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very nouvelle vague but darkly compelling oddly contemporary
Another reviewer mentioned nouvelle vague and it's true this film stinks of French New Wave. Of course the time was really the style's zenith when even boring pretentious garbage was treated like great art. Hard to take is the acting style that seems to come with the movement -very flat and anti-emotional - a little too Neo-realist for most tastes especially in America where actors tend to chew the scenery. Heck Tom Cruise apparently chews the scenery in ordinary life or at least on talk shows.

However I found there was a kind of chemistry and disturbing reality in Bardot's portrayal of the sex kitten. She was one moment almost catatonic and another bubbly. But how contemporary to see the star as a kind of trapped animal like a fox with dogs and hunters in pursuit. One could see this movie being remade with Brittany or another of the modern celebutantes in the starring role. Was Bardot playing herself? Well isn't that the kind of truth we look for in art? Malle could have been alluding to Marilyn or any modern celebrity caught in the maelstrom of fame. The relationship with Mastroanni seemed especially perceptive. He wants to protect her, but she wants to live and she can't. Certainly think Brittney could relate to this one especially to Jill's own mother selling her out to the press. We've seen that one lately, haven't we.

Not a fun movie but one that stays with you and that's rare these days.

Burn 'Em Up Barnes

great driving and cars never ending story
Watching the driving and racing scenes is great though a few takes are obviously in front of a screen. the action is great except after about 3 episodes of one scrape after another I stopped caring anymore.

Of course originally you were supposed to wait a week between episodes so I guess that gave you time to relax. Really the 7 is strictly for the cars. The fight scenes are laughable.

Still Burn 'em up and Madge and Bobby are likable enough and Tony gets a laugh or two. Just don't bother watching it all at once and maybe skip an episode or two. It won't matter it's really one big chase.

Watch it for the cars though and enjoy the racing. Wow can they ever move that tow truck around.

Ever Since Eve

This movie is a gem
Many screwball comedies of the 30's and 40's are regular fixtures on the TV movie circuit, so, that you might know movies like It Happened One Night or Bringing Up Baby almost by heart they've been on so often. I've seen Ever Since Eve a couple of times on TCM, but that is about the only place you'll run into it. Too bad! But at least it does keep the story somewhat fresh, as much of it works with an element of surprise. Still this is a well-made gem that deserves to be seen more often.

Short plot summary: Marge Winton is caught between eating 3 squares a day and preserving her virtue. She's a very good secretary who happens also to be very good-looking. Every time she lands a job the boss tries to land on her after hours and she has to quit. She happens upon a publishing company that insists that all their secretaries be unattractive and decides to disguise herself and take a job there. She ends up working for a playboy author who is not doing any work largely because of girlfriend Camille (Ralston) The publisher sets Marge to the task of making him write.

The cast is filled with veterans who provide predictable laughs and display well-honed comic chops. Patsy Kelly and Alan Jenkins are great fun as Marge's roommate and her loutish boy-friend. They keep the action moving and push the screwball accelerator down a notch when the story threatens to get too soppy. Likewise, Marcia Ralston with her jealous girlfriend sets a tempestuous tone that keeps us from thinking too hard and would explain Freddy Matthews' (Robert Montgomery) inability to get his life in gear. Anyone who's dated a psycho can relate. Montegomery, as usual, is smooth and bubbly as the boy hero. He played that role so often, he could no doubt play it in his sleep.

While most of the story can be seen coming there is a real surprise when Davies pulls off the transformation.

In contemporary movies, we've had several stars try this trick. It's almost a Hollywood stereotype. Most notably we've had Julia Robert's trying to convince us that she was the ugly duckling sister; Sandra Bulluck as an unattractive(?) cop; Gwyneth Paltrow donning a fat suit and Renee Zellweger actually gaining weight for the part. No one could possibly believe the first two examples, because gosh darn it they were just too good looking. The Bullock example is stunning, because she is in the top .001 percentile of attractive women on camera. The studios have never made her look unattractive. The last two succeeded sort of. Zellweger took on the frumpy role just as De Niro took on the weight in Raging Bull, she wasn't made-up she was. Paltrow is wearing a fat suit and carry's off the ploy, but this is a triumph of extreme make-up.

