Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sammy Cahn centenary

When I can't think of any particularly good movies to blog about, I'll look for somebody famous who's got a bithday today to blog about. The two ideas come together somewhat today, as TCM is doing a 100th birthday salute to lyricist Sammy Cahn, who wrote the words to (some) songs in all of tonight's movies. I'm not a huge fan of Anchors Aweigh, but it's airing tonight at 11:45 PM for those who like such films.

Gene Kelly stars as Joseph Brady, a sailor in the US Navy in World War II who has a best friend Clarence (Frank Sinatra), who has the nickname "Brooklyn" because movie audiences across the country would recognize right away where Brooklyn is, as opposed to Hoboken, and not notice whether there was any difference in accents. Together, the two get four days' shore leave! Wait a second. Haven't we seen all this before? Well, Kelly and Sinatra would return four years later with Jules Munshin in On the Town, but there are some key differences. In On the Town, each of the three sailors gets his own girl to sing and dance with, which doesn't happen in Anchors Aweigh. Also, in On the Town, the sailors only have a day to spend in New York, so all they can do is see the sights; there's not much time for a real plot.

The plot in Anchors Aweigh involves one of the oldest Hollywood themes: two guys and a girl. This time the girl is Susan (Kathryn Grayson), a young lady who wants to make it big in Hollywood. Joe and Brooklyn meet her when her nephew Donald (Dean Stockwell) runs into them while trying to run away to join the navy; they take him home and meet Susan. Brooklyn falls in love with her; Joe promises to help her get a meeting with a music producer. That latter bit is all a lie; after all, the two sailors are only going to be in town for four days and will probably never see Susan again. But Joe finds himself beginning to fall in love with Susan....

Along the way, they sing, and dance... a lot: the movie runs about 40 minutes longer than On the Town. Sammy Cahn only wrote some of the songs here, as there are a lot of songs taken from classical music as well as some other traditional songs. Frank Sinatra wasn't quite a dancer before he started making this movie, which must have been tough when working with a perfectionist like Gene Kelly. He's really around more for the singing, since he was a hugely popular singer at the time. Still, he acquits himself well enough if you like Sinatra's singing: I prefer him in non-singing roles. As for the dances, the movie is best known for the scene in which Kelly dances with Jerry the mouse from the "Tom and Jerry" cartoons.

Anchors Aweigh is not a favorite of mine. But it is the sort of movie I can understand why a lot of people would love.

No comments: