Bob Fosse was a major cultural force in the latter half of the 20th century, but the dancer/choreographer/director didn’t leave behind a substantial record of his work, because he worked only intermittently in TV and film (and died at age 60). That’s why even lesser Fosse is valuable Fosse; and the 1969 movie version of the Broadway musical Sweet Charity is decidedly lesser Fosse. On stage, the instantly dated Neil Simon/Dorothy Fields/Cy Coleman adaptation of Federico Fellini’s Nights Of Cabiria still works fairly well, with its curious, middle-aged perspective on the 1960s’ burgeoning youth movement and changing values. On screen, the little tweaks from Fellini to Broadway—changing the heroine from a prostitute to a dancer-for-hire, and adding spoofs of early hippiedom—seem out of synch with Fosse’s direction, which tries to incorporate the New Hollywood penchant for docu-realism into a show that revels in its artificiality. Also, Shirley MacLaine is a little off in the title role of the eternally upbeat Charity Hope Valentine, never seeming as wide-eyed as she should. But the songs are catchy (including the perennial favorites “Big Spender" and “If They Could See Me Now”), and for Fosse-philes, it’s fascinating to watch him figure out how to translate his style a two-dimensional medium. The movie is hit-and-miss overall, but the musical numbers are often thrilling (especially “There’s Got To Be Something Better Than This,” which is one of Fosse’s finest moments as a director). Sweet Charity airs on Turner Classic Movies tonight at midnight.
January 30, 2015 Cable Pick Of The Day