Heller in Pink Tights (1960)

Heller in Pink Tights (1960)
Run Time: 100 min. | colour

Director:  George Cukor

Stars: Sophia Loren, Anthony Quinn, Margaret O’Brien, Steve Forrest

Genres: Western | Drama

Storyline
This Western romp is all about a theatrical troupe touring the untamed frontier in the 1880s. Scenes dealing with the backstage life of the era are most effective, and so are the ones dealing with the law and the best way to avoid it.
Box Office
Budget: $3,500,000 (estimated)

4 Comments

  1. IMDBReviewer

    August 10, 2016 at 5:12 pm

    The look alone is worth the trouble. Rich, colorful, slightly baroque. Sophia Loren is as good as when she's directed by a great actor's director, this time is not Vittorio De Sica but George Cukor and her timing, her intention as a character is total perfection. Her sympathy is not merely believable but contagious and sympathy was Loren's secret weapon. True, it's not your Ford or Hawks western if anything it's closer to Sergio Leone with a slightly more refined if not feminine sensibility. The showdowns here are not of gun powder but of love power. The Art Direction is superb and the film shouldn't be dismiss because it doesn't fulfill the rules of the genre. This is a Cukor film and that in itself makes it a cut above most movies. Anthony Quinn is also traveling unknown territory very successfully. Eileen Heckart is, as usual, a scene stealer: "She's only sixteen!, only sixteen, do you hear?" she shouts trying to protect her most valuable asset, her daughter, played by Margaret O'Brien wanting to be accepted as a 20 year old. An extra plus for film lovers is a glimpse of Ramon Novarro one of the biggest stars of the silent era.

  2. tfsadmin

    August 10, 2016 at 5:12 pm

    This is George Cukor’s sole attempt at a western. As is typical of Cukor, instead of doing a western like Ford or Hawks or Curtiz as a look at men fighting men against pure nature backgrounds we have Cukor looking at the coming of culture to the West (here in the acting troop led by Anthony Quinn and Sophia Loren), and how it is doomed to triumph over the individualist (here Steve Forrest, a desperado who ends up accepting his defeat). It is not a great western (Ford and the others were better at that type), but it a worthy exception to the rule (Ford did deal with culture twice, using Alan Mowbray in "My Darling Clementine" and "Wagon Master" as a fading Shakespearean – although he pulls himself together in the second film). Cukor loves the theater (his one film noir, "A Double Life" is set in a theater in New York City). Here some of the most interesting things are the company rehearsing (in one scene they are putting on Offenbach’s "La Belle Hellene"). But what is most interesting is their guaranteed show stopper – "Mazeppa".

    It was a popular play in the middle 19th Century, based on an incident of the wars between Peter the Great and Charles XIV of Sweden. Mazeppa, a "hetman" of the Ukranian Cossacks, was captured by his enemies, tied naked to a wild horse, which was released into the forest. Mazeppa died as a result. The play was a big success for Adah Mencken, a poet and actress who was prominent in the 1860s on both sides of the Atlantic, and was briefly married to John Heenan, the leading heavyweight champ of America (bare knuckles days). To tittle-late the men in the audience she wore skin colored clothing, so that it looked like she was naked. Sophia Loren puts on similar (pink colored) tights – hence the films’ title – and does the scene on a real horse and a moving stage. It certainly is interesting to see a brief glance at a 19th Century dramatic highlight, even if it seems rather silly to us today.

  3. IMDBReviewer

    August 10, 2016 at 5:12 pm

    For the only western in the film credits of George Cukor he sure couldn't be faulted for the source of his material. This film is taken from one of the books by the great western novelist Louis L'Amour. It concerns the escapades of a traveling theatrical troupe in the west headed by Anthony Quinn with the leading lady being Sophia Loren. This was her only trip to the American west on film also.

    Theatrical people did not exactly have the same kind of prestige back in those days as they do now. We first meet our players fleeing across the state/territorial boundaries of Nebraska and Wyoming evading a sheriff with a writ. They arrive in Cheyenne and get themselves involved with the villainous doings of Ramon Novarro and his hired gunman Steve Forrest.

    After Forrest does a couple of jobs for him, Novarro tries a doublecross maneuver similar to the one Laird Cregar tried on Alan Ladd in This Gun For Hire with the same sorry results. Forrest of necessity joins the theatrical troupe and both get an opportunity to use their respective skills to help each other out of some tight spots.

    This film had potential to be better. Maybe in the hands of someone like George Marshall or John Ford it might even have become a classic. George Cukor was not the director for it.

    The film marked the last feature film appearance of both Ramon Novarro and Edmund Lowe. Novarro did do some television work until his tragic murder in 1968. Here he's a smooth and polished villain. Edmund Lowe does quite well as an old ham actor which at that point in his life was I'm sure one easy role for him.

    Heller in Pink Tights is enjoyable enough, but no classic.

  4. tfsadmin

    August 10, 2016 at 5:12 pm

    This is a western made by George Cukor, who would not dream about making a western unless it would really be about something else. This one is about show business and I can understand how anybody working in entertainment would identify strongly with it. Anthony Quinn leads a theatrical troupe formed by Sophia Loren, Margaret O’Brien, Eileen Heckart and the legendary Ramon Novarro through the west. They are pursued by creditors and are really living on the edge. Loren, using her charms, is a big help, but this is hard for Quinn who is in love with her to accept. They come to a town and are going to perform Offenbach’s ‘La Belle Helene’, but the owner of the theater thinks the townspeople will never accept a young woman leaving her old husband for the young Paris. Instead they do the opera ‘Mazeppa’. Loren gets involved unwillingly with a gunfighter, Steve Forrest, who seems so tough compared to Anthony Quinn, but as the film goes along we start learning how much courage the whole troupe must have to remain in show business. An unusual film, with a lot of meaning.

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