Lovely To Look At (1952)

101 mins | Musical comedy | 4 July 1952

Director:

Mervyn LeRoy

Producer:

Jack Cummings

Cinematographer:

George Folsey

Production Designers:

Cedric Gibbons, Gabriel Scognamillo

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

A Nov 1946 HR news item announced a remake of Roberta starring Lucille Ball as "Comtesse Tanka Scharwenka," a part played by Ginger Rogers in the 1935 RKO version of the same name, which was directed by William A. Seiter (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40). In a LAT article published on 19 Nov 1948, Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Betty Garrett were named as potential stars of the new version that was being written by Harry Rudy and George Wells, whose screenplay was eventually used for Lovely to Look At.
       As noted in news items and reviews, when M-G-M purchased the rights to Roberta they decided to do a thorough rewrite of the RKO film. Although the basic structure of Lovely to Look At is the same as the musical and film Roberta: an American inherits a once successful Parisian fashion house and falls in love with the chief designer, most of the storyline for the 1952 film differs from the earlier stories. Some of the songs from Roberta were retained in Lovely to Look At, including "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," "Yesterdays," "I'll Be Hard to Handle" and "I Won't Dance," some with new or revised lyrics added to Jerome Kern's music by Dorothy Fields.
       Red Skelton performed "Go Tell Aunt Rhody" in his famous "Irish Tenor" comedy skit in the film. Skelton, according to reviews, had recently performed the same skit on his popular television comedy series. The film marked the motion picture debut of Zsa Zsa Gabor. A ...

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A Nov 1946 HR news item announced a remake of Roberta starring Lucille Ball as "Comtesse Tanka Scharwenka," a part played by Ginger Rogers in the 1935 RKO version of the same name, which was directed by William A. Seiter (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40). In a LAT article published on 19 Nov 1948, Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Betty Garrett were named as potential stars of the new version that was being written by Harry Rudy and George Wells, whose screenplay was eventually used for Lovely to Look At.
       As noted in news items and reviews, when M-G-M purchased the rights to Roberta they decided to do a thorough rewrite of the RKO film. Although the basic structure of Lovely to Look At is the same as the musical and film Roberta: an American inherits a once successful Parisian fashion house and falls in love with the chief designer, most of the storyline for the 1952 film differs from the earlier stories. Some of the songs from Roberta were retained in Lovely to Look At, including "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," "Yesterdays," "I'll Be Hard to Handle" and "I Won't Dance," some with new or revised lyrics added to Jerome Kern's music by Dorothy Fields.
       Red Skelton performed "Go Tell Aunt Rhody" in his famous "Irish Tenor" comedy skit in the film. Skelton, according to reviews, had recently performed the same skit on his popular television comedy series. The film marked the motion picture debut of Zsa Zsa Gabor. A HR news item indicated that the film would use English-language subtitles as a "gimmick" to accompany Gabor's exclusive use of French in the film. Although Gabor's only lines in the picture were spoken in French, no subtitles were used when the film was released. The film was also the debut of actress Rosemarie Bowe.
       Lovely to Look At marked a return to M-G-M after a ten-year-absence at the studio for designer Adrian, who had been head of M-G-M's costume department from the late 1920s through the early 1940s. Within the film, Howard Keel's character, "Tony Naylor," refers to Adrian by name when describing how he would like to create the fashion show. The lengthy fashion show sequence at the end of the film included a number of different themes, with lavish costumes and settings. Its musical numbers included a duet performed by Keel and Kathryn Grayson singing "The Touch of Your Hand." Another number that critics singled out for praise involved a fantasy in which Tony appears simultaneously in several full-length mirrors as he sings "Lovely to Look At" to "Stephanie."

