This is first musical film I’ve watched for my Movie Musical Challenge.
I chose this one to watch first for a couple of reasons: (1) I’ve never seen it before, even though it features both Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly, whom I love in just about everything I’ve seen them in, and (2) it was on Netflix.
On the Town is the story of three sailors who have just 24 hours of shore leave in New York City, which none of them have been to before. They start off sightseeing, but soon get distracted by all the interesting girls that cross their paths.
Gabey (Gene Kelly) becomes obsessed with Ivy Smith, a.k.a. “Miss Turnstiles” (Vera-Ellen), who he mistakenly thinks is some kind of big celebrity. Ivy Smith is ridiculously described as a homebody who likes high society, goes out with Army boys but really likes the Navy, paints while she dances ballet, a frail flower who is also a great athlete… who apparently spends her free time beating up piles of dudes while wearing short shorts, in Gabey’s imagination anyway.
(Which, can I just say, I super admire the athleticism required for her intro dance routine!)
Gabey’s obsession leads the boys to scramble all around town looking for the illusive Ivy Smith. The three sailors pile into the back of a taxi driven by Brunhilde (Betty Garrett). Her shift is over and she isn’t really supposed to give them a ride, but she takes an immediate liking to Chip (Frank Sinatra) and decides to try to get him to go out with her. She protests at first that her intentions are entirely innocent, but then she pretty much immediately plants a big smooch on him and starts up a super goofy song’n’dance routine about how attractive she thinks cavemen are.
OK, the bit in the museum was quite cute until all the vandalism and racist caricatures started happening. I mean as much as I would like to have a sexy dance party in that outfit in a museum….
He apologizes and starts telling her all about his hometown, which she finds charming (because, spoiler alert, she is also from his hometown). They have a really, really cute little dance scene together and agree to meet for a date later that night. The pals all meet up at the top of the Empire State Building, where Frank Sinatra sings one of my favorite songs in the whole movie, “You’re Awful” (which is really more romantic than it sounds).
All the themed clubs with the cute little dancers were sorta fun but also sorta… racist? Black girls making that minstrel show mugging face during the “Dixieland Review”? East Asian girls singing with a stereotypical accent at the “Shanghai Floor Show”? Ew. I mean, I know it was 1949 and that’s just how things were, but it makes a modern viewer a little uncomfortable.Sadly, Ivy has to ditch her date at 11:30 pm in order to be on time to her job as a dancer at some kind of burlesque show. She can’t bring herself to tell Gabey about it and she just disappears, throwing him into another obsessive spiral of despair over her. His distraught imagination takes us into a weird little musical-within-a-musical recap of the whole story so far, which did feature some extremely impressive dancing (including the sexiest damn barre session ever) but otherwise seemed kind of out of place.
But the “You Can Count on Me” song that Gabey’s pals (+ Hildy’s awkward roommate) perform to cheer him up was pun-tastic and hokey and derpy and amazing. It definitely ties for my favorite number with “You’re Awful” except that it’s less romantic and more slapstick.Ozzie and Chip can’t stand to see their friend so depressed so they decide to chase after Ivy. Unfortunately, it turns out that the police are after them because of the aforementioned destroyed dinosaur, plus Hildy’s cab company owner is accusing her of having stolen the taxi… which she proceeds to drive like she did steal it to get away from the cops.
They do eventually manage to find Ivy, who is embarrassed that Gabey has now found out that she’s just a struggling small town girl instead of a high society big city dame.
And then we turn to cross dressing for the lulz. Our trio of sailors tries to get away from the police by joining the “cooch dancers” but they don’t manage to get away with it for very long. They end up in the back of the Navy’s very own paddy wagon. The show concludes with the girls begging for leniency and singing the praises of the United States Navy, which I guess somehow works because everyone is still in that WWII era “anything for the boys in uniform” state of mind.
If you’ve seen this one, what did you think of it? And if you haven’t seen it yet, do you think it sounds appealing?