cinemaspeak59

Three Sailors and a Girl (1953)

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Three Sailors and a Girl (1953) is a light, enjoyable musical starring TCM favorite Jane Powell.  The story is similar to On The town (1949): three sailors on leave in New York City with plans to live it up.  But first, our three sailors in this film must stop at a brokerage house to invest $50,000 pooled from their ship mates’ savings.  Here they meet Penny Weston, i.e. “The Girl”, played to the hilt by Jane Powell.  And goaded by her unscrupulous manager Joe Woods (Sam Levene) hilarious in his loud pinstripe suit and clashing tie, and with his convincing machine gun delivery, the sailors and their $50,000 make a u-turn from Wall Street to Broadway, to finance a play, starring Penny.

  

There are some nice musical numbers.  I particularly liked “Kiss Me or I’ll Scream”, and my favorite “Show Me a Happy Woman (and I’ll Show you a Miserable Man), with Jane marvelously vamping it up with one of the sailors, nicknamed Porky (hey, it’s the 1950s) played by Jack E. Leonard.  As a dancer, Jane was not as athletic, or fierce, as Cyd Charisse, but her movements are precise and fluid, and combined with her fine singing voice, sensational legs and infectious enthusiasm, Ms. Powell was one of the Golden Era’s great musical performers.

 

Jane Powell talked about MGM not allowing her to grow up.  On loan to Warner Bros. in this film, Jane still has that girl-next-door vibe, but with her blonde-platinum hair, liquid blue eyes, and striking red lipstick, she’s circumspect, hard-boiled and crafty. Three Sailors and a Girl is one of her best performances.   I found her leading man, Gordon MacRae as Choirboy Jones, overall good, but a touch bland.  The other sailor, Twitch, played by Gene Nelson, performed some nifty tap dance routines.  I would have liked for Jane’s character to fall in love with him instead.

 

The stereotypes are broad.  There’s a bespectacled neurotic playwright, and a pompous opera singer. Nonetheless, the sets, costumes and pretty much everything else is first-rate.  You’ll have a great time in NYC with these Three Sailors and a Girl.

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I missed it this time around, but I've seen it before on TCM. Warner's really tried to make a splash with musicals around that time. usually with in-house stars like Doris Day and Virginia Mayo. Borrowing Jane Powell was a good move for them and, as you mentioned, for her as well. I like Gordon MacRae in these early musicals even better than in the later ones like Oklahoma! or Carousel​. The younger MacRae had an endearing sort of doofus quality which was really charming, though I can see how it could read as borderline bland. I know what you mean about Gene Nelson; he was a triple threat (singing, dancing, acting) who could sometimes overshadow the bigger male stars. He usually got some kind of solo dance number which invariably stopped the show, sort of like Warner's version of MGM's Donald O'Connor.

 

Jane Powell was still going strong five years later when she did The Girl Most Likely​, an underseen gem in which she was the only real musical star in the cast, so the focus was squarely on her. Really colorful and fun, with great Gower Champion choreography.

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I missed it this time around, but I've seen it before on TCM. Warner's really tried to make a splash with musicals around that time. usually with in-house stars like Doris Day and Virginia Mayo. Borrowing Jane Powell was a good move for them and, as you mentioned, for her as well. I like Gordon MacRae in these early musicals even better than in the later ones like Oklahoma! or Carousel​. The younger MacRae had an endearing sort of doofus quality which was really charming, though I can see how it could read as borderline bland. I know what you mean about Gene Nelson; he was a triple threat (singing, dancing, acting) who could sometimes overshadow the bigger male stars. He usually got some kind of solo dance number which invariably stopped the show, sort of like Warner's version of MGM's Donald O'Connor.

 

Jane Powell was still going strong five years later when she did The Girl Most Likely​, an underseen gem in which she was the only real musical star in the cast, so the focus was squarely on her. Really colorful and fun, with great Gower Champion choreography.

The Girl Most Likely is a good one.  I haven't seen it in quite a while.  I enjoyed Jane's interviews with Robert Osborne.  She was gracious and relatable.

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