More reputable for its box-office deficiencies than its song-and-dance numbers, Yolanda and the Thief, a high-gloss musical-fantasy production from the renowned Arthur Freed and Vincente Minnelli, was a massive flop upon its release in 1945, both critically derided and a mammoth black-eye to its two stars and previously infallible production team.
It was such a catastrophe, it lost MGM over $1.5 million and derailed the career of its female lead (and Arthur Freed's present lover), Lucille Bremer while forcing Fred Astaire into a temporary fit of retirement.
With all of this turmoil and controversy, one would expect that the film rarely works outside of some morbid curiosity for completionists only, yet to my surprise, Yolanda and the Thief is an artfully-rendered, dazzling Technicolor dreamscape that's closer to a career benchmark than a catastrophe.
Unsparingly-staged and lustrously-designed, the film's fantastical setting sets the stage for elegant, surrealistic sets (some resembling the winding roads of Oz), glamorous palaces and stunning 16-minute ballet dream sequences.
Astaire plays a desperate con man in Patria, a fictional Latin American country, looking to cash in with a young, attractive heiress (Bremer) by announcing himself as her guardian angel.
It doesn't take much imagination to decipher where this story is going, but the film's quick-footed sense of humor, elaborate dance moves and its glistening, colorful design do plenty to make their mark. Yolanda and the Thief isn't merely an undervalued production, but a hidden gem and one of the highlights of the MGM/Arthur Freed/Vincente Minnelli partnership. [B+]
Friday, August 5, 2011
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