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First a Girl (1935)

Not Rated | | Comedy, Musical | 31 December 1935 (USA)
Elizabeth dreams of being a music-hall singer. She gets to know Victor, that quite unexpectedly gets a female part in a music-hall number. He unfortunately finds himself voiceless, so, why wouldn't Elizabeth replace him in it?

Director:

Victor Saville

Writer:

Marjorie Gaffney (scenario)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Jessie Matthews ... Elizabeth
Sonnie Hale ... Victor
Anna Lee ... Princess
Griffith Jones ... Robert
Alfred Drayton ... Mc Lintock
Constance Godridge Constance Godridge ... Beryl
Eddie Gray Eddie Gray ... Goose Trainer
Martita Hunt ... Seraphina
Donald Stewart ... Singer
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Storyline

Elizabeth, a delivery girl, dreams of being a music-hall singer but she is refused at the first casting she takes part in. A bit depressed, she gets to know Victor, a would-be Shakespearean actor and another audition victim. When Victor quite unexpectedly gets a female part in a music-hall number he unfortunately finds himself voiceless. Why wouldn't Elizabeth replace him in it? His new friend hesitates but finally makes her debut as ... a man posing as a woman! She is noticed by McLintock, an influential talent agent who hires Mr. Victoria (Elizabeth's stage name) and launches his/her brilliant international career. One day, Robert, a handsome young man engaged to Princess Mironoff, makes friends with this young man posing as a woman posing as a man ... Written by Guy Bellinger

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The Screen's Most Versatile Star in a Sparkling Comedy of Impersonation See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Musical

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

31 December 1935 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Mulher Antes de Tudo See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Mono (British Acoustic Sound Full-Range Recording System: at Shepherd's Bush London)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The long scarf worn prominently by Sonnie Hale during the early scenes had been knitted for him by Jessie Matthews on the set of her previous film, Evergreen (1934). See more »

Goofs

Victor, the expert in Shakespeare quotes "Is love a tender thing? it is too rough, Too rude, too boisterous, and it pricks like thorn. If love be rough with you, be rough with love" ending with "As You Like It" not the actual "Romeo and Juliet" from which the quote is taken. See more »

Quotes

Victor: [to Robert] You have an unclean mind.
See more »

Connections

Remade as Victor Victoria (1982) See more »

Soundtracks

Little Silkworm
(uncredited)
Written by Maurice Sigler (as M. Sigler), Al Goodhart (as A. Goodhart) and Al Hoffman (as A.Hoffman)
Performed by Donald Stewart
See more »

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User Reviews

 
"I've been father, mother, sister and brother to that girl..."
5 January 2009 | by Igenlode WordsmithSee all my reviews

This may not be among the greatest of the Jessie Matthews musicals -- dance and music are not always seamlessly integrated into the action -- but I remembered it fondly from the National Film Theatre's season of her work last year and was delighted to discover on recent re-viewing that it retained its charm on repeat performance.

Husband Sonnie Hale teams with Jessie Matthews to great effect, as Victor, the frustrated Shakespearian reduced to working the music halls as a female impersonator, bonds with 'Bill', the would-be song and dance girl who finds herself launched on an inadvertent male career after helping him out with his "Mr Victoria" act one night. As international success unexpectedly beckons, Victor persuades his reluctant new acquaintance to continue the masquerade with the promise that he will shield her constantly from exposure and will never let her down. And part of the charm of this film, as it skirts its way merrily along the censor's line without ever quite transgressing, is that they never do let each other down.

In a move that wrong-foots audience expectations, the odd couple duly fall inconveniently in love -- but not with each other. Predictable bickering and frustrations ensue, feet are put in it and bricks are dropped, and Victor's protective vigilance is sorely tested, but the two share the affectionate reliance of a true 'buddy movie' throughout, and it is this unquestioning trust that helps provide the film's warm-hearted appeal.

Despite its provocative subject matter, which resulted in severe cuts for American release (the constant focus on stratagems to conceal the heroine's true sex only serves to accentuate the issue of what is *not* being shown...), "First a Girl" has an oddly innocent generosity about it. It's one of those happy comedies that seems to take a genuinely sunny view of human nature, with disaster always foiled and characters revealing unexpected better selves. Nothing remotely titillating is ever actually disclosed, of course -- Victor's gallantly-turned back is our security for that -- but as in most cross-dressing cinema, one does have to tacitly presume a considerable degree of blindness on the part of the entire male cast if they can really confuse the girl in man's clothes for a boy, Eton crop or no Eton crop...

Jessie Matthews is, as ever, vivacious, talented and charismatic. As her co-star, Sonnie Hale comes near to stealing the show, with his open, likable persona and his cheerful willingness to be the butt of visual humour on screen, coupled with flashes of sincerity that make us care about the character as more than just a comic foil. Griffith Jones gives a fine performance yet again in the somewhat thankless role of handsome but secondary male lead (see also "Escape Me Never", "The Rake's Progress", "The Wicked Lady").

The dance numbers betray the somewhat cramped facilities available (the big production number at the end had to be filmed outdoors against a black night sky because there simply wasn't a sound stage big enough at the studio) and can feel somewhat gratuitously inserted -- I felt that the restaurant floor-show routine, in which Jessie Matthews doesn't even feature, outlasted its welcome in particular -- but the tunes stayed in my head for several days, and Miss Matthews performs with skill and an infectious gaiety that brings an unheralded smile to the viewer. "Evergreen" remains probably the best vehicle I've seen for her superb singing and dancing talents, coupling the comic potential of another masquerade scenario with more integrated musical performances and greater dramatic depth, but "First A Girl" still has great appeal.


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