Davies pulls this off stunningly. Although it is but a wig, glasses and a change of clothes, it is thoroughly convincing. In fact, it is her acting chops that really pull this off, because she really takes on the manners and attitude of the plain girl and can just as easily switch back to the babe. When she tests it out for the first time on us and plumber Al, who is expecting the babe, we are already expecting her plain Jane disguise, but she exceeds our expectations. She could have easily slipped on to another movie set and played the frumpy secretary. Later on she even shows us the transformation from one to the other but it is still believable. She has brought the dual role to life much as Hoffman in Tootsie made us accept the dualism in his drag role. Really, the only thing that is hard to believe in this story is that Montegomery could actually write. Though, we can believe that Davies could get him to do it.

All in all this movie is unrelenting fun and a fine time waster.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains

All About Corrine: A Punk Star is Born
Like Eve in "All About Eve", Corrine "3rd Degree" Burns is on a mission to stardom. She's not especially talented, but she's on fire with rage, rebellion, a cunning desire and a sense of meta-betrayal that strikes a chord in her fellow teen girls.

She parlays a television interview into a club gig with her band of two cousins and herself, two rehearsals under their belt and a trunk full of costumes. The girls can barely play and the cousins leave the stage in defeat. Corrine (Diane Lane) doesn't however. She plays the audience and everyone else as she switches personae and stances. She seems to reveal herself as the young vulnerable but twice in the pic, - in opening herself up to singer Billy, (Ray Winstone) of headlining band the "Looters" and to her agent and quickly regretting returns to her hard-edged persona.

The character comes alive in Lane's hands and this lifts this movie out of the general mass of rock movies. The cast lends solid support and it helps that all the musicians are played by musicians. The music is right too.

The Case of the Lucky Legs

Not the Mason that Boomers grew up to
Raymond Burr's Perry Mason of the fifties practically defined the law to a whole generation of boomers. Words like incompetent, irrelevant and immaterial were on the lips of kids of all ages. Burr made defense attorney the highest calling imaginable.

The thirties version is different. it's entertaining, but in a light comic way reminiscent of the Thin Man series. Warrem Williams plays for laughs and like the thin man is often drinking. The pace is snappy and keeps the interest from flagging. You won't be bored, but don't expect anything like the classic TV series.

Missing here - believe it or not there's no courtroom drama, not even a surprise confession from the character you hardly noticed until Mason started his penetrating questions. There are no penetrating questions for that matter. Paul Drake is "Spudsy" Drake and, like his name, inserted for comic effect. The cops are more keystone and there is no Hamilton Berger D.A.

On the whole OK, but more interesting as a comparison that shows what the 50's television series achieved and what changes made it possible.

The Crowd Roars

This is a treat for racing and auto fans
As suggested in another review there was probably stuff left on the cutting room floor that would have filled in some holes in the plot. Still I disagree that we don't get the gist of this gripping melodrama or that the racing scenes aren't great. Cagney is a hard-boiled champion Indy driver, who goes a little psycho when his younger brother wants to follow in his footsteps. Suddenly, the girlfriend who loves him isn't good enough and her friend is a tramp. Before you can say "You dirty rat!", the two brothers are alienated and the girl is broken-hearted. This sets up a great rivalry on the track and some heated racing scenes.

I beg to differ with the fussy earlier reviewer who lamented that the racing scenes were over edited. I found these scenes riveting and brilliant. Moreover, they convey a strong taste of a brand of racing long past where death was not so rare. They also show us film of some of the great cars of bygone days in action. Nowadays we are jaded with television cameras on board most high level events. But this footage rivals the modern one for pace and context with the advantage of placing us in a wilder sport. The track is more dangerous, the cars more primitive and of course modern racing is much more civilized.

