Although no slouch as an actress, it was her fancy footwork that defined her, in roles from "Singin' in the Rain" to "Brigadoon."
In that aspect, it's difficult to separate the performer from the character she plays in the 1956 MGM musical "Meet Me in Las Vegas." She plays Maria, a ballerina married to her art. She's a star of the Vegas stage, but finds it repulsive and disrespectful that people eat while she dances. She's kind of a prude in all regards, making more than one mention of her taking cold showers.
Attempting to melt away her icy exterior (mostly by plying her with alcohol) is a rancher (Dan Dailey, "When Willie Comes Marching Home") who accidentally finds that when he touches Maria's hand while gambling, he wins. Whether it's the private slot machine in her bedroom or the tables in the casino, he can't lose. What begins as a relationship of convenience turns, naturally, into one of love before the time is up.
That story is a light, colorful excuse to weave between the film's numerous song and dance performances, shown in full. They range from Lena Horne belting out "If You Can Dream" to a racy number by redheaded Cara Williams (sample lyrics: "I've been tattooed where it doesn't show / But I refuse to rock 'n' roll"). There's even a ballet sequence set to a volleyball game.
The novelty of the old-school musical is usurped by the film's time-capsule presentation of a mid-'50s Sin City, back when it didn't feel the least bit sleazy on the surface. Giving it and the sparkly flick extra gooses of glamour are uncredited cameos by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Debbie Reynolds and Peter Lorre. Children of the '70s who grew up on sitcom reruns will enjoy seeing Jim Backus and Agnes Moorehead.
At 112 minutes, "Meet Me in Las Vegas" can be trying to those unaccustomed to the largely moribund genre, so it's recommended only to the already converted or perhaps those who used to push their luck in the Nevada desert way back when. —Rod Lott