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Ring a Ding Ding

Victor/Victoria (1982)

     I have never been a Julia Andrews fan and have avoided her movies because of a certain grudge I hold*, so Victor/Victoria has never been given any attention before now. As I am discovering an overt love for Director Blake Edwards, however, I decided now was the time to sit down with the gender-bending musical.

     Going in I was oblivious of the year in which this flick was made, and so from the opening scene on I was taken aback by the sexual taboos featured therein that are absolutely alien to the classics I am used to. And given the movie was released in 1982, it really does not fit my definition of a classic, but I have always given TCM the benefit of the doubt. The opening sequence to which I refer involves two men waking together in bed. From there forward, the open discussion of gay lifestyles and terms such as “queer” and “faggot” work their way throughout the plot. I am anything but trying to imply a personal discomfort on the subject, but given the extent to which classic films make up my movie knowledge, I was a bit surprised to find the subject in what I thought was a classic film.

     Homosexuality and cross dressing are the central theme of Victor/Victoria, which was based on a 1933 German film, Viktor/Viktoria. When Andrew’s Victoria is unable to use her awesome voice to secure singing jobs in 1930s Paris, a chance meeting with equally poor, gay cabaret singer Toddy (Robert Preston) sparks the idea to have Victoria market herself as a man who impersonates women. Victoria, now Victor, instantly lands an agent and job at a major club where he is the toast of the town. He also makes an impression on Chicago mobster King Marchan, played by James Garner, who finds it hard to believe the female impersonator is not actually a woman.

     Some snooping by King allows him to discover Victor is indeed female, so he later puts the moves on the manly dressed Victoria at which point she reveals to him alone her true identity. What ensues are some complications with King having to endure the appearance of being gay, which causes some upset among his fellow mobsters.

     Victor/Victoria is one of several films Edwards did with wife, Andrews, during his career. The flick certainly has bits of the director’s typical physical and dry, dialogue humor, but none of that is perpetrated by Andrews. Instead a private detective bears the brunt of physical abuse –umbrella struck by lightning, “you should be careful…that stool is broken”, etc.– while Lesley Ann Warren, who plays King’s moll, silently argues to herself while on a train before flashing her undergarments off the rear of the observation car. I suppose the recurring joke of Victoria being able to break glass with her high notes could be attributed to Andrews, but I did not find the joke that funny. Certainly not as humorous as some of the repeated gimmicks used in the Pink Panther films.

     This movie is funny, but it is not quite as absurd as the other Blake work I have seen, which tends to tickle my funny bone. Being a musical, however, Victor/Victoria does not really need to leave the audience in constant stitches. The songs, with music by Blake standby Henry Mancini, are wonderful and the acting is great. I did, however, find it a bit sad to see Preston, whom I loved in The Music Man, at such an advanced age. I also appreciated that the plot very quickly established the cross-dressing ruse so that the subsequent fun could occupy the majority of the film (contrary to the approach in other gender-switching movies, such as Mrs. Doubtfire). Victor/Victoria is truly enjoyable and probably a must for musical lovers. 

  • Victor/Victoria is set for 2:15 a.m. ET Feb. 14 on TCM.

*Julie Andrews played Eliza Doolittle in the Broadway version of My Fair Lady. When they made the movie, Andrews was considered too unknown to take the major role, so it was given to Audrey Hepburn (my favorite). Come Oscar time 1964, Hepburn was snubbed for Best Actress with the award going to Andrews for Mary Poppins with many saying it was the Academy’s way of awarding the true Eliza Doolittle. Also it did not help that Marnie Nixon’s uncredited role as Audrey’s singing voice was leaked to the public, voice substitutes being a common practice but not one favored in award consideration.

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