Technicolored Mature, Hayworth, & Landis in My Gal Sal (1942)

July 10, 2018 | By

I’ve said before that I’m not a fan of musicals per se – there are odd exceptions that I enjoy for very odd reasons, which can include the use of colour, certain composers, stars, and technical aspects, like blazing Technicolor, Cinecolor, Agfacolor, CinemaScope, or Todd-AO.

Sometimes it’s a dare to assess a much-lambasted dud, carefully examining the pros & cons and deciding if it’s really so bad or just an ill-conceived, kind of fascinating mess. It’s why I suffered through the 1973 remake of Lost Horizon, and the studio-killing misfire Absolute Beginners (1986) and found a few virtues in their brightly coloured cadavers.

Fox’s glossy My Gal Sal (1942) was part of the studio’s successful 1940s musicals that paired Rita Hayworth with Victor Mature – an improbably combo considering the former was trained in music and dance, and the latter’s big break came in Hal Roach’s prehistoric nonsenser One Million B.C. (1940), in which you could tie a drinking game for each time Mature screams ‘Loana!’



And yet Mature as composer Paul Dresser is fine, which is most unexpected. He works because he channels the uncertainty of ‘I’m in a musical?!?!?’ into the character of an overconfident composer-pianist who enjoyed a huge success on Broadway. Dresser was the brother of novelist Theodore Dreiser, and the story is reportedly heavily reliant on Dreiser’s recollection of his brother and the colourful adventures with women, wine, the law, and music.



Hayworth is ravishing as the on / off love interest, and she’s given the best lines in cutting down Dresser when his ego and urge to bed Sally are beyond pushy. My Gal Sal also reunites Mature with his B.C. co-star Carole Landis, who enjoyed success in Roach’s productions of Turnabout (1940) and Topper Returns (1941) before joining the Fox fold and co-starring with Mature in the great noir thriller I Wake Up Screaming (1941). Landis was an early cinema crush of mine at age 12 or something, so it’s fun to rediscover the starlet whose career seemed set as a minor leading lady before failed marriages and affairs resulted in deep unhappiness and a short life.



Twilight Time’s Blu-ray sports a very nice transfer of this striking Technicolor production that isn’t massive or packed with a huge cast of dancing extras – it’s just the right size, neatly fitted for two attractive stars, and perhaps proved to mature himself that he could indeed act in other genres when the part was just right.

My Gal Sal also proves the camera need not always glide and move when you have charismatic performers; framing, lighting, and inner movement are just as engaging as dynamic angles and sharp cuts, and fans of Technicolor will relish the beautiful pastels that glow in every shot. It’s a modest musical made with great care that finally enjoys a proper home video release.

Coming next: more Mattei-Fragasso-Drudi nonsense, and the not great but underrated Marilyn Monroe musical comedy Let’s Make Love (1960), featuring a cockle-doodle-dooing Yves Montand.




Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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