'Hit the Deck' is not one of the classic film musicals (made during somewhat of a twilight period for MGM musicals), but there are far worse film musicals around before and since. To me, 'Hit the Deck' is problematic but underrated, and it's sad that it wasn't more of a hit (it's not anywhere close to being bad enough to deserve making a loss).
It does have its problems that stop it from completely floating. While nobody really goes to see a musical for the story, more often than not being the least exceptional thing about even the classics, the story is barely existent and unevenly paced. Coming to life in the production numbers (which are full to the brim with liveliness), as well as the comedy of J. Carrol Naish and Alan King, but drags when bogged down by the often too talky scenes and in the scenes with Russ Tamblyn, Vic Damone and Tony Martin.
Of this trio of men, only Tamblyn (also the best dancer of the three) acquits himself well in the acting stakes, being lively and likable. Damone sings wondrously, then again when did he ever not, and has some charm but was never the most exciting of actors, being somewhat bland. Worse is Martin, who is very stiff and wooden throughout and generates very little warmth which does hurt the chemistry between him and Ann Miller (making one question what on earth she saw in him). Admittedly though Damone and Martin fare better as singers than Tamblyn, who actually was dubbed and while Rex Dennis does a good job the dubbing was just too obvious, the voice sounding too deep and muscular to come out of Tamblyn.
The ladies however fare much better. Ann Miller steals the show in the knockout that is the exuberantly choreographed and visually dazzling "Lady from the Bayou". Choreographically, a very close second best would be the inventive number in the fun house between Tamblyn and Debbie Reynolds, who beguiles vocally, radiates personality-wise and will make even the most cynical of people go weak at the knees at the sight of her in that blue dress. Jane Powell is cute as a button as always and sets hearts aflutter whenever she sings. Kay Armen kills it in "Ciribiribin" and "Hallelujah", while Walter Pidgeon effortlessly commands the screen whenever he appears and Naish and King are comic delights.
Visually, 'Hit the Deck' is shot in truly ravishing CinemaScope, looking especially fetching in "Lady from the Bayou" and "Hallelujah". The songs are very tuneful and while not unforgettable (generally the exuberant choreography of "Lady from the Bayou" and the fun house duet make more of an impression) they are not unmemorable or unhummable. "Sometimes I'm Happy", "I Know that You Know", and "Hallelujah" come off best, though "Why oh Why" entertains too.
On the whole, uneven and doesn't completely float but has enough great things that stop it from sinking or being a ship-wreck. 7/10 Bethany Cox
1 out of 1 found this helpful