First a Girl | Chicago Reader

First a Girl

Victor Saville's gender-bending 1935 musical comedy—about an actress who becomes famous posing as a man impersonating a woman—was based on a 1933 German film, Viktor und Viktoria; Blake Edwards recycled the same premise in 1982 with Victor/Victoria. Obviously Edwards was freer to riff on sexual themes, but Saville demonstrates definite comedic flair. Jessie Matthews, a major British star of the day, plays the pretend cross-dresser who becomes the toast of Europe, her secret known only to her drag queen partner and manager (Sonnie Hale, Matthews's husband). But the film's real strengths are its dazzling sets and elaborate musical numbers, which rival anything coming out of Hollywood at the time. 93 min.

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