Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… On The Town (1949)

And we’re back from the sea for another musical romp with Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly and Jules Munshin as they go On The Town with Betty Garrett, Ann Miller and Vera-Ellen.

On leave for just one day, sailors Gabey (Gene Kelly), Chip (Frank Sinatra) and Ozzie (Jules Munshin) explore New York City. While on the subway, Gabey sees a subway worker putting up a poster of Ivy Smith (Vera-Ellen), the new Miss Turnstiles. He decides to find her, and his buddies try to help. Along the way, they are helped by cab driver Brunhilde Esterhazy (Betty Garrett), who takes a shine to Chip, and Claire Huddesen (Ann Miller), who likes Ozzie. Gabey does find Ivy, and they all go out as a group (at least until Ivy sneaks away to get to her job). Gabey tries to find her again, all the while the group has to evade the police, due to the dinosaur skeleton that Ozzie had accidentally knocked over at a museum that they visited, as well as the cab that Brunhilde was driving beyond her shift.

This is the third and final movie that Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly made together (well, unless you want to count them both being hosts of the first That’s Entertainment documentary). And of the three, it was the only one that Gene Kelly actually got paired up with a dancer, as Kathryn Grayson was mainly a singer and Esther Williams a swimmer. This movie is based on a Broadway show with music by Leonard Bernstein, although only a handful of songs were retained, with new music provided by associate producer Roger Edens. Of course, this movie is remembered as much for the behind-the-scenes team of Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen (who had worked together as choreographers for some of Gene’s movies and co-wrote the story for Take Me Out To The Ball Game) being upgraded to co-directors, a team that also co-directed the classics Singin’ In The Rain and It’s Always Fair Weather.

I enjoyed this one. I do have to admit, it took me several viewings over a number of years, but my opinion has improved. While it does veer back into the “sailors-on-leave” territory that Frank and Gene did with Anchors Aweigh, it maintains some of the improvements made for Take Me Out To The Ball Game (TMOTTBG), including the shorter runtime and Jules Munshin as the third buddy. I will say I don’t like the music quite as much as TMOTTBG, but it is a huge improvement from Anchors Aweigh. And, to a lesser degree, I almost wish they had given Jules Munshin a little more screentime, as he is the only one of the sailors that we don’t see on his own when they all separate. But, again, that’s just a minor complaint. For me, this is an increasingly fun film to watch, and one I would heartily recommend.

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD individually and on Blu-ray as part of the five film Frank Sinatra Collection from Warner Home Video.

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