New York, New York--it's a helluva town; the Bronx is up and the Battery's down; the people ride in a hole in the ground.... Well, you get the idea. Those lyrics (by Betty Comden and Adolph Green), set to Leonard Bernstein... more »'s music, have made On the Town a permanent part of the psychological landscape of New York City. The story (inspired by Jerome Robbins's ballet Fancy Free) is pretty slight: Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Jules Munshin play sailors with 24 hours' leave to take their bite out of the Big Apple. When they meet, and then lose, this month's Miss Turnstiles (Vera-Ellen), they scour the town in search of her, bumping into a lady anthropologist (Ann Miller) along the way. Shot mostly in the studio, but with location exteriors all over town, from Coney Island to the Statue of Liberty to Central Park, this 1949 gem was the first of three great musicals codirected by Kelly and Stanley Donen, followed by Singin' in the Rain (1952) and the underrated It's Always Fair Weather (1955). --Jim Emerson« less
Allen Smalling | Chicago, IL United States | 04/13/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Some critic--I can't remember who--defined the musical parts of a musical as "explosions of joy." Which makes 1949's "On the Town" one of the most joyfully explosive movie musicals ever. Before the three sailors (Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Jules Munshin) get to leave their ship on 24-hour shore leave, they are "serenaded" by a heavy-equipment operator who stretches and musically moans "I feel like I'm not out of bed yet." A digital ticker-tape-type clock marks the exact time our boys can leave ship as they launch into the theme song, "New York, New York, a Wonderful Town," (which was bowdlerized from "a Helluva Town" on Broadway).
The plot is a nifty number where all three gobs pick up gals but one of them loses his--through neither of their fault--then spends the rest of the day looking for her. The satiric vein is mined along the day with references to museum snobs, overcrowded nightclubs, hillbilly music, taskmaster Russian ballet coaches and that Manhattan favorite--eavesdropping on the subway.
Just briefly, there are two paradoxical reasons why I think this film works so well. First, we have here a repertory cast whose areas of expertise hadn't quite jelled yet. So Frank Sinatra was allowed to play a shy kid instead of a heavy, Ann Miller was allowed to play light comedy instead of just tap-dance, and Betty Garrett was allowed to BE in the movie before her husband crossed the red-baiters of the Fifties (back then, the idea usually was to blacklist first and ask questions later). Gene Kelly seems to be at his relaxed and versatile best, and Vera-Ellen is a simply wonderful dancer.
The second reason this flick is so good is that it pioneered techniques that were new to movies at the time, particularly a mixture of location and studio shooting (try to figure out when the cast is on top of the REAL Empire State Building and when it's the MGM lot); musical numbers that advanced the plot instead of just providing entertainment (clearly, Hollywood had been looking at Broadway, in particular Rodgers and Hammer-stein's "South Pacific"); and the dream-ballet complete with symbolic decor and an ever-frustrated Gene Kelly symbolically looking for and losing love. (This particular device shows up in "An American in Paris," "Oklahoma," and in backstage form in many other flicks, not necessarily musicals.)
There are people who don't like this movie. It's a little too street-wise or proleterian, call it what you will. But their numbers are in decline, possibly because the Manhattan this movie celebrates has ceased to exist and in the long view has become almost as synthetic and charming as a backstage movie lot. If you think you can handle real-life locations, go with this one; you won't be disappointed."
A NIGHT AT HOME ON THE TOWN!
Sean Orlosky | Yorktown, IN United States | 09/01/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"New York, New York, a wonderful town- With Gene, Jules, Frank, and three cute girls around!In this brilliant collaboration of direction by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, three lovable sailors are on 24-hour leave in the Big Apple. The on-location cinematography and Oscar-winning score provide the backdrop for the rousing, joyous musical. En route to find Gabey's (Kelly) dream girl, Miss Turnstiles of the month, Ivy Smith (Vera-Ellen), he and Ozzie (Jules Munshin) and Chip (Frank Sinatra) encounter a ready-for-love cab driver, Brunhilde ("Hildy") Esterhazy (Betty Garrett), and Claire Huddeson, a tap-dancing anthropologist (Ann Miller). The joyous night on the town spurns many an unexpected surprise for the sailors and their girls: the felling of a prehistoric dinosaur, a glitzy waltz through some of New York's exclusive nightclubs, and the boys dancing in gypsy attire. Other delights to be savored are: Kelly, Munshin, and Sinatra's rendition of "New York, New York, It's A Wonderful Town", Kelly's imaginative dance sequence with Vera-Ellen, and the belting brilliance from the sixsome of the title song make "On the Town" one of MGM's most irrepresibly fun and unforgettable musicals of the '40's. Have a ball tonight and go "on the town"!"
Another botched musical!
Jerry Warriner | United States | 10/08/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
""On the Town" tells the story of three sailors - Gabey, Ozzie and Chip - on 24-hour leave in wartime New York City. Gabey falls in love with a subway poster of Ivy Smith, "Miss Turnstiles" for the month of June. Gabey, aided by Ozzie, Chip and two of their gals, goes on a hunt for Ivy. After several adventures and a disappointing blind date with Hildy's roommate, Lucy Schmeeler, Gaby finds Ivy.
Let me say first that film version of "On the Town" is lively and entertaining, but no more so than many musicals of the 1940s, including "Anchors Aweigh," the very enjoyable 1945 movie starring Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly as two sailors on leave in Hollywood.
The musical score of that film (by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne) is excellent. Sinatra's rendition of "I Fall in Love Too Easily" still leaves me with chills. But I'll leave it to others to argue over which is the better film.
