Musical Monday: Sweet Charity

Posted on April 16, 2007

Yes, it’s Sweet Charity, the mod musical about a dumb hooker and her dead-end life!

Our story starts here, as Charity Hope Valentine, dressed as tackily as her name suggests, meets up with her fiance Charlie in Central Park. Now, you and I know that Charlie’s no good just by looking at him, but as we’ll see, Charity ain’t the sharpest knife in the drawer and instead she waves around her life savings, babbling and singing a truly shitty song.

To no one’s surprise but Charity’s, Charlie’s had enough and pushes her off the bridge while stealing her purse.

Charity heads back to her job as a “hostess” at the Fandango ballroom, where she informs her co-workers of the day’s events. They sneer at her and tell her what a moron she is, as if being a dance hall hostess is the height of accomplishments.

Although we’ll give these bitches credit: they sure can scare the hell out of a guy. Case in point:

LOVE THIS NUMBER. It’s like the whole concept of vagina dentata set to music! There’s more shitty songs than good ones in this film, but “Hey Big Spender” is a classic and with good reason. Paula Kelly and Chita Rivera bring the sass big time and the choreography is to die. More gay men have sung this song while getting ready for a night on the town than we can possibly count. It’s not quite a gay anthem, but it’s definitely the horny-gay-on-his-way-out-the-door anthem.

Later, Charity sees film star Vittorio Vitale (played by Ricardo Montalban in a rare case of his character having a more exotic name than him) as he has an argument with his girlfriend Ursula on the street. Charity has no class, so she stands there open-mouthed for the whole thing.

Through a series of events only unlikely enough for a musical, Charity finds herself Vittorio’s date for the night and he takes her to a mod swanky nightclub where she sees how the other half lives.

And apparently the other half lives in a world of outrageous Edith Head Gernreich-esque costumes and communicates only through fabulous Fosse choreography.

TO DIE, KITTENS. Fosse at his most Fosse. Lorenzo, back when he was a little baby ‘mo, used to gather around every Saturday night with his baby ‘mo posse and watch this number before they all decided what to wear for the night. He’d never admit it, but he clearly wanted to have an ass-length pony tail and elbow length opera gloves at one point in his life. And who can blame him? That bitch is the definition of fabulous.

Charity finds herself back at Vittorio’s place as he inexplicably dotes on her. It’s all too much for her since she’s used to guys with no money slapping her around and she starts to cry. Vittorio offers to slap her and steal her money if it makes her feel better, but she reveals that she’s upset because her girlfriends will never believe she was there.

Vittorio picks through his trash and offers her an old top hat and cane to impress her friends. Because every hooker dreams of spending the night with Fred Astaire.

It must have done the trick, because she hops around that apartment like a baby monkey with her new toys.

With only a couple of exceptions, we tend to hate the songs in this film. “If They Could See Me Now” is okay, but not one of our favorites. The choreography’s Fosse-riffic, but Shirley Maclaine’s ceaseless mugging is annoying in every song she sings.

Of course, Ursula shows up demanding to be let in and begging for forgiveness…

…so the hooker gets shoved in the closet with a beer for the night.

The next day, instead of having the good sense to be embarrassed about her humiliating night, she brags about it to her co-workers and shows off her hat and cane. They rightfully laugh at her for not getting a fur coat out of the deal.

Chita, Paula and Shirley decide that “There’s Gotta be Something Better Than This” and dance their way to a promise to get the hell out of there.

It’s a pretty standard mid-sixties Broadway self-determination anthem, but we finally get to see Chita give Rita Moreno the finger and swirl her skirts on that rooftop even if she’s not doing it with a Puerto Rican accent.

Committed to making something of herself, Charity goes to an employment agency, where she is quickly laughed out the door when she reveals that her only skills are in the oral sex area.

Devastated, she gets on the elevator and heads down, a metaphor if ever we heard one.

Unfortunately, the elevator gets stuck (another metaphor!) and Oscar, her co-habitant, FREAKS



So naturally, she falls for him.

So we get your basic late ’60s “falling in love” montage of slow motion running through the park, museums, landmarks, etc. set to pseudo Mamas & the Papas music. We’re about ready to pass out from boredom when suddenly we find ourselves in the middle of the WEIRDEST musical number we’ve ever seen.

Yes, that’s Sammy Davis, Jr. popping up out of nowhere in all his pink Nehru jacket glory and singing the goofiest damn song imaginable. This has absolutely NOTHING to do with the rest of the movie and truth be told, we could have written this entry without ever referring to it, but YouTube has the clip and we’d be remiss if we didn’t point you in its direction.

Those were some mighty fine drugs they were doing back then.

And speaking of mighty fine drugs, the cops show up and our couple hides out in some tires, when Oscar realizes he no longer suffers from claustrophobia and it’s all due to Charity. See? We told you she had impressive oral sex skills.

Anyway, this realization causes the two of them to act like even bigger weirdos as they…

roll candy-colored tires down a ramp…

bounce around like spastic morons…

…and jump over random fire hydrants on Sesame Street.

We’d love it if Mr. Snuffleupagus wandered out and ate these two right about now.

Charity heads back to the Fandango and realizes that now that she’s jerked around in a garage with the man she loves, this is no longer the life for her and she quits, vowing to tell Oscar the truth about what she does for a living and just how many notches she’s got on her bed post. Hint: her bed post is a toothpick by now.

So she meets up with Oscar and tells him everything. Except he already knew and he says he doesn’t care.

And then he utters the three words she’s been dying to hear her whole life: “smear-proof mascara.”

No, he says “I love you” of course.

Which for some reason, causes her to head out to the nearest Gay Pride parade.

Like we said, good drugs.

Anyway, he asks her to marry him and she once again demonstrates the kind of judgment that only 35-year-old hookers have by taking him to the dance hall to meet her co-workers as well as every guy she ever slept with. Just brilliant, Charity.

In the end, Oscar decides that claustrophobia is looking a lot more desirable than syphilis, and he dumps her just before the wedding. Frankly, we would have dumped her just for wearing that dress.

Devastated, she tries to call her posse and tell them…

….but they’re so thrilled that one of them managed to snag a man that they never give her a chance.

Her dreams shattered to the point that she can’t even go back to her nightmares, Charity wanders the city singing some crappy song and passes out on a park bench. Then Gene Kelly and his magnificent ass show up and dance her away to utopia.

Actually, that last bit didn’t happen, as much as we wanted it to. Instead, a group of mystical hippies give her a flower and wish her peace and love.

Are you fucking kidding us? ALL musicals are dated to some extent, but man, this one is EMBARASSINGLY dated.

The magic hippies bid her farewell and wander off to the wilds of Central Park to protest the war and spread venereal diseases.

And Charity?

Oh please. The only reason the movie ends here is because Fosse couldn’t figure out how to set her inevitable heroin addiction to music.

Next week: Fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly, bitches! It’s Showboat!


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