28 December 2006 | bkoganbing
The Navy Meets Broadway
With Born to Dance MGM succeeded in combining two musical types, the sailor story with the Broadway opening night story. Although the plot is down right silly, that hardly makes Born to Dance unique back in its day. What you take from it is the wonderful singing and dancing and the glossy production values of an MGM musical.
And of course Cole Porter's score. It contains two of his most beloved standards, Easy to Love and I've Got You Under My Skin. The rest of the score is serviceable for the plot. I particularly like Hey Babe Hey in which all the principals of the plot participate. How they got James Stewart to dance must have been a challenge.
Of course Born to Dance is famous for Easy to Love being introduced by James Stewart. Stewart had always maintained that the proof of Easy to Love being a great song is that it survived his singing of it to become a great popular standard. His singing is adequate, but for the life of me, I'll never understand why Allan Jones who was up for the part wasn't picked. Especially since I've heard Allan Jones's contemporary recording of Easy to Love. Stewart is all right, but the part isn't exactly a stretch for his thespian talents and for cryin' out loud, Jones was one of the best movie singers ever.
The other standard is introduced by Virginia Bruce, spoiled mantrap of a Broadway musical star who takes a shine to Stewart after he saves her Pekingese from drowning while Bruce is visiting his ship at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Bruce sings I've Got You Under My Skin directly to Stewart with a come hither glance to lure him from Eleanor Powell who is her show's understudy.
Borrowing from Hit the Deck with a plot of three sailors and three civilian women, Born to Dance pairs off Stewart with Powell, Buddy Ebsen with Frances Langford, and Sid Silvers with Una Merkel. Raymond Walburn is at his avuncular best as the ship's captain who keeps entrusting Silvers and Ebsen to deliver a message to the Admiral and they keep getting sidetracked by their women.
With Powell as the understudy to Bruce and them both vying for Stewart, you can readily guess how this story will resolve itself. Eleanor dances divinely, especially in the finale number Swinging the Jinx Away which Frances Langford sings and Buddy Ebsen also dances.
With all the talent involved and a plot which is a walking cliché, but easy to take, it's easy to love Born to Dance as I do.