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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
31 May 1952
---
Daily Variety
27 May 1952
p. 3
Film Daily
29 May 1952
p. 6
Hollywood Reporter
26 Nov 1946
p. 10
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jul 1951
p. 10
Hollywood Reporter
16 Aug 1951
p. 2
Hollywood Reporter
28 Sep 1951
p. 22
Hollywood Reporter
1 Oct 1951
p. 2, 8
Hollywood Reporter
16 Nov 1951
p. 14
Hollywood Reporter
27 May 1952
p. 3
Los Angeles Daily News
23 Jul 1952
---
Los Angeles Times
19 Nov 1948
---
Los Angeles Times
24 Jul 1952
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
31 May 1952
p. 1381
New York Times
29 May 1952
p. 17
New York Times
30 May 1952
p. 11
New Yorker
7 Jul 1952
---
Saturday Review
21 Jun 1952
---
Time
2 Jun 1952
---
Variety
28 May 1952
p. 6
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Howard Koch
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Addl dial
PHOTOGRAPHY
George J. Folsey
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Fashion show
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
Mus dir
Mus dir
Orch
Vocal arr
Vocal coach for Kathryn Grayson
SOUND
Rec supv
Norwood Fenton
Sd
VISUAL EFFECTS
DANCE
Choreog
MAKEUP
Hair styles
Makeup created by
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Roberta , music by Jerome Kern, book and lyrics by Otto A. Harbach (New York, 18 Nov 1933) and the novel Gowns by Roberta by Alice Duer Miller (New York, 1933).
LITERARY SOURCE AUTHORS
SONGS
"The Most Exciting Night," music by Jerome Kern, based on "Arm Full of Trouble," lyrics by Dorothy Fields; "You're Devastating," music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Otto Harbach, special lyrics by Dorothy Fields; "I'll Be Hard to Handle," music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Bernard Dougall, revised lyrics by Dorothy Fields; "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," "Yesterdays" and "The Touch of Your Hand," music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Otto Harbach; "Lafayette" and "I Won't Dance," music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Dorothy Fields; "Opening Night," music by Jerome Kern, based on "Don't Ask Me Not to Sing," lyrics by Dorothy Fields; "Lovely to Look At," music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh; "Go Tell Aunt Rhody," traditional.
SONGWRITERS/COMPOSERS
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
4 July 1952
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 29 May 1952
Production Date:
late Sep--mid Nov 1951
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Loew's Inc.
2 June 1952
LP1783
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
101
Length(in feet):
9,151
Length(in reels):
12
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
15754
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

Broadway producer Tony Naylor and his partners, writers Al Marsh and Jerry Ralby, throw a party for potential backers of their new show, but cannot raise a penny because they have no startup money. Their problem soon appears to be solved when Al, whose real family name is Wodzscyngkic, receives a letter from Paris, informing him that his aunt Roberta, a famed couturier, has died and left half of her business to him. With seed money from big-hearted showgirl Bubbles Cassidy, who is in love with Tony, the men leave immediately for France, hoping to sell Al’s half of the business and finance their show. Once in Paris, though, they learn that sisters Stephanie and Clarisse, who are Roberta’s adopted nieces, cannot buy Al out because the once elegant dress salon is now badly in debt. The brash Tony blames Stephanie’s designs, which he calls dowdy and out-of-date, and determines to help the business revive so that Al can sell his half. Tony tells Jerry and Al that with they need to spruce up Stephanie’s designs, then stage a Broadway-style fashion show. Jerry agrees, and because he is attracted to Clarisse, suggests that he and Tony convince the sisters to bring in gorgeous models, music and dancing. While Jerry and Clarisse tour Paris, Tony describes his plan to Stephanie, and the two begin to realize their mutual attraction. Stephanie tries to tell Tony that their creditors, who want to close Roberta’s down, will never agree to a lavish show, but when Tony barges into their meeting, he talks the bankers into advancing more money. As the weeks pass and preparations ...

