Known as “The girl who made vaudeville famous.”
Eva Tanguay was one of the highest paid performers in her day. She made two movies, The Wild Girl and Energetic Eva though she was far more well-known for her stage work. After she died in 1947, it took a scant six years for Hollywood to make a biopic about her: The I Don’t Care Girl.
The I Don’t Care Girl is mostly fluff and little substance. At a scant 78 minutes, it concerns itself with a brief period in the life of Eva Tanguay (Mitzi Gaynor, South Pacific), specifically how she became famous. The film is a film-within-a-film, as producer George Jessel (playing himself) is trying to figure out Tanguay’s life for his upcoming movie. To that end, he sends two writers — Keene (Craig Hill, Tammy and the Bachelor) and Lawrence (Warren Stevens, Bracken’s World) — to find Eva’s first partner, Eddie McCoy (David Wayne, House Calls). McCoy tells them the story of how he met Eva and helped launch her to stardom, recounting how she found love with married man Larry Woods (Bob Graham, People Are Funny), one half of the duo of Bennett and Woods.
However, McCoy’s story doesn’t have that Hollywood ending Jessel’s looking for, so he sends Keene and Lawrence to Charles Bennett (Oscar Levant, An American in Paris), the other half of the Woods and Bennett duo. His tale differs from McCoy’s and ends in an even less satisfactory place. At this point, Jessel wants to know if Tanguay ended up married to Larry Woods or not, that’s the ending he’s looking for. So isn’t it fortuitous that Woods shows up in Jessel’s office? Although he doesn’t come right out and say it, the final dance number alludes to that happily ever after between Woods and Tanguay.
The main issue with The I Don’t Care Girl is missing perspective, specifically Tanguay’s. The film is three men’s versions of what occurred in her life and the natural progression of things should have been Tanguay’s account of events. The film is chock full of song-and-dance numbers to the point where they comprise most of the film’s runtime. This isn’t a bad thing, as they are fun to watch and Levant’s piano playing is particularly impressive. However, for a film which claims to be a biopic, there’s a lot less bio than one expects.
Mitzi Gaynor is charming as Tanguay, really holding her own in the many song-and-dance numbers she’s put through. I enjoyed The I Don’t Care Girl, but I wanted to hear more about Tanguay. Doing some research on her on my own and discovering just how influential she was in the vaudeville scene, it was a disappointment to see her life boiled down to one relationship.
I love Technicolor movies, especially musicals. Something about the color timing used screams old Hollywood to me and I love the glitz and glamour of the lavish costumes of the Golden Age of Hollywood musicals. The I Don’t Care Girl doesn’t disappoint in terms of picture; though there’s some grain betraying its age overall it’s pretty well preserved. I do wish the audio was upgraded or at least re-mastered, as there are some pieces I’d have loved to hear really fill my audio space. As it was a lot of the songs fell flat and lacked the multiple channels necessary to really bring home that big band sound.
Though I’m going to say The I Don’t Care Girl isn’t guilty, I’m not going to recommend a purchase. It’s simply too light in terms of subject matter. The song-and-dance numbers are engaging, but they fail to mask the lack of substance.