Screen Team Edition: Frank Sinatra & Gene Kelly

Now we are here to consider MGM’s big song-and-dance team from the 1940s, that of Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly. When they were first paired together for the 1945 musical Anchors Aweigh, they were both rising stars, having just been introduced to the movie-going public within the last few years. From what I’ve read, I do get the impression that they became friends after working together on that movie (although their friendship certainly had its problems). That first movie certainly turned out to be a success, enough so that they were teamed up again for two more movies in 1949, Take Me Out To The Ball Game and On The Town. So, without further ado, let’s get through the plot descriptions, all borrowed from the individual reviews.

Anchors Aweigh: While on leave, sailor Joe Brady (Gene Kelly) is looking for a good time with his girlfriend Lola, and his shy shipmate Clarence Doolittle (Frank Sinatra) wants his help and advice on finding a girl for himself.  Before they can get too far, the police ask for their help with a young kid (Dean Stockwell), who has run away from home to join the navy. They take him back to the home of his aunt, Susan Abbott (Kathryn Grayson), whom Clarence decides he wants to go out with. Joe tries to help him out (and get him off his back), but they find themselves in a lot more trouble than they bargained for when Joe lies and tells her they know movie star José Iturbi (himself) and can get her a screen test. They try to talk to Iturbi, but they just keep missing him. Meanwhile, Joe is developing feelings for Susan, and Clarence realizes that he likes the waitress at the restaurant that Susan works at. (Length: two hours, twenty minutes)

Take Me Out To The Ball Game: During the off season, baseball players Dennis Ryan (Frank Sinatra) and Eddie O’Brien (Gene Kelly) tour the country on the vaudeville stage, but it’s time to return for spring training! When they rejoin their team, however, they find that the owner has died, and a distant relative has inherited the team. They soon find out the new owner is K. C. Higgins (Esther Williams), and she knows her stuff! Dennis immediately falls for her, but Eddie doesn’t get along with her at all. Once the season starts, Dennis finds himself being chased by Shirley Delwyn (Betty Garrett). At a big party for the team, Dennis realizes that he likes Shirley, and Eddie finds out that Katherine Higgins likes him! Of course, there are also some gamblers causing trouble by trying to fix things so that the team won’t win the pennant. (Length: one hour, thirty-three minutes)

On The Town: 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. (Length: one hour, thirty-eight minutes)

Since by now, you should have read my comments on those movies, my purpose here is to talk about them as a team. In Anchors Aweigh, as in the other two, their characters spent a lot of time together, and they ended up being paired together for three songs: “We Hate To Leave,” “I Begged Her” and “If You Knew Susie.” Take Me Out To The Ball Game is a slightly different case, as we still have Frank and Gene doing the title song and “Yes, Indeedy” together, but, with the likes of “O’Brien To Ryan To Goldberg” and “Strictly U.S.A,” we start seeing them make the transition into a three-man team, with Jules Munshin joining in. With On The Town, it pretty much IS a three-man team, with them doing “New York, New York” and “That’s All There Is, Folks” as a trio, plus “Prehistoric Man,” “On The Town” and “Count On Me” with the gals.

With three films and a changing dynamic, it’s difficult to nail down commonalities between the movies. To a large degree, Frank and Gene do essentially play relatively similar characters in all three, with Gene generally being a ladies’ man, and Frank playing somebody who is shy and a lot more awkward in his attempts at romance. But in all three movies, they are good friends, willing to help each other out, and wary of betraying each other, especially in the first two when Gene’s characters find themselves falling for the gals that Frank’s characters first liked. And it is that friendship that helps drive these films, whether it just be the two of them, or three, with Jules Munshin joining in. As far as I know, these are the only three times that Frank and Gene worked together (outside of them both hosting the first That’s Entertainment movie, albeit separately). If there are any other times they worked together, I don’t know about them yet, but they are a fun team to watch! I certainly would recommend seeing their three movies together (although I would recommend the second and third moreso than the first movie).

Anchors Aweigh

My Rating: 5/10

Audience Rating:

Take Me Out To The Ball Game

My Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating:

On The Town

My Rating: 8/10

Audience Rating:

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