Silk Stockings (1957)

117 mins | Musical comedy | July 1957

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HISTORY

The film's opening title cards read: "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents an Arthur Freed Production starring Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse in Silk Stockings ." Melchior Lengyel's story Ninotchka was first used as the basis for the 1939 film by the same title starring Greta Garbo and directed by Ernst Lubitsch (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ). Actors Gregory Gaye and Rolfe Sedan appeared in both Ninotchka and Silk Stockings , although not in the same roles. On 24 Feb 1955, a musical stage version of the story, entitled Silk Stockings , with songs by Cole Porter, opened on Broadway, directed by Cy Feuer and starring Hildegard Neff and Don Ameche. According to a 22 Jun 1954 HR news item, Porter and Feuer originally wanted Gloria DeHaven for the picture, presumably for the role played by Charisse. As noted in the 20 May 1957 DV review, Porter created two new compositions, "Fated to Be Mated" and "Ritz Roll and Rock," for the film to augment his original Broadway score. Two songs from the Broadway show were not included in the film: "Hail Bibinski" and "As Through the Seasons We Sail."
       Like the Broadway musical, the film had some differences from the original story and film. In the original story, the three Russian envoys are in Paris to sell jewelry for money to buy tractors. The character "Ninotchka" is sent to retrieve them in Paris, where she meets a French aristocrat, instead of the Hollywood producer in the musical version. According to a biography of Silk Stockings Rouben Mamoulian, the director also lengthened several dance sequences ... More Less

The film's opening title cards read: "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents an Arthur Freed Production starring Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse in Silk Stockings ." Melchior Lengyel's story Ninotchka was first used as the basis for the 1939 film by the same title starring Greta Garbo and directed by Ernst Lubitsch (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ). Actors Gregory Gaye and Rolfe Sedan appeared in both Ninotchka and Silk Stockings , although not in the same roles. On 24 Feb 1955, a musical stage version of the story, entitled Silk Stockings , with songs by Cole Porter, opened on Broadway, directed by Cy Feuer and starring Hildegard Neff and Don Ameche. According to a 22 Jun 1954 HR news item, Porter and Feuer originally wanted Gloria DeHaven for the picture, presumably for the role played by Charisse. As noted in the 20 May 1957 DV review, Porter created two new compositions, "Fated to Be Mated" and "Ritz Roll and Rock," for the film to augment his original Broadway score. Two songs from the Broadway show were not included in the film: "Hail Bibinski" and "As Through the Seasons We Sail."
       Like the Broadway musical, the film had some differences from the original story and film. In the original story, the three Russian envoys are in Paris to sell jewelry for money to buy tractors. The character "Ninotchka" is sent to retrieve them in Paris, where she meets a French aristocrat, instead of the Hollywood producer in the musical version. According to a biography of Silk Stockings Rouben Mamoulian, the director also lengthened several dance sequences to allow them to embody the emotional transformation of the characters.
       Silk Stockings marked the second of two films in which Astaire and Charisse co-starred. Their first co-starring picture was the 1953 M-G-M musical The Band Wagon (See Entry). Although Astaire and Charisse also appeared in the 1946 M-G-M production of The Ziegfeld Follies (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ), they appeared in different sequences. Silk Stockings also marked the first time that Astaire worked with Barrie Chase, his dance partner on several television programs, beginning with the multiple-Emmy-winning 1958 special An Evening with Fred Astaire .
       According to a biography of Astaire, choreographer Hermes Pan deliberately included acrobatics in the dance numbers to prove that the 57-year-old Astaire was still an athletic and talented dancer and a convincing love interest for the 35-year-old Charisse. In his autobiography, Astaire claims to have had the idea for the ironic twist on the "Ritz Rock and Roll" song and dance number in which "swells" interpret the new musical form. Another biography of the dancer claims that both Porter and Astaire were saddened by the growing popularity of rock and roll music, which Astaire referred to as having a "sameness" to it. Silk Stockings was Astaire's last film as the dancing debonair romantic lead for which he had become famous and was his last film for M-G-M until the 1974 historical compendium That's Entertainment . Silk Stockings was also the first film Mamoulian had directed in nine years and was his last.
       During the duet "Stereophonic Sound," Astaire and Janis Paige's voices are over amplified while singing the chorus lines "stereophonic sound." As noted in the DV review, Silk Stockings marked the American film debut for Dutch actor Wim Sonneveld. A 7 Jan 1957 HR news item adds ballerinas Pat Tribble, Gloria Stone, Sally Whalen, Charlene Baker, Iona McKenzie, Pat Wharton, Ann Mauldin and Francesca Balleni to the cast, and a 6 Dec 1956 HR news items adds Florence Wyatt to the cast; however, their appearances in the film have not been confirmed. The first stage production of Ninotchka opened in Paris on 4 Apr 1950 and starred Sophie Desmarets and Henri Guisal. An ABC Special television production of Ninotchka aired on the network on 20 Apr 1960, directed by Tom Donovan and starring Maria Schell and Gig Young.
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
25 May 1957.
---
Cosmopolitan
Jun 1957.
---
Daily Variety
20 May 1957
p. 3.
Film Daily
20 May 1957
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jun 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Nov 1956
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jan 1957
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jan 1957
p. 24.
Hollywood Reporter
20 May 1957
p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner
13 Jul 1957.
---
Los Angeles Times
13 Jul 1957.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
25 May 1957
p. 385.
New York Times
19 Jul 1957
p. 11.
New Yorker
3 Aug 1957.
---
Newsweek
22 Jul 1957.
---
Saturday Review
20 Jul 1957.
---
Time
15 Jul 1957.
---
Variety
22 May 1957
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
An Arthur Freed Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
Music supv and cond
Orch arr
Vocal supv
Addl orch
Addl orch
Mus coord
SOUND
DANCE
All dances in which Fred Astaire appears choreogra
All other dances choreographed by
Asst choreographer
Asst choreographer
Asst choreographer
Asst choreographer
Asst choreographer
MAKEUP
Hairstyles
STAND INS
Singing voice double for Cyd Charisse
Singing voice double for Peter Lorre
Singing voice double for Joseph Buloff
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on book of original musical play Ninotchka by George S. Kaufman, Leueen McGrath and Abe Burrows, produced for the stage by Cy Feuer and Ernest H. Hartin (New York, 24 Feb 1955).
SONGS
"Too Bad," "Paris Loves Lovers," "Stereophonic Sound," "It's a Chemical Reaction, That's All," "All of You," "Satin and Silk," "Silk Stockings," "Without Love," "Fated to Be Mated," "Josephine," "Siberia," "Red Blues" and "Ritz Roll and Rock," words and music by Cole Porter.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
July 1957
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 18 July 1957
Production Date:
early November 1956--late January 1957
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc. & Arthur Freed Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
13 May 1957
Copyright Number:
LP8326
Physical Properties:
Sound
Perspecta Sound
Color
Metrocolor
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Duration(in mins):
117
Length(in feet):
10,553
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
18441
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

