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Hi, all.  I wanted to talk more generally about On the Town following the lecture discussion.  As much as I respect some of the viewpoints on offer, I'm not sure I fully agree with the suggestion that the film is overly 'presentational.'  If anything, the opening sequence in particular strikes me as being very dynamic and naturalistic.  Or how about that wonderful scene on the subway?  The film feels timeless to me in moments like these.  I'm by no means a film scholar, but the fact that the camera takes us to so many actual places in NYC and we see the three fellas engaging with the sights and sounds of a vibrant, living city virtually negates any off-putting presentational quality.  Are there specific instances of fourth wall breaking that I've missed?  What would that sequence look like from more of a 'fly on the wall' point of view?  I'm having a hard time imagining a difference.  Maybe that's the problem.  Help me out!

I also feel like Gene Kelly got short shrift as co-director of this film.  Yes, Stanley Donen likely did most of the actual directing, and he is very good at it indeed, but that's because GK was kind of busy in front of the camera, choreographing, dancing foley, etc.  I believe both men said in later years that it was almost impossible to distinguish who really was responsible for what when it came to the films they made together, so I just want to make sure GK gets some credit for his role in the actual creation of this film.

I'm not very familiar with the Bernstein songs from the original show, but my understanding is that they were deemed too highbrow for the masses.  I still think the songs in the film deserve some mention.  The musical talent on contract with MGM (Roger Edens, Conrad Salinger, etc.) and Betty Comden and Adolph Green (the lyricists and screenwriters)... they may not be Bernstein, but they're not hacks, either.  "Main Street," the sweet little number in which Kelly woos Vera-Ellen and they dance more of a 'buddy number' is adorable and evokes the small town life that both characters come from.  "You're Awful," my favorite number between Sinatra and Betty Garrett (despite all the ink that "Come Up to My Place" gets) is winsome and witty, albeit in a corny 40s musical kind of way.  And "You Can Count On Me" may also be a bit corny (those deliciously awful puns!), but it very winningly underscores the film's general themes of optimism, camaraderie, and friendship.  These fellows were willing to give up half of their day in order to help Gabey find Miss Turnstiles.  It's a silly inconsequential little plot, but the camaraderie they share is touching.  How about that scene leading up to the "Day in New York" ballet?  Chip (Sinatra) tells Gabey (Kelly) that he knows how hard he's taking not having his girl by his side, and Kelly touchingly and unaffectedly says, "I know you do.  That's why I love you." 

And we got no mention of the absolutely delightful Alice Pearce, as Lucy Shmeeler, or Florence Bates as Madame Dilyovska, ostensibly the film's villain - she's certainly an antagonist to Miss Turnstiles!

I just wanted to draw out more of what makes the film so much fun - I realize they only had 15 minutes in the lecture.  

 

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I agree with the film lecture all the way! I actually posted about it yesterday after watching the film. It feels very hammy and “look at us!” But there is no question they are all talented. I just finished Anchors Aweigh and it was great, not too hammy for me...

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6 hours ago, Warne's Brat said:

 As much as I respect some of the viewpoints on offer, I'm not sure I fully agree with the suggestion that the film is overly 'presentational.'  If anything, the opening sequence in particular strikes me as being very dynamic and naturalistic.  Or how about that wonderful scene on the subway?  The film feels timeless to me in moments like these.  I'm by no means a film scholar, but the fact that the camera takes us to so many actual places in NYC and we see the three fellas engaging with the sights and sounds of a vibrant, living city virtually negates any off-putting presentational quality.  Are there specific instances of fourth wall breaking that I've missed?  What would that sequence look like from more of a 'fly on the wall' point of view?  I'm having a hard time imagining a difference.  Maybe that's the problem.  Help me out!

 

 

I agree with this in at least as far as the camera's depiction of the city is concerned. That is what struck me the most.  The camera does not turn the city into a stage. So in that sense I do not view the scene "presentational."

