ON THE TOWN (1949) C 98m dirs: Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen

w/Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Betty Garrett, Ann Miller, Jules Munshin, Vera-Ellen, Florence Bates, Alice Pearce, George Meader, Bern Hoffman, James A. Fitzpatrick, Judy Holliday

The successful Broadway show by Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green receives the Hollywood treatment. The result is an entertaining, tuneful, brilliantly choreographed and directed musical about three sailors on liberty in NYC.

From the website of the New York Times, this contemporary review of the film by Bosley Crowther:

"The Music Hall pulled the wrappings off its Christmas show yesterday and revealed a delightful entertainment for all ages, sexes and seasonal moods. It is Metro's crackling screen version of the musical, On the Town, and a more appropriate all-purpose Yuletide picture would be hard to fashion or find. Gaiety, rhythm, humor and a good, wholesome dash of light romance have been artfully blended together in this bright Technicolored comedy. The holidays should be nicer for having On the Town around.

"Actually, some major changes have been made in the amiable show which caused such a buzz when it opened on Broadway five years ago. The story has not been altered; it is still the same fast and dizzy thing that Adolph Green and Betty Comden, the script writers, originally wrote for the stage. That is to say, it is the story of three sailors who hit New York on a twenty-four-hour leave with two intentions: to see the sights and meet three girls. And it still satisfies these intentions with conspicuous success. No need to change that story. It is one which the screen understands.

"But some of the original Broadway numbers have been dropped and some new ones have been put in, not without possible annoyance to some who liked the show the way it was. The beautiful 'Lonely Town' number, sung by the hero, has gone by the board, and so has the fast and dazzling ballet, 'Gabey in the Playground of the Rich.' Two or three other songs and dances have likewise disappeared, to make way for substitutions. As good --- or better? Maybe yes, maybe no.

"However, the over-all picture flits and frolics with the same carefree delight as did the popular original --- and with equal originality, too. Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, who directed under the eye of Arthur Freed, have actually found some fresh capers for screen musical comedy. They have cleverly liberated action in the manner of the musical stage and they have engineered sizzling momentum by the smart employment of cinema techniques.

"From the moment the picture opens, in the actual Brooklyn Navy Yard, with the three sailors cutting off for New York, the whole thing precipitately moves, with song, dance, comedy and romance ingeniously interwoven and performed. With Mr. Kelly playing the role of the principal tar, the excellence of the masculine dancing is immediately guaranteed. And with Vera-Ellen playing the little Manhattanite whom he meets --- Miss Turnstile, the Subway Cinderella --- his vis-a-vis is assured.

"These two are deliciously coupled in the singing and dancing of 'Main Street' and a new Leonard Bernstein ballet number, 'A Day in New York.' As another of the tars, Frank Sinatra finds his soul-mate and comedy relief in Betty Garrett, who plays a taxi driver with an obvious Sinatra yen. Together they comically warble the familiar 'Come Up to My Place,' 'You're Awful' (a phrase of endearment!) and join jovially in 'Prehistoric Man.' This latter is a new item which has been neatly contrived for Ann Miller and giggly Jules Munshin, who comprise the third duo. Assisted further by Florence Bates and Alice Pearce in lesser roles, these six very spirited young people have great fun from On the Town. And so do we."

From The Movie Guide: "[ON THE TOWN is] stolen by a tapping whirlwind named Ann Miller, flying through the Museum of Natural History in a blaze of green gingham. But New York City never looked more beautiful or exciting on screen than in ON THE TOWN, a breakthrough film that, for the first time, took the musical out of the claustrophobic sound stages and onto the streets for on-location shooting. Perfectly fusing story, songs, and dances, with no production number staged merely for its own sake, ON THE TOWN is so energetic and vital that the screen barely contains it; the actors seem ready to leap off and dance up the aisles. ...

"Louis B. Mayer [head of MGM] didn't want the film to go on location, while Kelly wanted to shoot the entire picture in New York, leading to a compromise in which Kelly was allowed one frantic week of location shooting, filming in the Bronx, the Battery, Coney Island, Brooklyn, the Empire State Building, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, Fifth Avenue, Radio City, the Bronx Zoo, Central Park, Carnegie Hall, the subway, Wall Street, Grant's Tomb, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Perhaps it was the short shooting schedule that contributed to the frantic pace of the film, a jampacked tour without a wasted second. There may have been better songs and even better performances in other musicals, but for effervescent energy nothing has yet come close to the joyous, influential ON THE TOWN."

ON THE TOWN was awarded an Oscar for Best Score (Roger Edens, Lennie Hayton).