Saturday, May 27, 2006

On the Town

In preparation for my upcoming trip to New York, I had my Tivo record "On the Town," the 1949 movie Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen shot on location. It is one freaky picture. I'm not sure what I like best. Ann Miller makes a very sexy anthropologist ("My father thought if I studied men objectively, I'd be able to control myself." "And has it worked?" "Almost completely.") and is almost certainly the reason I took dance classes as a child. Betty Garrett is definitely the cutest woman cab driver ever, and it is absolutely hysterical watching her relentless pursuit of the weirdly miscast Frank Sinatra. Sinatra gives the role of nerdy Chip (with his outdated 1905 guidebook, instructing him to see New York in all its beauty and its power from the city's highest spot atop the famous Woolworth Tower) quite the college try, achieving a sweetness that's almost creepy if you've seen him in anything else.

Athletic Gene Kelly seems to end up with the dud. I love Vera-Ellen, but to me she'll always be Danny Kaye's girl, and watching her with Gene Kelly is just wrong somehow. They seem mismatched on every level--flawless dancers whose style is all wrong for each other. And Kelly has even more trouble than Sinatra pulling off his role of the gullible hick from Meadowville (forcing Vera-Ellen's Miss Turnstiles to admit that she's only a "cooch dancer"--love that moment of ersatz drama).

Things I learned from the film:

Being a "cooch dancer" involves dressing like Jeannie and doing back bends. Outdated guidebooks are the work of the devil (did I mention that my parents always bought used guidebooks to save money?). If you go to New York you'll probably meet someone from your home town. And guys in drag are always funny (I think Gene Kelly makes the hottest girl, but tall and goofy Jules Munshin has the best moves).

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