I will draw a quick comparison to the dance scenes in Top Hat. Let's take the dance competition in the gazebo in the rain and the ballroom dance in the hotel.  While Astair and Rogers don't look into the camera, those scenes are presentational in that they present those settings as theatrical stages for the dance numbers (which are great!).  In On the Town, New York is not "presented" as a stage. It is the setting in which they dance and sing.  The guys adjust to it rather than having it staged or presented as a platform for song and dance. 

I thought that the direction in this scene was terrific in how it traveled through the city. I wonder if others felt that the direction and depiction of the city was sometimes fighting with the the three male leads for attention.  I actually like the tension between the camera wanting to display the city and simultaneously wanting to capture the song and movement of the sailors.

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1 hour ago, Ruhop said:

I agree with the film lecture all the way! I actually posted about it yesterday after watching the film. It feels very hammy and “look at us!” But there is no question they are all talented. I just finished Anchors Aweigh and it was great, not too hammy for me...

I love Anchors Aweigh, too - but it's about 40 minutes too long and there is too much Jose Iturbi.  I'm also not a fan of Kathryn Grayson's warbling, but I think Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra are great in it together and little Dean Stockwell is one of the most adorable and natural child actors I've ever seen.

To each their own, I guess.  On the Town is perhaps a bit over exuberant, but I like it, anyway. 

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Quite a few years ago I saw On the Town in a movie theater that showed classic old films and I distinctly remember all the women in the audience booing loudly during the scene towards the beginning of the film where Vera Ellen is happily dancing while ironing clothes and doing other housework chores.  One of many examples of a film reflecting the time when it was made but totally outdated now.

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On 6/14/2018 at 2:16 PM, Warne's Brat said:

I'm not very familiar with the Bernstein songs from the original show, but my understanding is that they were deemed too highbrow for the masses.  I still think the songs in the film deserve some mention.  The musical talent on contract with MGM (Roger Edens, Conrad Salinger, etc.) and Betty Comden and Adolph Green (the lyricists and screenwriters)... they may not be Bernstein, but they're not hacks, either.  "Main Street," the sweet little number in which Kelly woos Vera-Ellen and they dance more of a 'buddy number' is adorable and evokes the small town life that both characters come from.  "You're Awful," my favorite number between Sinatra and Betty Garrett (despite all the ink that "Come Up to My Place" gets) is winsome and witty, albeit in a corny 40s musical kind of way.  And "You Can Count On Me" may also be a bit corny (those deliciously awful puns!), but it very winningly underscores the film's general themes of optimism, camaraderie, and friendship. 

I really like the original songs, but I could understand why some of them were cut. I don't think it was "sophistication" or highbrow.  They were about sex or had sexual innuendos. The song that is sung in the museum was originally called "Carried Away" and one that Hildy sings, called "I Can Cook Too" that is full of sexual innuendos. I have a feeling some songs that Gabey sings like "Lonely Town" and "Lucky to Be Me" were too difficult for Gene Kelly's voice and maybe that's why they were cut, which is a shame because they are beautiful songs. The original song, "Some Other Time" that is often mentioned has a line that says:
"Can't satisfy my craving
Never have watched you while you're shaving
Oh, well, we'll catch up some other time" ...

A line that Ozzie sings, "Haven't had time to wake up
Seeing you there without your makeup
Oh, well, we'll catch up some other time"

Lines like that has some sexual undertones too. I didn't like "You Can Count On Me." The original song that was the equivalent to that was "Ya Got Me" where they're trying to cheer up Gabey. I think it's a much better song and more catchy, but it doesn't include Lucy Schmeeler. Who knows the real reasons why they were changed. 

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On 6/16/2018 at 10:16 PM, Leilani L said:

I really like the original songs, but I could understand why some of them were cut. I don't think it was "sophistication" or highbrow.  They were about sex or had sexual innuendos.

That makes sense.  Like Pal Joey.  I can't remember where I read that about the Bernstein songs being more highbrow; for some reason, I'm associating it with a biography I read on Kelly, but I could be wrong.  Perhaps it's my own conception of Bernstein's music relative to  the types of compositions I'm used to hearing in film musicals.   

This is probably one of those instances of a person being more attached to what they hear first, or are more familiar with.  I've seen On the Town many, many times; it would take a lot to dislodge the place the film's songs have in my heart.  :-)

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