This 1945 musical has Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra, as two sailors in the US Navy, who spend four days shore leave in Hollywood. Joe Brady (Kelly) is streetwise and popluar with the ladies, and Clarence Doolittle (an incredibly boyish looking Sinatra) is naive and inexperienced. They meet a young boy who is eager to join the Navy, and who introduces them to his aunt Susie, an aspiring singer. Clarence immediately falls for Susie and asks Joe to help him get a date with her. However, in trying to help his friend, Joe tells Susie that they have arranged an audition for her with famous pianist Jose Iturbi (who plays himself, and rather charmingly too). Complications ensue when Joe also starts to fall for Susie – and what will happen when she finds out that there is no real audition for her?!
I might as well admit at this juncture that I am fast developing an obsession with Gene Kelly! Perhaps that’s part of the reason why I enjoyed this movie so much, but it does happen to be a hugely enjoyable, sparkly musical, with a brilliant cast.
Kelly is terrific as Joe Brady (and secured an Oscar nomination for Best Actor; the film was also nominated for Best Picture, and won for Best Original Music Score), and he simply oozes charisma. Although he is third billed, beneath Sinatra and Grayson, he really shines here. (And frankly, if there’s anything sexier than Gene Kelly dancing in a sailor’s uniform, I’m sure I don’t know what it could be!) I’ve said it before – many times probably – but I find his dancing utterly mesmerising, and can’t tear my eyes away from the screen when he’s performing. From the understated ‘I Begged Her’ number near the beginning of the film, where he and Sinatra both dance, to the flamboyant Spanish inspired ‘La Cumparsita’, the energy bounces off the screen. I also loved the Mexican Hat dance in the market place, where he is accompanied by Sharon McManus, who was just 8 years old at the time. Of course the dance which this film is most famous for is the dance that Kelly does with Jerry Mouse (from the Tom & Jerry cartoons; originally, Kelly wanted to use the Mickey Mouse character for this routine, but Walt Disney refused to lend the character out to MGM, so Jerry Mouse was used instead). If you’re thinking that Gene Kelly dancing with a cartoon mouse sounds twee or trite, don’t worry! It works beautifully, and is probably my favourite routine in the film.
Sinatra too is great, although I couldn’t get over how young he looked! He wisely leaves most of the dancing to his co-star, and does most of the singing numbers himself. I didn’t find the songs as memorable as some in other films, but he performed them well, and sounded great. He is endearing and sweet in this role.
Kathryn Grayson looks stunning and glamorous, and undoubtedly has a fabulous singing voice, which she showcases here. As a personal preference, I am not overkeen on the operatic style which she uses, but this did not detract one iota from my enjoyment of the film, and technically her voice is great.
The supporting cast includes Pamela Britton as a waitress who falls for Clarence. She was very good in this, whcih was her first cinematic role. I recently saw her in D.O.A. (1950) and was unimpressed, but more by the convoluted script and the two dimensional character she played in that film. In Anchors Aweigh, she doesn’t get an awful lot of screentime, but she makes the most of it. Dean Stockwell was just 9 when this film was released, and he is absolutely adorable; he’s able to hold his own against his adult co-stars.
Overall – in case you hadn’t guessed! – I really enjoyed this film. It’s not my favourite Gene Kelly movie (that would have to be Singin’ In The Rain), but it’s a close second. If you like watching fantastic dancing, great comedy scenes, or just very enjoyable films, I would definitely recommend this one.
Year of release: 1945
Director: George Sidney
Writers: Isobel Lennart, Natalie Marcin
Main cast: Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Kathryn Grayson
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