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USA 1969
Directed by
Bob Fosse
140 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Sweet Charity

Loosely based on Fellini’s Nights Of Cabiria (1957), the high points of Sweet Charity are the Cy Coleman-Dorothy Fields musical numbers, notably “Hey, Big Spender” which gets what was to become signature treatment from Fosse, a solo song-and-dance number by Shirley MacLaine “If My Friends Could See Me Now” and “The Rhythm Of Life”, a Flower Power-ish happening with Sammy Davis Jr. doing the lead vocal on what would become his signature tune.

Neil Simon’s book tells of the romantic interludes of Charity (MacLaine), a dance hall “hostess”, who escapes her tawdry livelihood in dreams of true love. Although according to those in the know not as effective as Gwen Verdon, who created the character in the original Broadway version which Fosse had also directed, for the rest of us MacLaine is an engaging presence. Unfortunately the rest of the cast are not and not only does the thin story drone on but Fosse, in his first gig as a film director, is unable to maintain a strong focus, the numbers widely varying stylistically (probably most incongruous is “I’m A Brass Band”and the piling on of visual effects unnecessarily prolonging what does not deserve it.  

FYI: Originally released theatrically at 133 m there are various versions available including a 153 VHS release.




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