American producer Steve Canfield is in Paris to collaborate with leading Russian composer Peter Ilyitch Boroff on the score for his next picture, when Soviet commissars Brankov, Bibinski and Ivanov attempt to escort the composer back to Russia. To keep Boroff in Paris, Steve contests the composer’s Russian citizenship by producing an affidavit disputing his parentage and insists that any conflict must be resolved in court. Despite their initial resistance, the gullible commissars readily accept the position of supervising the American/Russian collaboration when Steve suggests that assignment will win them promotions back in Moscow. As the commissars get settled in their luxurious royal suite, they sing a happy number expressing their “disappointment” about not returning to Moscow. Weeks later, Boroff and the commissars are enjoying the pleasures of Paris when their extended absence causes the Soviet authorities to send one of their staunchest agents to return the men. The soldierly Ninotchka Yoschenko, dressed in uniform gray, meets the commissars in the hotel lobby, where her Communist sensibilities are immediately assaulted by the decadent interior, the amount of servile laborers and hotel advertising, which includes a display of silk stockings. Once in their suite, Steve shows Ninotchka the affidavit, but she insists on meeting Boroff’s alleged French father. Steve then tries to charm the stern woman with tales of romantic Paris, but Ninotchka insists that she will not fall for the city’s bourgeois propaganda. Later that evening, Hollywood star Peggy Dayton arrives at the hotel, where a throng of reporters interview her about her role in Steve’s picture based on War and Peace . Peggy, who once starred in swimming films, clumsily taps her waterlogged ears during ... +


