So, who's Kay Armen? Her minor character is essentially her only film role: a bloody shame! She was a well-respected singer, composer, and actress. With her Mediterranean looks(of Armenian ancestry), she was cast as Vic Damone's mother. She participated in the occasional comedy of flower shop owner Mr. Peroni(Chico Marx-imitating J. Carrol Naish) as her skittish suitor. But, she also led 2 group sings : the informal group of most of the stars in her house, singing "Ciribiribin", and part of the grand finale, featuring a reprise of "Hallelujah". Thus, we really have a superabundance of charismatic singing talent, both male and female, along with sufficient dancing talent.
The screenplay is ultimately based upon the '20s play of the same name. Nearly all the songs are taken from the original play or other Youmans compositions from that era. However, the plot construction clearly owes much to the '49 MGM hit "On the Town", which also involved 3 sailors on leave, hooking up with 3 girls. Threesomes of stars of one or both sexes had become a popular format for MGM musicals in the '50s, after the success of "On the Town".
Debbie and Jane were rather similar cute perky young musical and acting talents, in this, their third pairing. However, Debbie was more known for her song and dance, largely thanks to Gene Kelly, while Jane typically specialized in dreamy romantic ballads, often without dancing. Here, we see this prejudicial division of their featured musical roles, with Debbie being the female lead in 2 song and dance stage productions, both including a bunch of sailors. In "A Kiss or Two", Russ Tamblyn makes it more than just a routine stage song and dance by incongruously sneaking into the ongoing production rehearsal, attempting to take over the lead male role, and stealing a kiss or two from the flabbergasted Debbie. In "Join the Navy" + "Loo Loo", singing and dancing with a company of sailors, she is sometimes tossed around like Eleanor Powell in one of her navy musical numbers. She also has a comical adventure with Russ in "The Devil's Funhouse".
Jane has an informal romantic number: "I Know That You Know" with Vic Damone, after an eventful audition song("Sometimes I'm Happy") and subsequent public tussle with Vic(unrealistic, but fun). Previously, she sang "Lucky Bird", alone in her bedroom, in anticipation of her audition.
The third female star is Anne Miller: also a versatile singer, dancer, comedian and actress: nearly always given a hard luck vamp image. She gets 3 dances. The first, with some other female dancers, isn't unusually interesting, although Tony Martin gets to sing some. In the next, she emerges as the tigress "The Lady From the Bayou", with a group of supporting male dancers: rather reminiscent of her vampish dance in "Lovely To Look At". She soon sends her shoes flying, and dances barefoot, thus foregoing her trademark tap dancing, which we see plenty of in front of a company of sailors, in the grand finale.
Unfortunately, the 3 lead sailors weren't as versatile in their relevant talents. Veteran Tony Martin had a great singing voice, as did Vic Damone, but they were not stage dancers nor notable actors. Sleepy-eyed Tony does a decent acting job here, in contrast to his early films. Vic also does OK as an actor. Russ Tamblyn had achieved wide exposure the previous year as a dancer and actor in "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers", and would later have an important role in the musical "West Side Story". However, singing was considered his weak talent.
Regal old Walter Pigeon makes an excellent admiral, and victim of his son's(Russ) and daughter's (Jane) misadventures relating to the middle-aged Wendell(Gene Raymond): director of the play "Hit the Deck". He is auditioning Jane for a lead role, in his apartment and, unfortunately, is caught by the trio of lead men responding to Jane's flirtatious overtures, during and after her song. They start a brawl with Wendell, wrecking his apartment, despite Jane's attempt to break it up. However, later, she blackens his still unblackened one eye after he wants to file charges against the 3 sailors, one of whom(Russ) is her brother, and another (Vic) her newest boyfriend, in the aftermath of the brawl. Eventually, Wendell gives in. Alan King and Henry Slate, as shore patrolmen for the navy, add a bit of humor in their search for the guilty servicemen....Meanwhile, Tony's and Anne's characters are having their problems, as Anne keeps demanding that marriage-shy Tony act on their 6 year engagement or disappear. Meanwhile, Tony pretends to be interested in Vic's single mom, to hopefully hurry a marriage proposal by the hesitant Mr. Peroni(It works). Then, he finally proposes to Ginger(Anne) in an eventful , musical, scene, that includes a parrot, a hidden picture of his imaginary competition, and "More Than You Know".
The film begins with the sailors doing some oddball duties: first in the arctic, then in a tropical swamp, before getting leave in San Francisco. Includes the caper of a rubber birthday cake with flammable rum inside.
Note: Walter Pigeon played Jane's father in her first and this, her last, MGM musical.
Sorry, I just don't have any significant criticisms. "Oklahoma" and this in the same year. Wow!