Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Summer re-runs: Its Always Fair Weather, 1955

Its that time of the year again, when we dig out old favourites for another enjoyable view. 1955's ITS ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER is a film I love, I first saw it at a Sunday matinee when a kid in Ireland, and it has stayed with me. It seems curiously under-cherished in the pantheon of great musicals, being over-shadowed by Gene Kelly's bigger hits. BRIGADOON in 1954 is a bit dismal apart from a few great moments, but this, Gene's next one in 1955, with co-director Stanley Donen ticks all the boxes for me. 

It was originally intended as a sequel to 1949's ON THE TOWN, but that was jettisoned when Sinatra (who was on a roll then and didn't need to be second banana to Gene any more) declined, so Kelly and Donen decided to make it a dance-oriented musical and hired Dan Dailey and choreographer Michael Kidd to substitute for Frank and Frank Munshin. Made during a period of austerity at MGM, it obviously lacks the gloss of some other musicals but that works in its favour for the gritty story of street life in New York as the 3 returning sailors meet up again after 10 years and find they have nothing in common as it satirises the world of advertising and manipulative television shows - enter Madeline with her "Throb of Manhattan" sobfest. The dance routines are witty and energetic - Kelly on rollerskates, and the dustbin lids number - Gene had perfected his amiable heel routine, Dailey (fresh from THERE'S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS) is great as the advertising man, Cyd Charisse has some great moments too, particularly that dance routine in the gym (as Pauline Kael said: "Cyd Charisse is benumbed until she unhinges those legs") and stealing the show is the great Dolores Gray as Madeline. That number "Thanks A Lot But No Thanks" is a knockout, as is that dress, and I love that line "I've got a man who's Clifton Webb and Marlon Brando combined"! Jay C. Flippen is ideal too as the gangster who wants Gene's protege to lose the fight, thus causing mayhem in the studio as Madeline's saccharine show about the three G.I.'s reunion goes wrong. 
Kelly and Donen though found they could no longer work together, so this was their last movie in tandem, The CinemaScope format is perfectly used here, and Andre Previn's score is perhaps his best ever. It is all a mordantly funny, witty investigation of friendship as the three wartime buddies find their relationship has not survived the peace. It is surely one of Hollywood's most personal works dressed up as a witty musical. More on it at labels.  Here is what I wrote back in 2011:

It is the perfect mid-century story of 3 wartime buddies meeting up 10 years later in 1955 and realising that they don't like each other much now, and indeed Kelly and Dailey don't much like themselves either. Gene is mixing with hoods and managing a dumb boxer, while Dan Dailey has risen to "Executive Vice-President" level in advertising and is sick of the advertising game as he lets rip in his terrific solo number "Advertising-wise". Cyd Charisse is the television researcher who stumbles across them and realises their reunion is ideal for her television show "Midnight with Madeline" for "The Throb of Manhattan" spot where saccharine stories are featured. This is the early days of live television and the movie is a splendid satire on those artificial tv hostesses like Madeline and her diva tantrums. Cyd gets the hoods to confess on live air, Madeline has a hit show, the 3 buddies realise they are still friends after all. It's a perfect conclusion as Cyd joins Gene and the the guys back at the bar where they vowed to meet up 10 years previously.
Cyd and Gene sparkle as they spar with each other, and Dolores steals the show. What's not to love? It is a dark, sometimes bitter take on ON THE TOWN a decade later as the 3 buddies meet again -  Produced of course by Arthur Freed, with songs by Andre Previn, script by Comden and Green; perfect entertainment. The DVD includes a fascinating 'Making-Of' chronicling the fallout between Kelly and Donen, and several out-takes including a terrific inventive (that word again) deleted number between Kelly and Charisse "Love is Nothing But a Racket" which has been unseen for far too long, and Michael Kidd's solo spot with some kids, but Gene did not want that included, after his number with kids in AN AMERICAN IN PARIS! Essential stuff then.

I met Gene at a recording of a Parkinson interview for the BBC in 1975 - Donen of course went on to direct several of my enduing favourites: those Audrey Hepburn films like TWO FOR THE ROAD and CHARADE, Kendall in ONCE MORE WITH FEELING, Peck and Sophia ideal in ARABESQUE, and the marvellous BEDAZZLED with Pete and Dud and Eleanor Bron in 1967. We won't mention STAIRCASE or LUCKY LADY!  Gene of course after this went on to do another favourite of mine: Cukor's LES GIRLS in 1957 - as per label. 

1 comment:

  1. An excellent review as always (despite the name-dropping). The musical numbers (particularly where there is dancing involved) in IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER are terrific but the script is weak hence it has never quite been in the front rank for me. Top of the next tier I'll grant you.