At the beginning of Charles Vidor’s Cover Girl, Vanity Magazine holds a contest to find an unknown, fresh-faced model to place on the cover. Wanting to jump start her career, nightclub dancer, Rusty Parker (Rita Hayworth) attends a casting call. Vanity editor John Coudair (Otto Kruger) eventually makes Rusty his next model, when he discovers that her grandmother (who bears an extraordinary resemblance to Rusty) is the singer he used to love. Rusty’s career seems set. The only problem is Danny McGuire (Gene Kelly), Rusty’s boss and boyfriend, who worries that famous Rusty will leave him for someone better.
Cover Girl is a mid-level musical with some memorable song and dance numbers (“Put Me To The Test” and “Cover Girl”). More interesting than the film’s musical elements is its existence as a breakout movie for both Gene Kelly and Rita Hayworth. Kelly starts to prove himself a master of dance with his “Alter-Ego” number. This is a dance done with a reflection of himself (sign of the new technological advancements of the time).
Rita Hayworth also makes a big jump from B-movie actress to leading lady. In fact, what Rusty experiences as she becomes a popular cover girl parallels the frenzy that follows Hayworth’s rise to stardom post-Cover Girl. Finally seen as a star, Hayworth becomes one of the most popular actresses of the 1940s.
Although not as recognizable as other musicals of the era (particularly later Gene Kelly musicals with MGM), Cover Girl is a war musical classic. It mixes a wholesome escapist, love story and beautiful, dancing women that any soldier could adore. The film’s an entertaining musical that still works today as (if anything) a movie capable of helping define femininity in the 1940s and a feast for the eyes of any costume enthusiast.