There are at least two ways to review "On the Town" or any other film of a Broadway musical: Take it for what it is, or express regrets over what it could have been. I fall into the latter camp.
"On the Town" opened on Broadway in 1944 and ran for more than 460 performances - a healthy run for shows of the time. It was an "integrated" show, in which the book, songs and dances are tightly bound to advance the plot. Choreograper Jerome Robbins created innovative dances full of energy. The forerunner of "On the Town was the highly successful Leonard Bernstein-Robbins ballet "Fancy Free." The creation of the musical play was inspired by Robbins.
In 1960 Columbia Records released "The First Full-Length Recording" of the show, which included members of the original cast: (Nancy Walker as Hildy the taxi driver, Betty Comden as Claire DeLoone (Claire Huddeson in the film) the anthropologist, Adolph Green (Ozzie) and Cris Alexander (Chip) as two of the sailors. John Battles as the other sailor (Gabey) is not heard on the album (John Reardon performs in his place. This is the REAL "On the Town."
But producer Arthur Freed felt that the songs in the play were too sophisticated for film audiences, so most of the numbers in the play were dropped and second-rate composer Roger Edens filled out the score (I have to assume that Comden and Green were dragooned into writing the substandard lyrics that accompanied Edens' music). All of this confirms the saw that no one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American people.
(Producers weren't entirely at fault. The Production Code Administration's censors were always on the lookout for anything that might violate its strict, moralistic code.)
Even the two of the three songs that were retained in the movie, "New York New York" and "Come Up to My Place," were reduced to shadows of the original versions. Leonard Bernsteins's jazzy score was castrated by orchestrator Conrad Salinger and clever lyrics were dropped or altered. These factors changed the atmosphere and mood of the film.
Among the songs that were omitted: "Lucky to Be Me," which has become a standard, sung by Gabey as he awaits his date; "I Can Cook Too," Hildy's witty mating song for Chip; "Carried Away," another funny number sung by Claire and Ozzie in the museum, in which they express a mutual weakness (the song was replaced by the silly "Primitive Man" number, which was only salvaged by Ann Miller's dancing; "Some Other Time," a poignant song, with a marvelous vocal arrangement, that acknowledges that the 24-hour leave is almost over (there are about two dozen versions of this song currently in print); "Ya Got Me," a propulsive, bouncy song with a Latin beat that the gang sings to Gabey to cheer him up (this was replaced in the film by an inferior, corny C&W song.
For many successful musicals, MGM turned to established outside composers and lyricists. "Meet Me in St. Louis," "The Harvey Girls" and "It Happened in Brooklyn" are just three examples of this practice. Roger Edens is simply not in their league.
So, I suggest that anyone who reads this review acquire or hear the 1960 Columbia album, or even the 1992 studio version that includes even more music.
Your high opinion of the film may change significantly.
Good movie, bad dvd
C. Buoscio | 05/12/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The movie "On the Town" was very enjoyable. The dvd version though is no better than existing vhs versions. The only extra's are the theatrical trailer. No cast/crew biographies or other extras. The video quality is fair and the sound fair. The movie deserved a better transfer, definatley a rush job. Rent, don't buy."
Post World War II Comes To Life MGM Style
Timothy Kearney | Hull, MA United States | 04/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One of the most familiar images of an MGM musical would be Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Jules Munshin dressed as sailors singing the catchy words "New York New York's A wonderful town; The Bronx is up and the Battery's down; the people ride in a hole in the ground; New York New York: It's a wonderful town." While the song by Leonard Bernstein is from a Broadway musical called ON THE TOWN, it is MGM's adaptation (Broadway lovers may refer to it a usurpation) that makes the song immortal today.
ON THE TOWN tells the story of three sailors: the lovable, somewhat cocky, but sincere Gabey (Gene Kelly), his clueless friend Chip (played by Frank Sinatra), and the bumbling Ozzie (Jules Munshin) who are on leave in New York City for a day. The three take a taxi where the driver Hilde (Betty Garrett) falls madly in love with Chip. She wants to ditch the other two sailors to be with her new found love, but the Chip will not abandon his two friends. Ozzie finds love when visiting the museum of natural history when he meets the intellectual Claire (Ann Miller). Gabey has yet to find the love of his life, a woman he knows only as "Miss Turnstiles" from a subway poster. He believes she is a famous New York celebrity, but discovers she is a hometown girl. There are also antics that would seem silly to a moviegoer today. The taxi company believes the taxi has been stolen. A skeleton of a dinosaur is damaged at the museum. A police chase ensues. Still, MGM, a studio that turned making unbelievable worlds into reality into an art form, does the same with this film.
There are many reasons this film is considered a classic. While most of the musical numbers from the original Broadway score were believed to be too sophisticated for movie musical audiences and replaced with what some consider inferior music (MGM's Saul Chaplin once said looking back he could hardly believe that Bernstein's music was replaced), somehow the score does work. The dancing numbers are great. Much of the film (a radical idea at the time) was shot on location which makes the city almost a character in the film. Vera-Ellen fans love this film because it showcases her talent. BEWITCHED fans will also enjoy the performance of Alice Pearce as Lucy Shmeeler, Hilde's unlucky in love and chronic cold suffering roommate and back-up romantic partner for Gabey.
This DVD is a just the film and its special features include just a trailer of the movie. It's a fun movie to watch and brings a viewer back to a time when the world was changing and a sense of optimism was real.