The Sweet Charity musical was peak 60s grooviness, and audiences loved it
Directed by the legendary Bob Fosse, this film adaptation of the Broadway hit showcased MacLaine’s impeccable talent and infectious charm, making it a classic for the ages.
Promotional materials, video clips — we even found a film critic’s review from back in the day, hailing this musical as a triumph — all are featured below. Take a scroll and [re]discover why audiences fell in love with MacLaine’s portrayal of the ever-hopeful Charity Hope Valentine.
Sweet Charity musical: The Adventures of a Girl Who Wanted to be Loved
“Sweet Charity” was a 1969 comedy/drama movie, starring Shirley MacLaine, Ricardo Montalban, Sammy Davis Jr and John McMartin.
The musical film was directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse, written by Neil Simon, and had music by Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields.
WATCH IT: Get the movie on DVD here!
Shirley MacLaine: “If My Friends Could See Me Now”
Sweet Charity musical: The Aloof, The Heavyweight, and The Big Finish dance scenes
Lead Dancer: Suzanne Charny – Director/Choreographer: Bob Fosse
‘Charity’ Film is a glittering musical show (1969)
By Thomas Blakley, The Pittsburgh Press (Pennsylvania) March 24, 1969
Several big roadshow musicals are due to hit the screen later this year, but it’s hard to imagine anything quite as lavish and gorgeous as ‘‘Sweet Charity,” the film adaptation of the Broadway hit which opened at the Nixon over the weekend for an extended run.
Transfer to the widescreen, Technicolor, and Panavision of a stage play is often risky business. When director-choreographer Bob Fosse was in town six weeks ago, he was a bit worried about the total result. Of course, “Sweet Charity” was his special baby that he had brought forth on Broadway. But this was his first film directing effort.
Well, his fears were groundless. For a beginner, his direction is remarkable. And he is backed up by an imposing production team. The producer is Robert Arthur with a screenplay by Peter Stone, book by Neil Simon, music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Dorothy Fields, and photography by Robert Surtees.
Gwen Verdon (Mrs Fosse in real life) held the title role on the stage for almost two years and now on the screen, it’s turned over to Shirley MacLaine. A comedown? Not in the least, for Miss MacLaine is a revelation in this spectacular.
She’s certainly not a great singer, but she does an excellent job in her half-dozen numbers. The same goes for her dancing routines. The story of Charity Hope Valentine has a familiar ring to it. She’s a dance hall hostess in a sleazy joint in New York.
She has the proverbial heart of gold and her current boy Charlie (a sun-glassed gigolo) grabs all her money and pushes her off a bridge in Central Park.
Stuck elevator romantic site
Charity recovers from that dastardly act and after an amusing evening with an Italian film star (Ricardo Montalban), she runs across her first high-class guy (John McMartin) in a stuck elevator in an office building. He’s a very proper person, an insurance actuary, and soon a romance is buzzing along. Naturally, Charity can’t tell him what she does for a living (she passes herself off as a bank clerk).
So “Sweet Charity” heads for a happy ending for its namesake, or will this born loser ever find love and contentment? Oscar, her insurance man, finds out that she works in a taxi hall and he still insists he wants to marry her. Charity is radiant, sets up plans, and yet… you know there’s a joker in the deck somewhere.
Top songs retained from the stage include “Big Spender” (the girls, in the dance hall), “If My Friends Could See Me Now,” “Rich Man’s Frug,” ‘‘There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This,” “I’m a Brass Band,”’ “I Love To Cry at Weddings’’ and Miss MacLaine’s concluding “Where Am I Going?”
Sammy Davis Jr. has his fling
In the midst of these is the number, “Rhythm of Life,” by Sammy Davis Jr. It has little to do with the plot. On one of their dates, Oscar takes Charity to a Manhattan garage where Big Daddy (Sammy) leads a meeting of the Rhythm of Life Tabernacle, one of those souped-up jazz sessions.
“Sweet Charity” is by necessity a one-woman show, but Miss MacLaine’s excellent performance is complemented by a number of fine, supporting acts. McMartin’s outstanding as Oscar as he was on the Stage, Chita Rivera and Paula Kelly are tops as Charity’s fellow workers and roommates, and Stubby Kaye is great as usual in his role of the gruff, dance hall manager (heart of stone underneath that exterior).
Mr. Fosse’s work in staging the dance numbers is outstanding. This is backed up beautifully by the Coleman music and the Fields lyrics, and magnificent costumes by Edith Head. Photography by Mr. Surtees is marvelous.
Summing up: A gorgeous musical for both young and old.
Sweet Charity musical, A Universal release: Produced by Robert Arthur, directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse, screenplay by Peter Stone, based on the play by Nell Simon, Cy Colemon, and Dorothy Fields, photography by Robert Surtees.
In Technicolor. Nixon Theater. Running Time 2 hours, 37 minutes (plus intermission).
Charity ………… Shirley MacLaine
Oscar ………… John McMartin
Vittorio ………… Ricardo Montalban
Big Daddy ………… Sammy Davis, Jr.
Nickie ………… Chita Rivera
Helene ………… Paula Kelly
Herman ………… Stubby Kaye
Ursula ………… Barbara Bouchet