Silk Stockings

Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Janis Paige. Directed by Rouben Mamoulian. Aspect ratio: 2.35:1 (anamorphic). Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), 1.0 (French). 117 minutes. 1957. Warner Home Video 62251. NR. $19.90.

Picture ***
Sound ***
Film ****

Although the stage version of Cole Porter's Silk Stockings had a healthy run on Broadway in 1955, the show—based on the 1939 Greta Garbo–Melvyn Douglas movie, Ninotchka—has been given no Broadway or West End revivals, perhaps because this story of a Cold War–era romance between a Soviet commissar and an American movie producer is now thought to be dated.

To quote one of the songs in Silk Stockings: "Too bad!" The score may not be top-drawer Porter, but it's consistently tuneful, and includes "All of You," which has become a standard. The movie version retains all but two of the songs, and has two new one: the jaunty "Fated to be Mated" and "Ritz Roll and Rock," an attempt (alas, unsuccessful) by Porter to show that he could move with the times.

The incomparable Fred Astaire, with his patented charm and lighter-than-air dancing, leads the cast. The enchanting Cyd Charisse, as Ninotchka, joins Astaire as the oh-so-serious commissar (the singing is dubbed by Carol Richards). Janis Paige is funny and sexy as Peggy Dayton, the swimmer turned movie star, and Jules Munshin, Joseph Buloff, and—an inspired bit of casting—Peter Lorre make up the comic trio of commissars that Ninotchka is sent to check up on in Paris.

Directed with flair by Rouben Mamoulian, who had directed the original productions of Oklahoma! and Carousel on Broadway, Silk Stockings is simple yet sophisticated, and just a lot of fun. Kiss Me Kate and Anything Goes have better scores, but I consider Silk Stockings to be the most perfectly realized of the movie versions of Cole Porter's musicals.

The DVD release has crisp video, and the remastered Dolby 5.1 sound is quite effective. Extras include a new retrospective narrated by Cyd Charisse; a quaint condensed version of Porter's Fifty Million Frenchmen, entitled Paree, Paree, with Bob Hope and Dorothy Stone; and a short of the MGM Symphony Orchestra playing Franz von Suppé's Poet and Peasant Overture.—RD