However, the character Cagney plays is remarkably like many modern day racing greats living and dead due to their daring ways. maybe in their childhood they saw Cagney in this flick.

Four's a Crowd

Flynn is a screwy swashbuckling revelation
OK! This is not the great hidden screwball masterpiece. The screwy cleverness is pretty obvious, but it's still funny. The story is adequate enough to keep the laughs coming with the right cast. I won't bother too much with the details because you'll get the idea pretty quickly. This is the right cast however and they keep the laughs coming.

For me the highlights are the scenes with Errol Flynn and Rosalind Russell. Russell has always been great as a comedienne and she delivers here as well, but Flynn is a revelation. Like Frank Morgan and Walter Pidgeon before him, he is the guy who not only can, but will, sell refrigerators to the Eskimos. When he turns the charm on Russell it's like being with that cousin who got you into network marketing.

The final act gets the ensemble (de Havilland,Flynn, Knowles and Russell) colliding together like bumper cars with Justice of the Peace, Hugh Herbert misdirecting traffic. He may have delivered the ultimate screwball line ever with "Children, please don't fight! There'll be time for that after you're married."

Realistically, it's obvious why the suits would not let Flynn take this direction, he was the king of swashbucklers and this would have weakened the brand. However, this movie shows what he could have been. As a screwball lead he had charm, athleticism, comic timing, sexy looks and a great voice, but so did Grant, Barrymore and Cooper and others and they were kind enough to leave the pirate market to him. A loss but I'll console myself with another hundred views of Captain Blood.

The Miracle Woman

Wow! Seeing this movie for the first time is like discovering Beethoven's 10th
I can't believe I've never seen this film before. After all does a Christmas pass without "It's a Wonderful Life"? Could anyone over forty possibly not be exposed to Mr Deeds, It Happened One Night. Meet John Doe or Mr Smith Goes to Washington (especially around American elections)? Yet in my 57 years I have never seen this Capra film until TCM aired it today.

Hallelujah! This is like discovering Beethoven's 10th. I could not take my eyes off this movie for one second. From the very first scene when Stanwyck enters to deliver her father's final sermon and her first, the story grabs you by the throat and won't let go. This movie has all the essential Capra elements: the innocent among the villains and cynics who've lost their innocence; the crowd being swayed by sham theatrics; the hard-boiled woman revealing the heart of gold; and most of all, the sheer unpredictability of his vision and the compelling logic of his moral universe. And how he makes you care for those innocents and even the cynics caught up in riptides of life.

He had such a great hand in directing his actors too. especially the women. Is it possible that Barbra Stanwyck has looked more beautiful or sexy? It doesn't hurt of course that he had a great actress and a stunning women to work with. Her work is truly fine here.

Our villain here (Sam Hardy) does a lovely job of making us care about his hapless victims too. His touch is just restrained enough for us to believe one could fall for his temptations and evil enough to be afraid of. And he's balanced by oddly convincing hero, blind composer David Manners who makes a great innocent as well as not a bad ventriloquist.

This is definitely a must see for any Capra fan!

Beg, Borrow or Steal

But ... it's Fun Fun Fun
This review couldn't possibly contain spoilers, because you've all seen this story even if you haven't seen this movie. An indigent con man desperately wants to impress his daughter and her fiancée's family. All he has to do is hold her wedding in the château she thinks he owns. Of course, he'll get his hands on a château and trouble will ensue and everyone will live happily ever after.

You can guess most of what will follow. But with the Wizard of Oz and his gang of cohorts in charge, the results are predictably funny. You already know where the roller-coaster is going, but the ride is great.

Frank Morgan is the same bumbling charlatan we expect and love. So the surprises have to come from the ensemble and fortunately they do. Their cons and schemes and ever-changing identities keep the action moving delightfully throughout.

Previously mentioned, E.E. Clive's Lord Braemer is a standout. His accent and manner provide a perfect foil for Morgan's plot.

