I now blog over at The Eyre Guide! This blog is an archive of my past posts.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Movie Musical Challenge: On The Town

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
In Movie Musical Challenge, I'm watching all 25 picks for AFI's Greatest musicals starting from the bottom.  Number 19 is the 1949 film On The Town starring Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra.

Yay, the first (and definitely not the last) Gene Kelly film on this list!  I watched this film a few years ago when I was on my Gene Kelly binge, and I know this is a very highly regarded movie musical, but of the Kelly/Sinatra collaborations my favorite is Anchors Aweigh - unfortunately not on AFI's list.  Watching On The Town again though, I think it's interesting to see the influences of Gene Kelly (and probably also of the director Stanley Donen) in the fact that this is filmed on location in New York City (which was a big deal at the time) and the extensive fantasy dance sequence in the middle which seems like a hallmark of a Gene Kelly film.  It elevates this musical since the plot is a little light.

This whole musical is a big show of exuberance and joy - one day of shore leave for the three sailors means one day for them to get in as much fun (and a girl for each) as they can before they have to return to their ship.  The story is light and farcical, as the characters go from one part of NYC to another.  It's not a musical that I completely love - it's a little too fluffy and silly for me, but the characters make it very enjoyable, as do the memorable musical sequences.

Probably the opening number is the most catchy - with those wonderful shots of the characters visiting different parts of New York.  I also love the sweet song Gene's character sings with his Ivy Smith (played by Vera-Ellen, who's athleticism and dancing ability was just as much to be envied as Gene Kelly's!) when he finally finds her again.  But the part of the film that was really wonderful to watch was the fantasy dance sequence.  Which is strange, because I know that the first time I watched this, I didn't really enjoy this 'interlude' from the main story, but with a re-watch, I loved seeing basically the whole story of the film so far, re-interpreted through dance.  It's such a strange thing to see in a musical, yet the dancing and the emotion of it is brilliant.  And for that dance, the whole tone of the film changes too -it becomes more somber and emotional - and that made the whole scene very striking to me.

On the Town is fun, but I feel like there are other Gene Kelly films that could have taken this spot.  Anchors Aweigh perhaps, or even the film It's Always Fair Weather which was seen as a sequel to this film (they weren't able to bring back the other two sailors though - Sinatra was troublesome, and there was apparently little interest in Jules Munshin).  It's Always Fair Weather is a surprisingly great film though, given how troubled the production was, and the fact that it was not initially received well. It's a little bit more cynical too, when movie musicals of the time were always happy.  I guess for me, On the Town is much more interesting if seen as a counterpart to that film!

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