At the end of WWII, a Gene Kelly – Frank Sinatra movie was released, Anchors Aweigh, about two sailors on leave in Hollywood. The musical was a big hit, and so a sequel was made four years later, that disproved the axiom “the sequel is never the equal.” On The Town was blessed with three great dancers (Gene Kelly, Ann Miller and Vera-Ellen), two great comic actors (Betty Garrett and Jules Munshin) and Ol’ Blue Eyes (before he was Ol’ Blue Eyes).
There are several things I could write about concerning this movie, such as the fact that the great Leonard Bernstein song “New York, New York” came from this show. Or the fact that the movie was the film debut of Alice Pearce. Pearce is another one of those actors who inspire the “That’s him!” reaction I wrote of in another blog. After all, I’m betting that everyone who reads this will say to themselves, “Who is Alice Pearce?” But mention the nosy neighbor Gladys Kravitz, of Bewitched fame, and everyone who grew up with Bewitched or watched the reruns automatically pulls up, in their memories, the chinless neighbor of the Stephens.
Of course, there’s Sinatra. Who couldn’t rhapsodize about his singing, or the surprise that he turned out to be? After all, to successfully dance with Gene Kelly? Who knew that the bobby-soxer heartthrob had it in him to both act and dance?
But for me, the joy of the movie is Jules Munshin, a character actor on the MGM lot in the 40’s and 50’s. When making the movie, Take Me Out To The Ball Game, the year before, it was discovered that Munshin had great chemistry with Kelly and Sinatra, and that led to him being cast in On The Town. I enjoy watching him on the screen, and I am disappointed that he didn’t make more movies. However, the stage was his first love, and he preferred doing Broadway, so his film output was limited.
However, I did get to see him onstage. In the 60’s, Munshin spent several years touring the U.S. in the road production of Oliver!, in which he played Fagan. One year, when Oliver! came to Portland, where I grew up, Mom took me to see it. I truly loved it.
Here is the trailer for On The Town. Please watch it to the end, because you will see how much different things are today.