Due to travel issues, I nearly skipped the closing night movies, but I was able to rearrange my schedule. By doing so, I discovered the joys of "The French Line" (1954), Jane Russell's follow-up to her popular and iconic "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" (1953). I am not exaggerating when I say I am so glad I did not miss this one, the motion picture of which the ads of its day boasted, "See Jane Russell in 3-D - She'll Knock BOTH Your Eyes Out!"
Arguably, Miss Russell was more famous, certainly more notorious, for her buxom body than her acting talents. Producer Howard Hughes recognized the combination of unplain Jane and state-of-the-art optical illusions were a publicist's dream and a potential financial goldmine, so "The French Line" hitched a ride on the 3-D bandwagon along the road to scandal.
This lighthearted romantic musical comedy, set aboard an ocean cruise ship, leads our star to an impromptu song and dance in the showroom. That tune, "Looking for Trouble," and her revealing costume -- she packed this little black dress just in case? -- caused a sensation with the public and the censors. Eventually, Hughes caved under pressure, recutting the sequence for American audiences. The altered version is the one that went into release in 2-D theatrical engagements and has been utilized for a half century of television runs. The uncut 3-D version was withdrawn from circulation until the film festival I attended, when we were shown a surviving forbidden print.
Those four minutes were outrageous, unbelievable, surreal, memorable, hilarious, and essential.
And eye-popping! Yesss!
Thanks to the Internet and Mr. Hughes, wherever you are, benevolent sir, here is the original footage (although not viewable in 3-D).
The sanitized version of this scene follows below. The objectionable material was covered by substituting the wide angle master shot, so Jane's skimpy attire is distant and underplayed. Her mid-song monologue, photographed much closer, has been deleted.
Next: Remembering Jane Russell in 2-D!