showcase.

Lucy's famous red hair started with this, Ms. Ball's first movie for MGM. Sydney Guilaroff, hair stylist at the studio, thought her natural brown hair was "not interesting," and that there were enough successful blondes, so he decided she'd go red. Technicolor cameras loved the rich auburn.

But beyond the famed tresses, you also see glimpses of the slapstick comedy for which the ingenue would later become well-known in homes across the world. You see it especially in the "Madame, I Love Your Crepes Suzette" number during the dream sequence in which Skelton pursues Ball around the room and ends up on a bed-shaped trampoline.



Life Magazine October 1942
Life Magazine October 1942
Life Magazine was eager to catch the rising star during rehearsal for this number with the film's dance director Charles Walters (who is also listed in the Broadway version as the Captain of the King's Guard). Mentioning that Lucille Ball has bounced around in "39 grade-B movies doing honky tonk parts," the columnist suggests that the seasoned film veteran is in for an upgrade with her contract at her new studio.








It's true. Instead of playing the hootchy-cootchy dancer part- as she had so many times before- at MGM she's playing in a palace.


Recommendation
More pre-"I Love Lucy" fare from the MGM star includes her comic turn in the Van Johnson-Esther Williams comedy, Easy to Wed (1946).

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