Known as Betty Grable's last musical, Three for the Show (1955) is a light romantic comedy with striking dances. It's meant to be frothy fun and it delivers.
This film is a remake of Too Many Husbands - a standard Enoch Arden-type story that was often remade during the 20th century- where a person thought dead returns to find the spouse remarried. Cary Grant played in his own version. A few others -Fred MacMurray, Doris Day, even Marilyn Monroe- would take a stab at it.
This time it's Jack Lemmon who is presumed missing in action and returns to find his wife, a stage star (Betty Grable), married to his former writing partner (Gower Champion).
The bulk of the story finds Grable vacillating between husbands. Who will she choose?
Waiting in the wings for Grable's leftovers is Marge Champion who gives a beautifully poignant performance of "Someone to Watch Over Me," then later reprises it in dance with (Who else?) Gower. It's the best number in the movie. It's not the first time the Champions demonstrate a burgeoning, torrid love affair through dance. Their "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" dance from Lovely to Look At is also a breathtaking narrative.
This movie could have done nicely without the numbers and just presented itself as a straight RomCom. But then we wouldn't have seen some very colorful widescreen productions.
Grable day dreams about her situation, then suddenly she's in a harem with dozens of husbands; a song is thrown in (the beginning of which references "Stranger in Paradise" from the popular Broadway musical Kismet which opened in 1953 and would premiere on film in December of 1955).
There are two other numbers worth noting in this Columbia Pictures film because they seem to be parodies of numbers from its rival Twentieth Century Fox - Grable's long-time studio. They particularly poke fun at one of Fox's stars - Marilyn Monroe.
Monroe is not in this movie, but she must have been on everyone's mind the year in which Three for the Show was made. This movie unmistakably sends up Monroe big time at least twice in huge production numbers.
This is a take on Monroe's memorable "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" number from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) which mention the French, duels, has a giant staircase, candelabras everywhere and, of course, the iconic pink dress.
People have inferred there was a rift between Grable and Monroe. Who knows if there was? According to Mitzi Gaynor (another Fox star), Fox replaced its blonde bombshells every decade. There was Alice Faye, then Betty Grable, then Marilyn Monroe.
I doubt that there was a problem between the latter two. Grable had more than once threatened to retire from show business and had even taken a hiatus in the early 1950s. This decade saw her film career wane (though she would return to the stage to great acclaim). Monroe didn't take out Grable; Grable finished Grable.
Monroe's exaggerated sensual appeal became fair game for satire from everyone. As when referencing Kismet, Grable's ribbing of Monroe is simply latching on to the latest in pop culture.
At two hours, the light plot for Three for the Show is a little long, but it's a fine enough diversion for a rainy afternoon.