Not all Danny Kaye films have lasted well. In my opinion the two that have are "The Court Jester" and "On The Riviera".
"On the Riviera" is a superbly mounted comedy, with gorgeous Riviera scenery, lavish sets, and some ravishingly beautiful women. The mistaken identity plot is an old one but there great scenes of confusion and some good and sometimes surprisingly suggestive dialogue, unusual for the time especially in a Danny Kaye movie.
Dance routines are imaginative and energetic with some statuesque and eager looking chorus girls. Gwen Verdon does a specialty number.
Thoroughly enjoyable, it stands up to repeat viewing.
I can't imagine why anyone would dislike this marvelous film. Danny Kaye does a superb job playing a double role, showing a subtlety of acting ability that some might not have thought he had. He is not, for once, cast like a complete fool. Don't get me wrong; he plays those parts well, and is often hysterically funny, as in The Inspector General and The Court Jester. In that picture he does get to play a part that is not a fool, as he is hypnotized into thinking himself a swashbuckling hero, but it is a role that calls for him to lampoon the part he is playing. In On The Riviera, however, he plays a genuine masterful leading male role: a millionaire French airplane manufacturer with a gorgeous wife who is worth the price of admission. His other role is a traditional Kaye role: an American comedian. The gimmick is that he is an almost perfect double for the suave French romantic lead. He really plays three roles, and the subtlety with which he distinguishes them is superb. He is the American comic, he is the French millionaire looking a little like Yves Montand, and he is the American comic successfully passing himself off as the millionaire, fooling the wife and the valet as well as the general public. The role reminds me of Yves Montand in Let's Make Love with Marilyn Monroe: he plays the millionaire and he plays a poor guy trying to break into show business by passing for the millionaire. All in all, a triumph for Danny Kaye, well decorated with gorgeous females.
My axiom is that any movie featuring Gene Tierney deserves to be viewed, and "On the Riviera" is one of them. The plot is a moderately funny comedy of errors, with Danny Kaye in the roles of an American cabaret-entertainer and of his double, a French hero-aviator. The acting is generally good. The photography is accurate, with bright, spirit-raising colors, worthy of the beauties of the Cote d' Azur (but the movie appears to have been largely made elsewhere). Kaye performs a number of nice, though longish, ballets. Gene Tierney has the opportunity to show her talent just in one scene, when she is uncertain whether she has slept with her actual husband, the pilot, or with his American double (by the way: a bit salacious situation for the early fifties, isn't it?). With her usual professionalism, Gene doesn't steal the show to the pretty Corinne Calvet, who in fact has a larger role. In any case, as soon as Gene appears on the screen, the movie soars: the splendor of her eyes obscures the sky and sea of Provence. After all, "On the Riviera" is an enjoyable movie, especially for fans of old classics.
Comedy, Song and Dance, and Romance what's not to like?10/10
Most actors and performers excel in one field, with maybe a second very good talent. Bing Crosby could croon, and add a little tap or soft shoe. Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly could hoof up a storm, and often add a tune or melody. Frank Sinatra and others could sing, or play dramatic roles in films. Bob Hope and many other comics could toss in a little shuffle and/or tune with their comedy.
But, once in awhile, a multi-talent comes along like Danny Kaye. He could sing and dance, cavort and crack tongue-twisters, play it straight, and just put life and zest into a film. Movie goers since the mid-20th century have seen Kaye perform some or many of his talents in various movies. But, in "On the Riviera," he displays the finest of all his many talents. The plot in this film wasn't new or intriguing for then or now, but it was just the right venue to allow Kaye to show us the best of all his talents.
Kaye's performance in a double role (impersonation) is far and away above that by actors in any other film (see Maurice Chevalier in "Folies Bergere de Paris," Yves Montand in "Let's Make Love," and Don Ameche in "That Night in Rio"). His comedic exchanges in this film are crisp as ever, and he shines in all his song and dance numbers, four of which were written and composed by his wife, Sylvia Fine, for this show. One particularly creative routine, "Popo the Puppet," lets Kaye show his exceptional physical versatility and talent as a dancer.
One of the great attributes of the talented Danny Kaye was his ability to bring out the best in his co-stars and fellow performers. That shows as well in the performances of all the fine cast in this film. What a great performer and entertainer this man was and global humanitarian as well. What great fun and enjoyment for those of us who love all these aspects of entertainment.
I didn't always recognize the greatness of Kaye's talent. In my younger years, I liked the more manly figures or accomplished voices in films. But as I watch films not seen for decades, and as I look for the best of the music and musicals for my family film library, I see Kaye as the much bigger all around talent and top entertainer that he was.
If you like great entertainment with song, dance, comedy and romance, you'll love "On the Riviera."
Kaye won a Golden Globe for his great performance in dual roles as a military giant and an entertainer who tries to win the love of Gene Tierney. A fun filled musical comedy with great dancing and the always unstoppable Kaye, doing what he does best.