"The Bronx Is Up and the Battery's Down--"9/10
Here's an idea: Get a group of exceptionally talented performers together, sketch in an outline of a story based on a successful Broadway show, then supply the score, songs and setting in which they can individually and collectively showcase their respective gifts, turn them loose and see what happens, see if it works. Of course, by the time this film was made in 1949, MGM knew it would work, as it had for them many times previously; there was no guess work involved. The result this time around was `On The Town,' a lively musical which marked the directorial debut of co-directors Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, with Kelly starring and also doing the choreography. The plot is simple: Three sailors get twenty-four-hour shore leave in New York and set off to make the most of it. Chip (Frank Sinatra) wants to see the sights; Ozzie (Jules Munshin) wants to play; and Gabey (Kelly) immediately falls into an obsession over a girl he sees on a subway poster, `Miss Turnstiles' of the month, Ivy Smith (Vera-Ellen), and vows to find her. Along the way they run into a quirky cab driver, Brunhilde (Betty Garrett), and a young woman, Claire (Ann Miller), doing some research at a museum. But what this movie is really all about is entertainment, and it delivers it by the songful.
Kelly and Donen bring it all to life through the words and music of Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Leonard Bernstein, and the score, which earned an Oscar for Roger Edens and Lennie Hayton. it kicks off with Sinatra, Munshin and Kelly doing `New York, New York,' in which they enlighten you to the fact that `The Bronx is up and the Battery's down, and people ride in a hole in the ground--' a dynamite opening that sets the stage for all that comes after. And it's pure entertainment that just sweeps you away with it while you hum along with the six stars of the show as they do what they do best, and it's a delight from beginning to end.
Without a doubt, Kelly emerges as the star among the stars, and his solo numbers and the ones he performs with Vera-Ellen are especially engaging; but this is one of those musicals in which one memorable number follows another, with each of the principals getting their own moment in the spotlight. Vera-Ellen has a great number early on in the film, in which Miss Turnstiles is introduced; Ann Miller taps her way through a rousing routine in the museum (in which she is joined by Sinatra, Munshin, Kelly and Garrett) that really gives her a chance to show her stuff; and Sinatra and Garrett engage in a memorable bit in song, as she attempts to get him to `Come Up To My Place.' Through it all, Sinatra exudes a certain boyish charm while Garrett and Munshin provide the comic relief. All of which makes for a fun and thoroughly entertaining movie experience.
The supporting cast includes Alice Pearce (Lucy), Sid Melton (Spud), Hans Conried (Francois) and Florence Bates (Madame Dilyovska). Some movies are made simply to transport you to another place for a couple of hours, put a smile on your face, a song on your lips and just make you feel good; and `On The Town' is certainly one of them. This is pure, uplifting and satisfying Entertainment, beautifully crafted and delivered and guaranteed to make your day a little brighter. The fact is, they just don't make em like this anymore, and it's a shame. Because this is what the magic of the movies is all about. I rate this one 9/10.