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George At 

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On the Town

My face hurt from smiling by the end of the 1949 classic ON THE TOWN. The legendary MGM musical tale of three sailors on a 24-hour leave in New York City, it’s hilarious, patriotic and charming.

Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly and Jules Munshin are our sailors, dancing off the boat and belting out “New York! New York! It’s a wonderful town!”. One of the first musicals shot on location, the boys pop all over Manhattan during the opening song. Sinatra is one of my favorite singers of all time, but I’m always shocked when I see him dance in his films. He keeps up step for step with Gene Kelly, no easy feat. Sinatra said in interviews, “I could never dance, but Gene Kelly made me look like I could.” Indeed.

The plot isn’t complicated. Gabey, Chip and Ozzie are looking for their dream girls.

Gabey (Kelly) falls head over heels for Ivy, “Miss Turnstile of the Month, played by Vera-Ellen with the same enjoyable energy she would bring to “White Christmas” five years later. Chip (Sinatra) is practically kidnapped by cab driver Brunhilde, hilarious played by Betty Garrett, who gained renewed fame on “All in the Family” thirty years later.

Museum anthropologist Ann Miller falls in love with Ozzie. I had never heard of Munshin and he feels like a silent movie actor overplaying his hand, the weakest link in the six main players, but Miller commands so much attention anytime she’s on screen, he eventually fades from view.

Based on the play by Leonard Bernstein and Adolph Green, it’s loaded with great songs, most of which were written for the film. They include “Come Up to My Place”, “Main Street” “Count On Me” and “You’re Awful”. Kelly and Jerome Robbins also inspire some great dance sequences that land the film squarely in the upper echelon of the MGM canon.

Co-directed by Kelly and Stanley Donen (Singing in the Rain) and the second biggest box office hit in MGM history at the time, ON THE TOWN still holds up perfectly. A prime example of a much more innocent time, there isn’t a hint of cynicism in any second of its brisk 98-minute running time.

Sinatra, Kelly, Vera-Ellen, Miller….nostalgia doesn’t get any better than this.

ON THE TOWN gets an A.

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