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Victor/Victoria (1982)

Reviewed by Tom Ender

To say this film is about gender issues is to make a tremendous understatement. However, unlike most films made more recently on similar topics, this film has a very well developed sense of humor. It also has exceptional music and dancing.

Carroll “Toddy” Todd (Robert Preston, this role isn’t exactly The Music Man) is a gay nightclub entertainer employed at the Chez Lui, a gathering place for many in the Paris gay community. Shortly after the movie begins, Victoria Grant (Julie Andrews, in a big change from The Sound Of Music) auditions for Chez Lui’s owner. Toddy catches the end of her audition. Chez Lui is not looking for Victoria’s operatic talent. Victoria returns to her hotel where the owner is waiting to collect what she owes him. She has no money and is on the verge of starvation. He takes her belongings as payment until she can come up with the money.

Toddy is involved in a brawl at the Chez Lui. The owner blames him for the damage to the club and fires him. Things look dark, but the next time we see Victoria she is dining in a restaurant and relishing the food. Toddy comes to the same restaurant and greets her, telling her he saw her audition. She invites him to join her at her table offering him dinner. She has no money to pay but has a plan. Toddy joins in but the plan starts to go awry when the manager heads off the anticipated action. Fortunately for Victoria and Toddy another patron of the restaurant supplies the ignition for what turns the restaurant scene into chaos and they escape into the rain.

Victoria goes home with Toddy who has caught a cold. Through a series of serendipitous accidents, Toddy is inspired to hatch a plan which exploits both Victoria’s singing talent and his knowledge of Paris and contacts there. Victoria will pretend to be Count Victor, Toddy’s new male lover and "Europe's best female impersonator." They meet with impresario Andre Cassell (John Rhys-Davies) and make arrangements for Victor/Victoria to open at his club in six weeks. In that time Toddy teaches Victoria what she will need to make people believe she is a man imitating being a woman. At Andre’s club opening Victor/Victoria is a big hit and they are on their way.

At the same opening King Marchand (James Garner) a Chicago nightclub owner, his girlfriend Norma Cassady (Leslie Anne Warren) and bodyguard (Alex Karras) also watch the show. King finds himself attracted to Victor/Victoria and doesn’t believe she is a man. Norma (an amazing performance by Warren and this is no sweet Cinderella role) varies between being amused, outraged, sympathetic and vengeful concerning King’s interest in Victor/Victoria. She is sent back to Chicago where she informs King’s mob land partner of his seeming change in sexual orientation. Victoria is also attracted to King. The comedy scene is well set for plenty of amusement.

Blake Edwards (of Pink Panther fame) wrote, produced and directed this gem. He is also married to Ms. Andrews, making this a sort of family production. If you are looking for a good film about social tolerance but with a great sense of humor, Victor/Victoria may be just the movie for you. 

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