We now rarely get these kind of ensemble movies and that is half the fun of Beg Borrow and Steal. These actors had roots in the variety stage and built careers on virtually the same comic character. They had lots of practice working with other stock characters and getting the most out of the interaction. Early studios also used these stock characters in regular ensembles that could quickly fill in comic stories with their bits. Every member of Morgan's crew of con men provides his own fuel for the comedy and that makes this movie well worth watching.

Man of the Moment

Screwball Comedy with a British accent
A screwball comedy with a British accent, Man of the Moment takes an original premise that is darkly realistic and carries it through to a madcap if predictable conclusion that satisfies more than anything because of the fine acting of its leads.

Mary,(Laura La Plante) is a secretary whose crush on her boss comes to a horrible end when he demotes her so he can promote a girl he's dating. Despondent, she resolves to throw herself in the Thames River. Along comes Tony, (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) to rescue her on the eve of his wedding . He now feels responsible for her and takes her home. She is still determined to end it all, so he can't let her out of his sight. Did I mentioned that he was getting married?

It's all predictable, but the acting of the leads and the comedy of the supporting cast make it enjoyable.

Fairbanks is, of course, charmingly dashing and sincerely devil-may-care, He is the perfect straight man for an assortment of comic characters. La Plante is a delightful surprise. She plays a kind of multiple personality that is part poor working girl and part elfin sprite. Her energy makes the improbable story probable. She even does a passable boy when she dresses in drag to crash Tony's stag party.

The rest of the cast - Claude Hulbert as a goofy friend in love with Tony's fiancé; Margaret Lockwood as a devious fiancé who cries at the slightest provocation and Peter Gawthorne as her long-suffering father carry the screwball element with something of a music-hall touch.

All in all a frothy bubbly harmless way to enjoy an hour or so.


A Masterpiece of Existential Art
Antonioni turned his film into an existential comedy/tragedy.Like Sartre's "Being and Nothingness" He shows reality then makes it disappear before your eyes.

His photographer hero lives in a fantasy world and tries to find gritty reality disguising himself as a bum and photographing denizens of the overnight shelter.

He may have witnessed a murder when he thought he was snapping pix of lovers in a park. He investigates and sees clues suggesting murder. He's faced with the choice to act and decides to ask his manager's advice. His manager is busy partying and doing business.

The Evidence disappears. He gives up the hunt. He sees mimes playing tennis with an invisible ball. Life and fantasy go on. The moral seems to be that you have to treat the ball seriously if you want to play mime tennis.

The Half-Naked Truth

a carny ride of the screwball variety
I was first attracted to "The Half Naked Truth" by the reputation of Lupe Velez. I had encountered her name linked in a romantic but ultimately tragic way to Gary Cooper. They were both reputed to be promiscuous and she at least to be violently jealous. He was mentioned in connection also in her suicide in that he tried to help her but as a married man who had long moved on but remained friends. Further reading suggested she had a very tough childhood the child of a prostitute who would turn tricks herself. So I checked out the movie out of curiosity about her.

As mentioned by other reviewers , Lee Tracy is a driving force in this picture, as the hyper-active scheming cunning press agent, and his pace and presence swept me along in the fun. Yes, his character is a scoundrel. Yet he is an entertaining one that gives a twisted kind of value for his con. That value is delivered by the sexy and always entertaining Velez, she is the payoff that makes most forget that there is a con. However, Jimmy Bates is not just using her he's making her the toast of Broadway.

This story, an early screwball comedy, presents us with two true to life screwballs who create a kind of chemistry that makes a molecule out of elements. When they are together fighting or scheming or making love, sparks are in the air. This is because Velez really is a Mexican spitfire and she gives as good as she gets. Just as Bates is ready to propose to her he discovers her making time with the big-time producer. She also plays a fine fake Princess when he asks it of her. They practically drive each other through the scenes with their energy bouncing off each other and this makes the half naked truth quite a romp.

