Wednesday, 1 September 2010

New York, New York, a wonderful town. The Bronx is up and the Battery down. The people ride in a hole in the ground

No 277 - On The Town
Directors - Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly

Well thank you Channel 4, I was just wondering what to do with my afternoon and then this cropped up....
This film follows three of the campest sailors in the world as they run around New York, excited with their 24 hours of shore leave. They're planning a fun filled day seeing all the sights and a fun filled night macking all the hunnies. I don't know much - if anything - about Jules Munshin, but the other sailors are Swing God Frank Sinatra and song, dance and falling over hero Gene Kelly. So we're in good musical hands.

Within one tiny musical montage, Gene Kelly's Gabey has fallen in love. With a girl on a poster. Bless the poor old sap. Vera Ellen plays Ivy Smith, the star of Miss Turnstiles, though we don't know quite what that title means. But we do get to see inside Gabey's campy imagination as he ponders the information on the poster. I love how it starts quite mundane and gradually gets more ludicrous. So Gabey is in Love and he is on a mission. He has to go and find his Miss Turnstiles.
In face the first half of this film is designed to set up the sailors with their women. During the quest for Ivy Smith, Sinatra's Chip is set up with the very forward taxi driver. This relationship needs to be quickly looked at because it starts with one of the most gloriously casually sexist lines ever. As Chip sees that the taxi is being driven by a lady he asks:

What are you doing driving a cab? The wars over!"

The fact that this line is never questioned and life continues feels a bit dated, but then it all gets reversed when Brunhilde the cabby (Betty Garrett) attempts the most uncomfortably forward 'seduction' I've seen since that horrible rape-y Pepsi advert. But it all works out well in the end as the two fall madly in love.
I fear that all this post may be is me linking to youtube videos - but I have to comment on the excellent song which Chip sings to Brunhilde. Just because it has super clever lyrics, and I'm a sucker for super clever lyrics.

Our final sailor, Jules Munshin's Ozzie, is a bit of a weird one. He seems to just make weird noises and be a bit odd the whole time. But he does meet the very beautiful Ann Miller and manages to seduce her by looking a bit primitive.
For this is a film from the 40's and if the casual sexism hadn't already pointed out these dated times, allow me to hit you with something so cringe worthy it hurts.
Now, I know that INITIALLY they're talking about ancient civilisation, but by the end they're just being racist. It is like a little racist montage... I can't see any other way to describe it. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't seem to be in the stage show any more.

But, the convoluted songs and dances happen and the sailors all couple up and go for a night on the town (as the name implies). But there are a number of other events which mean that things don't go quite as smoothly as anticipated.
Firstly the museum and the police are after the sailors and secondly there may be more to Miss Turnstiles than initially thought. This leads to a couple of chase sequences and also to a dance re-interpretation of the entire film. As if they needed to fill up some space in the film and didn't know what to do....

Of course the film ends happily. Or does it.... after all, what we've seen here is 3 couples having a very intense 24 hour holiday romance. Chances are they may never see each other again, or at best it will be months before they're next in New York. So our happy ending is a bit more tenuous than thought.

Or I'm a jaded old bugger.

All in all, I think this film has dated pretty badly with too many moments coming off sexist, racist or just a bit uncomfortable for it to be a real classic.

I'd still rather watch Singin' in the Rain.

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