Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment has released On the Riviera, one of actor Danny Kaye’s lesser-known musical efforts. Not as familiar to movie fans as his hits The Secret Life of Walter Mitty or The Court Jester, 1951’s On the Riviera has many charms to share, and looks great on Blu-ray.
Danny Kaye portrays two men who resemble one another – American nightclub performer Jack Martin and famous French aviator Henri Duran, who despite his glamorous wife Lili (Gene Tierney) has quite an eye for the ladies. In typical Hollywood movie fashion, Martin is hired to impersonate Duran – by Duran himself. Things get complicated when Duran begins to get jealous of how much his neglected wife seems to like “him,” and even Martin’s French girlfriend (Corinne Calvet) and Lili start confusing the two men.
If the plot sounds familiar, that’s because it is. It is the second remake of the story. It was first filmed as a vehicle for Maurice Chevalier in 1935 as Folies Bergère, and again in 1941 as That Night in Rio, starring Don Ameche. The background of the making of the film in all of its incarnations, from its start as a Broadway play called The Red Cat is included in one of the disc extras, in the featurette, The Riviera Story: A Remarkable Impersonation.
The Technicolor is vivid and bright, with sharp details, especially highlighted by the many musical numbers, which were staged by Jack Cole. Hollywood musical buffs should also keep an eye out for a young Gwen Verdon. The disc includes a nice short feature on the famous choreographer, The Jack of Clubs: Choreographer Jack Cole. Cole worked most notably with Marilyn Monroe in Gentleman Prefer Blondes, and Rita Hayworth in Gilda and had a huge influence on dancers and choreographers in Hollywood and on Broadway, including Bob Fosse, Michael Kidd, Jerome Robbins, and Tommy Tune.
Another fun movie reference – the famous painting from Laura, of Gene Tierney, can be seen in color, in her character’s apartment in this film. On the Riviera was nominated for two Academy Awards – Best Music and Best Art Direction. Kaye won a Golden Globe – Best Motion Picture Actor in a Comedy/Musical, for his performance. His daughter Dena Kaye talks about her father’s career in a short film that is included as an extra on the disk, A Portrait of Danny Kaye. The final extra on the disk is the theatrical trailer.
The Blu-ray looks great on a widescreen high-definition television screen. It is in fullscreen format with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The dialogue and music in Dolby, DTS Surround Sound sounds crisp and clear. On the Riviera has a running time of approximately 89 minutes, with subtitles available in English, French, and Spanish.
Director Walter Lang (State Fair, There’s No Business Like Show Business, The King and I) lets Kaye run loose, to comic effect. The songs are fast and fun and written by Kaye’s wife Silvia Fine. Kaye also does a wonderful, laid-back rendition of “Ballin’ the Jack” which should not be missed. On the Riviera may be slight in the plot department, but its music and the immense talent of its star make it a classic film that should not be missed.