American producer Steve Canfield is in Paris to collaborate with leading Russian composer Peter Ilyitch Boroff on the score for his next picture, when Soviet commissars Brankov, Bibinski and Ivanov attempt to escort the composer back to Russia. To keep Boroff in Paris, Steve contests the composer’s Russian citizenship by producing an affidavit disputing his parentage and insists that any conflict must be resolved in court. Despite their initial resistance, the gullible commissars readily accept the position of supervising the American/Russian collaboration when Steve suggests that assignment will win them promotions back in Moscow. As the commissars get settled in their luxurious royal suite, they sing a happy number expressing their “disappointment” about not returning to Moscow. Weeks later, Boroff and the commissars are enjoying the pleasures of Paris when their extended absence causes the Soviet authorities to send one of their staunchest agents to return the men. The soldierly Ninotchka Yoschenko, dressed in uniform gray, meets the commissars in the hotel lobby, where her Communist sensibilities are immediately assaulted by the decadent interior, the amount of servile laborers and hotel advertising, which includes a display of silk stockings. Once in their suite, Steve shows Ninotchka the affidavit, but she insists on meeting Boroff’s alleged French father. Steve then tries to charm the stern woman with tales of romantic Paris, but Ninotchka insists that she will not fall for the city’s bourgeois propaganda. Later that evening, Hollywood star Peggy Dayton arrives at the hotel, where a throng of reporters interview her about her role in Steve’s picture based on War and Peace . Peggy, who once starred in swimming films, clumsily taps her waterlogged ears during the questioning. When the dimwitted actress’ replies reveal that she is not prepared for a serious role, Peggy and Steve perform a comedic song and dance number explaining that Technicolor, CinemaScope and stereophonic sound, not acting, sell films. The next morning, Steve escorts Ninotchka on a tour of the city, alternating between her interests in municipal boiler rooms and his flagrant attempts to entice her with shop windows and beauty salons. When they return to his hotel room that evening, Steve sets a romantic mood with low lights and music, but Ninotchka insists that romantic attraction is purely “electro-chemical.” After Steve takes her in his arms for a waltz around the room, Ninotchka finally accepts his lead. Once a dancer, Ninotchka’s enjoyment builds as the steps become more complicated and then culminate in a kiss. Later, Steve suggests that Peggy use her feminine wiles to seduce Boroff into adapting his music to a popular style. Peggy then invites Boroff to a costume fitting, where she strips while asking him to consider lyrics for his music, effectively pacifying Boroff into accepting the idea. Later that afternoon, Ninotchka, transformed by Steve’s attention, locks herself in her room and exchanges her proletarian garments for Parisian lingerie. After luxuriating in the finery of stockings, slips and camisoles, Ninotchka changes into a sexy evening gown and joins Steve for a night on the town. When a giddy Ninotchka returns to the commissars’ room at 2:00 am, the commissars confess that Boroff’s “Ode to a Tractor” is being transformed into popular music for Steve’s film. Contrary to their suspicions, Ninotchka is delighted by the idea and dismisses them. Now alone with Steve, Ninotchka raves about Paris’ beauty, convinced that love, not utilitarianism, leads to happiness. The next day, prior to the initial film shoot, Steve suggests to Ninotchka that their meeting was fated and proposes to her. Swept away by their love, the two dance from one stage to another, finally arriving at the film’s set. As Peggy begins singing a swinging version of Boroff’s music, both Boroff and Ninotchka are insulted by the unrecognizably altered version. Steve defends the transformation, asserting that Americans make popular songs out of classical music for the public to enjoy. A defiant Ninotchka tells Steve that she is neglecting her duty because of her brief emotional attachment to him and decides to return to Russia immediately with Boroff and the commissars. Months later in Russia, Boroff and the commissars, who have been saved from punishment by Ninotchka’s favorable report, visit her at her apartment, a room created by curtains, which separate her from several dozen other tenants. Ninotchka shows the men Steve’s letter, which has been so censored that only the greetings remain. Soon after, Boroff, now fascinated with “decadent” western music, begins to play his new popular composition on the piano prompting the tenants to pull back their curtains and join Ninotchka and the commissars in a frolicking dance. Meanwhile, Steve devises a scheme in which the commissars are sent to Paris to sell Russian films, knowing that when they overstay their allotted time, Ninotchka will be assigned to retrieve them again. When she arrives in Paris, the commissars whisk Ninotchka away to their new Russian café, where Steve performs a dazzling top hat routine as the first act. The commissars hint that Steve will soon be married and explain that they have deserted the Soviet Union, in favor of sharing their Russian culture through the café. When a disappointed Ninotchka announces that she has no reason to remain in Paris and will return to Russia that night, Steve bursts into the room, revealing that he wrote the anonymous report on the commissars’ extended absence in order to get her out of Russia and reminding her of the marriage proposal contained in his letters. Now realizing that Steve created the scheme out of his love for her, Ninotchka rips up her plane ticket and embraces him, while the commissars open another bottle of champagne to celebrate. +

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

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