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Broadway producer Tony Naylor and his partners, writers Al Marsh and Jerry Ralby, throw a party for potential backers of their new show, but cannot raise a penny because they have no startup money. Their problem soon appears to be solved when Al, whose real family name is Wodzscyngkic, receives a letter from Paris, informing him that his aunt Roberta, a famed couturier, has died and left half of her business to him. With seed money from big-hearted showgirl Bubbles Cassidy, who is in love with Tony, the men leave immediately for France, hoping to sell Al’s half of the business and finance their show. Once in Paris, though, they learn that sisters Stephanie and Clarisse, who are Roberta’s adopted nieces, cannot buy Al out because the once elegant dress salon is now badly in debt. The brash Tony blames Stephanie’s designs, which he calls dowdy and out-of-date, and determines to help the business revive so that Al can sell his half. Tony tells Jerry and Al that with they need to spruce up Stephanie’s designs, then stage a Broadway-style fashion show. Jerry agrees, and because he is attracted to Clarisse, suggests that he and Tony convince the sisters to bring in gorgeous models, music and dancing. While Jerry and Clarisse tour Paris, Tony describes his plan to Stephanie, and the two begin to realize their mutual attraction. Stephanie tries to tell Tony that their creditors, who want to close Roberta’s down, will never agree to a lavish show, but when Tony barges into their meeting, he talks the bankers into advancing more money. As the weeks pass and preparations for the show progress, Stephanie and Tony begin to fall in love. When Bubbles arrives unexpectedly, however, Stephanie thinks that Bubbles and Tony are in love and is crushed. Al, who is attracted to Stephanie himself, is happy at Bubbles’ arrival and asks Stephanie out while Tony takes Bubbles to Montmarte. Bubbles, who senses how Tony and Stephanie feel about each other, is annoyed when Stephanie and Al show up at the same club where she and Tony are having champagne. Al orders more champagne, and soon the two couples are joined by Jerry and Clarisse, then model Zsa Zsa and her rich, jovial companion, Max. After several rounds of champagne, everyone is drunk, except for Bubbles, who fumes while Tony and Stephanie share a romantic dance. At the end of the evening, Bubbles goes home in a taxi with Al after Tony insists that he needs to discuss business with Stephanie. In the taxi, a very inebriated Al confesses his love, and talks about a simple life with a wife and six children. Bubbles is touched, but becomes angry when she realizes that he thinks he is talking to Stephanie. Meanwhile, in a hansom cab, Stephanie and Tony kiss for the first time, after which Stephanie passes out. The next morning, Stephanie has a terrible hangover and does not remember the previous evening. When Al cheerfully tells her that he meant every word in the taxi, she is initially confused but finally understands and gently lets him know that she does not feel the same way. After Al leaves, Tony arrives and reminds Stephanie of their kiss, after which they admit their feelings for each other. Some time later, everyone is invited to a party at Max’s. Al and Bubbles quietly commiserate with each other over Tony and Stephanie, then Al performs a comedy singing routine with Jerry. After the routine, which the partygoers love, Jerry and Tony discover that “Max” is actually famous Broadway impresario Max Fogelsby and immediately try to convince him to back their Broadway show. They negotiate for hours, after which Tony agrees, over Jerry’s objections, to leave immediately for New York with Max. Stephanie is hurt that Bubbles’ warning that Tony is too self-centered to think of anyone but himself has come true. When he says that he will leave Jerry and Al to oversee the fashion show and insists that he will send for her as soon as his Broadway show opens, she runs away. Several weeks later in New York, progress on the new Broadway show is not going well, and Tony, who realizes that his previous successes depended on his collaboration with Al and Jerry, tries to get out of his contract. Max realizes that Tony is feeling guilty for betraying his friends and has heard from Zsa Zsa that Jerry and Al are not doing well with the fashion show. Max then takes matters into his own hands by booking a flight to Paris for himself and Tony and promises to bring the Paris show to Broadway if it does well. Tony arrives at Roberta’s just as the creditors are arguing with Stephanie and Clarisse. In Paris, after Tony apologizes to everyone for his behavior, the re-energized partners get to work readying the show for that night. The lavish fashion show is a great success, and at the finale, the reconciled Tony and Stephanie lovingly dance together, as do Clarisse and Jerry and Al and Bubbles, who look forward to being Mr. and Mrs. Wodzscyngkic.

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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