Heller in Pink Tights (George Cukor / U.S., 1960):

George Cukor in the sagebrush -- Le Carrosse d'or proceeds next to the covered wagons. The muddy, leathery Cheyenne the Healy Dramatic Company pulls into may have been written by Louis L'Amour, but the casino with red walls and sliding painted nudes belongs unmistakably to the maker of Sylvia Scarlett. The impresario (Anthony Quinn) introduces his leading lady (Sophia Loren, opulent, blonde-dyed and quick as mercury), "famed for feats of prestidigitation" but uninterested in long-term relationships; their troupe is expansive enough to accommodate former child stars (Margaret O'Brien), Broadway troopers (Eileen Heckart), and forgotten silent-era thesps (Edmund Lowe). Violence is already more acceptable than sex in the Old West, the duels of Mazeppa are presented after the theater owner deems the adultery in La Belle Hélène too immoral. The spectacle is a smash (Loren in princely drag and toga-wrapped bodysuit rocks the patrons), nevertheless the group bids a hasty retreat; the hired gunfighter (Steve Forrest) who won the heroine in a poker game rides along to collect his prize, and wipes the sweat off his brow with the bloomers she left behind. Cukor never loses sight of the theatricality which infuses both the fanciful incarnations of the saltimbanques and the genre conventions of the Western: If a vista is composed with pale skies and cavalry riders, it is as a background for comediennes under purple and orange parasols. The diva desired by three men in town gives way to the cowboy desired by three women in the desert, the Indian attack becomes an impromptu carnival as the warriors reach the abandoned carriage and romp through the troupe's wardrobe. A small masterpiece of sensuality and élan, in which even the madam in Bonanza knows her Shakespeare: "Ah, we're all actresses, ain't we?" Rabelais' curtains are drawn ("The farce is played"), but not before the stage horse has jumped over the footlights and ridden out the saloon door. With Ramon Navarro, and George Mathews.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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