The supporting cast provide strong support. Eugene Palette takes the sidekick role even further in that he has his own operation going on with chamber maid Shirley Chambers, and he ultimately moves the story along both in the beginning and the end. This is an underrated gem, a veritable diamond in the rough.

It's Always Fair Weather

a mature follow-up to On the Town
It's a shame that this musical is not as well known or often shown as On the Town its younger relative.

While On the Town is a great film in so many ways, it is not diminished by the more mature vision embodied by "It's Always Fair Weather", true to the maturing of the WWII vets who fathered the baby boom. These are the guys who compromised their dreams to raise these boomers

"It's Always Fair Weather" shows the three buddies of "On the Town" grappling with the changes that ten years have wrought as they went from kids in the army to adults in civilian life. It makes for a good story and a great deal of song and dance is hung on this frame.

Once again, the action all takes place within a day. The three vets have promised to reunite ten years after the war at the bar that was their hang-out. They do and, as in so many reunions, bring with them disappointments and distance from their past. In fact, after a lunch at a swank restaurant uncovers the differences that the years have brought, they split up in an unfriendly fashion and play out their scenes separately until the climactic reunion, a surprise cooked up by a cheesy television show created by one of the boys (Dan Daily) at the behest of Gene Kelly's love interest, the never hotter Cyd Charise.

Like every Kelly movie, this is a film that features dance. Here Kelly pulls out all the stops in a feature on roller skates. Kelly shows a knack for skating and dancing that makes me think he could have been an Olympic champion on ice. The number, "I Like Myself" ought to be studied by ice dancing competitors if it isn't already. The exuberance he communicates on skates is wonderful.

The choreography is a highlight also in Delores Gray's "Thanks but no thanks" and also Cyd Charise's paean to boxing and the Stillman Gym, which encapsulates in a short song the history of modern heavyweight boxing. This number also features a lovely choral ensemble made up of rather old and cauliflower-ed pugs.

There are several good songs here, though I'd have to say that Delores Gray is the only pure singer in the cast. Dancers Cyd and Kidd were dubbed . Delores does a great job with "Thanks but no Thanks" which follows a satirical commercial for the detergent company that sponsors her show, "Midnight with Madeline". Her Madeline is a great spoof on television especially as she "ad-libs" with the uncooperative vets, who do not in the least like their surprise reunion.

So, to sum up - great story, great dancing, nice songs and a great cast with lots of good chemistry. Show this movie more often TCM.

Broadway Rhythm

Gobble! Gobble! Gobble!
Hey Gang let's put on a musical! We can use that barn down the road and I know a Hollywood star who's just dying for a launching pad to Broadway. She's read the script and she's sure that it's a winner, much better than that new one that Uncle Johnny wrote. Boy we'll show him won't we?

There's the story of Broadway Rhythm in a nutshell. With a great cast it might have made a passable time waster. But then great casts usually steer clear of lame scripts. So this movie got a pretty uneven cast. When Tommy Dorsey is a standout in the acting department you know you have to worry. Apparently Gene Kelly and Eleanor Powell were originally slated for this movie, fortunately they took different paths in their careers. The movie would have been much much better, but it might have sandbagged their careers.

Unfortunately the leads went to George Murphy and Ginny Simms. Simms wears more make-up than a Macdonald's clown and always has a fake TV commercial smile plastered on her kisser. The effect is eerie. She gets to sing one of the finest songs of that era, "All the Things You Are" and it is almost a complete waste. It's her best moment but it certainly isn't the song's.

Murphy's idea of wooing Ms Simms appears remarkably similar to dickering for a used car. According to the plot he's supposed to be a much better dancer than the youngster he won't give a break to even though he's the son of his father's former partner. To prove that he's such a great dancer, he doesn't dance.

