WHAT LOLA WANTS
I will openly admit my bias against musicals. Its a form that does nothing for me at all. That said, I was taken away, almost prepared to change my mind by Damn Yankees. The songs are incredibly lively. The film looks amazing in its 00s dvd restoration the print beautifully crisp and the colour incredibly rich to the point that it almost bleeds out of the screen. Bob Fosse choreographs the dance sequences with elan entire fields of dancing baseball teams, or the scenes with Gwen Verdon parading about as Lola, which sizzle so much they almost burn the screen up. Gwen Verdon never seems the most likely candidate for the role of the seductress Lola bony, pale skinned to the point of being alabast, a wild unruly mop of carroty hair, a long face and prominent hooked nose. However, while you sit reacting to the somewhat ordinary seductress at the outset, all objections are abruptly silenced the moment she starts moving. She has an amazing sequence in a locker room attempting to seduce Tab Hunter that involves her strutting, stripping, grinding and collapsing all over him. (Of course, the irony of such a sequence, which came out in later years, is that Tab Hunter was gay in real life making Joes ability to remain unmoved by such a display all the more apt).
The story could almost have been conceived as a riposte to the minor hit of Angels in the Outfield (1951) from a few years earlier, wherein angels came down to invisibly aid a failing baseball team. By contrast here, it is The Devil in the person of Ray Walston who steps in to offer them a winning chance. The story contorts around the basic diabolical pact with a reasonable degree of cleverness, certainly far more so than is usually the case in musicals, which tend to tell their stories with big simplistic emotions and a lack of complexity. The film is very much a product of attitudes that were prevalent in the 1950s, although you keep thinking how they would be hard-pressed to translate today a world where a guy wouldnt even think twice about straying from his decidedly frumpy wife and is determined to keep his oath to her above all else in the face of a determined seductress; that said seductress would be so moved by such moral purity that she would fall for him; that the wife would be forced to evict Joe as a boarder after Mr Applegate stirs up neighbourhood gossip about she living on her own and having a younger man under her roof. It is a film that believes that basic honest middle-class decency will always win out even if such decency requires the wife to come to court a fabricate a lie about having known Joe. The morality of the day was such that Gwen Verdons dance movements ended up being edited as they were considered too suggestive, while the film had to be retitled as What Lola Wants in the UK so as to remove the word damn from the title.
Stanley Donens other genre films include:- the Peter Cook-Dudley Moore black comedy, the original Bedazzled (1967), a dark satire on pacts with the Devil; The Little Prince (1974), a fable about an alien boy; and the killer robot science-fiction film Saturn 3 (1980).. Bob Fosse gained a great deal of fame as a dance choreographer and later went onto a directorial career of his own with films such as Sweet Charity (1969), Cabaret (1972), Lenny (1974), the autobiographical fantasy All That Jazz (1979) and the Dorothy Stratten biopic Star 80 (1983).
Gwen Verdons infamous seduction dance here:-