There is some dancing and singing that is worth watching. Most of it comes from Gloria deHaven, who looks gorgeous and natural next to Simms. She may just have inspired the term hot pants with her outfit in one of the scenes from their little musical. Nancy Walker, the comedy relief in "MacMillan and Wife" appears as a wannabe performer and she is a standout especially in her musical number. In an unrelated sighting (to the plot that is) we also see Lena Horne, who is given the number "Brazilian Boogie Woogie". For some that alone will be worth watching. The strangest bit has to be a trio who pop out of nowhere as the kids are negotiating for the barn. They sing like the Andrew Sisters and dance like Chinese acrobats.

Was it a measure of the times that everybody seems to be under the impression that Spanish is the language of Brazil? Gobble! Gobble! Gobble!

Guys and Dolls

It Cudda been a contender
Guys and Dolls is a must-see for musical aficionados. Given what he had to work with, Joseph Mankiewicz might have made the greatest musical of all time. Unfortunately, because of its flaws, it's hard to savor everything that is good about Guys and Dolls. Imagine a beautiful woman with an horrendous scar on her face or the girlfriend Seinfeld dropped because she had 'man hands'. Guys and Dolls is like that.

It was already a long-running hit on Broadway and the elements that it brought along with it made it a surefire winner. The book, an adaption of a Damon Runyon story is perhaps one of the most successful musical comedies ever. Abe Burrows, Jo Swerling and Frank Loesser integrated words and music as well as has ever been done. None of that 'hey kids, let's put on a musical' garbage. Every song belongs to the story and makes the story better. At least two of the songs are fixtures in the Standards repertoire and there are no lame songs at all.

If that isn't enough, the story would stand on its own as a comedy without the music. Nathan Detroit (Sinatra) needs a thousand dollars to keep the oldest running floating crap game in New York afloat. The only way he can think of to accomplish this is to lure Sky Masterson, (Brando) into a sucker bet that he just can't possibly win. Masterson claims he can get any woman he wants, so Detroit bets him he can't lure the girl in the Salvation Army band on a trip to Havana. It's got romantic comedy cliché written all over it, but, chock full of Runyon characters, it provides great fodder for comedy and music.

Michael Kidd's choreography, moreover, is superb - in league with Fosse or Kelly's great work, and although there's nary a dancer in the cast, the chorus pulls it off as an ensemble. For a musical with no dancing stars, this has some of the best dance ever.

Looking at Mankiewicz's bio, I notice that he has only one musical to his credit and this is it. So, he didn't do too bad. This musical is a visual delight. The dance scenes are one of the reasons this is a landmark film. He takes Kidd's choreography and integrates it seamlessly into the fabric of the movie. Where 42nd Street's 'Forgotten Man" sequence creates a world on stage, Mankiewicz takes the stage out into the world. His street scene, following a pickpocket through the traffic of New York, just throbs with life, energy and color. That scene alone makes the movie worth watching.

However, this movie has a tin ear. Although, the music is wonderful, the performance is not. Another fact gleaned from Mankiewicz's bio is that he worked a lot with Brando. This seems to be at the root of the problem. The casting is a disaster and points to bias on his part. Did Brando, star of some of the fifty's most compelling dramas approach Mankiewicz and whisper, 'C'mon Joe, I could do a musical, I can do anything I'm a method actor.' And, he does nearly act his way out of a jam. His Masterson is charismatic as only Brando can be. Trouble is BRANDO COULD NOT SING!!! As a result the romantic ballads that should be transcendent are painful.

To add insult to injury, just as Gene Kelly had done before him, Mankiewicz uses arguably the finest ballad singer ever, not as the romantic lead, but as the comic foil. This is a major artistic crime. In this case, it's compounded by the fact Sinatra was not a comedian. He managed a credible Nathan Detroit, but I can't help but wonder what this would have looked like with someone like Phil Silvers, or Dan Daily. I could see Daily in either role actually. The musical injury extends also to the revue scene with Adelaide and the Kittens in the nightclub and to the singing of Jean Simmons. Viviane Blaine was in the original cast, so, I can hardly blame Mankiewicz, still the numbers which just don't sound as well as they should are painful to a musician's ears. Was this some kind of Bertold Brecht alienation thing. Well, I was alienated, but this wasn't supposed to be Mother Courage was it? All in all, there's lot's to enjoy but you can't help wishing that someone would remake it with the right cast.

Misbehaving Husbands

A delightful period piece
Misbehaving Husbands is a delightful period comedy that is well worth a look. Harry Langdon is Henry Butler, the owner of a department store about to have a big annual sale and it's all that he can think of. In fact, it's made him forget his wedding anniversary, This will, of course, lead to trouble, especially under the influence of his wife Effie's newly divorced friend. When a series of mishaps is misinterpreted by almost everyone concerned, a divorce is threatening in the Butler household. A shady divorce lawyer enters the picture and hell breaks loose.

What happens after this would be impossible today as this movie is rooted in its time as surely as a restoration comedy is in its time. Henry and Effie Butler's mores are set squarely in the 30's, but Langdon's picture of the work-a-holic store owner is convincing because he plays it straight. He walks through the story like an innocent and comes out the end just about as innocent, whereas his wife Effie (Betty Blythe) comes out a little wiser in the end. The allusions to Three's Company are a bit misleading. This is more like I Love Lucy minus the Spanish accent and the scenery chewing. It is definitely situation comedy. but Langdon makes it work with his deft portrayal of the bumbling but effective Henry.

This movie is too short to be a main feature and probably was then, but it must have been a great curtain raiser then. Now, it certainly rates an hour of our time.

On the Town

A Classic Musical that can be watched again and again
The thing that really makes a work of art timeless is that when you go back to it your enjoyment increases. When art is routine and banal, you feel on second viewing that you've seen the scenery before and might as well not bother. Some popular art is so banal you feel you've seen it before even if you haven't - like one more mile of prairie on a long train trip or a one note actor in an action flick. (no names mentioned). I've seen "On the Town" somewhere between 10 and 20 times, but I'm always discovering something new and pleasurable . This latest time around for instance - the continual ribbing and double-entendre aimed at Sinatra. and the brilliant transitions between segments of music.

Leonard Bernstein was probably the most successful composer at bridging the gap between serious and pop music. Like a great athlete, he made the difficult seem graceful and easy. But, as you listen closely you realize that the effortless sounding pop music isn't even pop music at all. The rhythms and harmonies are on the cutting edge. They just don't have that painful angst that the cutting edge too often seems to carry like an albatross around its neck. Looking at all the musical credits it's hard to say just how large his contribution was, but the flavor of his work is heard throughout. As, I imagine, his collaborators left their pop music mark on his serious music. Is "On the Town" the father to "West Side Story"? I wouldn't be surprised.

Gene Kelly's first job was as a dance teacher and it really shows here. Look closely and you can see him taking his co-stars by the hand and leading them to heights they could not reach without him. And, as the other great dancer of Hollywood's golden age, he shows himself to be incredibly generous with the spotlight. In fact, the flashy moves belong to the gorgeous and sexy Ann Miller who dominates the museum scene. In contrast to the earlier work of Busby Berkley and Hermes Pan, this choreography flows naturally out of the action and looks like spontaneous fun - no geometric floral arrangements - no canes imitating machine guns. Instead we see an ensemble looking like they're having a great time and getting laughs while they're at it.

Sinatra is at the pinnacle of his early singing period, though he has little in the way of romantic material to work with. (he's stuck with the cabby after all). What stands out in this movie is his ensemble singing, reminding us that he started out singing with Tommy Dorsey's Pied Pipers. Whenever he joins the ensemble, the harmonies just seem so much richer. This really shows when they group the boys together and the girls together. The boys win cause they have Sinatra on their team.

I could go on and on about the details and the depth in this movie, but that would detract from its most salient characteristic. "On the Town" is FUN FUN FUN from start to finish. What more could you ask from a musical.

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