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Four Fabulous Films,
This review is from: The Gene Kelly Signature Collection (2011) [DVD] (DVD)
Gene Kelly was an innovative and influential dancer and choreographer in addition to his singing, directing, producing and acting. These are arguably his four best films.
'SINGIN' IN THE RAIN': MGM 1952. Probably the most popular if not the finest musical ever made. The story of Don Lockwood (Kelly) meeting chorus girl Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) who aspires to be a serious actress and finds Don's silent screen acting arrogant and pretentious. He, of course, falls in love with her. The introduction of sound brings hilarious and accurate tribulations for the sound men and a tour-de-force performance from the dumb blonde Lisa Lamont (Jean Hagen) who could not sing yet alone articulate. Kathy lip-syncs her stage performance, reluctantly, and Lamont is a huge success. The pattern of the film is such that there is a lot of room for singing and dancing. The dance-duet between Don and Kathy to 'You Were Meant for Me' is pure romance and tenderness. The title song with Kelly splashing along the street in a soggy tap-dancing sequence is a memorable movie moment. The long ballet sequence with Kelly dancing with the seductive and marvellous Cyd Charisse is charming and innovative. The plot found room for the versatile Donald O'Connor as Cosmo Brown showing off his song, dance and acrobatic skills in 'Make 'Em Laugh', and Debbie Reynold's dancing to 'Good Morning' despite her lack of experience (she was a newcomer). Lamont is exposed as a fraud and Debbie Reynolds rightly takes the plaudits (and Mr Kelly). Perfectly scripted by Comden and Green with songs by Freed and Brown. Musical heaven. (103 minutes)
'AN AMERICAN IN PARIS': MGM 1951: Ex-GI Jerry Mulligan (Kelly) stays in Paris after WW2 with dreams of becoming an artist. He falls in love with a perfume salesgirl Lise Bourvier (Leslie Caron). She is engaged, however, to a music hall performer (George Guatery) and Kelly is pursued by an art patroness (Nina Foch). Music is by George Gershwin with lyrics by Ira. Kelly and Miss Caron open their romance along the banks of the Seine in the evening to 'Love Is Here To Stay'. In contrast, he sings, with French children around him' 'I Got Rhythm'. Other numbers include 'Embraceable You', 'Fascinating Rhythm', 'By Strauss' clowning with Guanery and pianist friend of Kelly, Oscar Levant as well as Levant's playing of 'Concerto in F'. The highlight of the film is the brilliantly Kelly choreographed 'American in Paris Suite' performed in true ballet style in a 17 minute sequence of changing sections each inspired by a different French artist. Performed with the winsome and elfin Leslie Caron it is both charming and sensational. Widely held to be Gene Kelly's finest piece of choreography and dancing. An unforgettable film directed by Vincente Minnelli. (113 minutes).
'ANCHORS AWAY': MGM 1945. Story of two sailors on leave featuring girl chasing Joe Brady (Kelly) and shy buddy Clarence Doolittle (Frank Sinatra in his first starring role). Kelly meets up with Susan Abbott (Kathryn Grayson) who is a singer desperate to get an audition with impressario Jose Iturbi who Kelly pretends to know. Miss Grayson believes him. Meanwhile Sinatra meets a girl (Pamela Britton) from his home town of Flatbush, Brooklyn, and is more than content with her. Grayson gets her contract and also settles for Kelly. Sinatra sings 'I Fall In Love Too Easily','The Charm of You', and with Kelly, 'If You Knew Susie', 'I Begged Her' and 'We Hate To Leave'. Miss Grayson sings 'Jealousy', 'My Heart Sings', and 'Brahms:Waltz'. It is the Kelly-Donen choreographed dances that steal the show. Kelly in a fantasised fandango-style routine climbing Spanish battlements, leaping over parapets and swinging on a vine over rooftops. Kelly in a Mexican hat routine with little Sharon McManus in a cute, delightful way. Kelly combining live action with an animated grumpy mouse (Jerry of Tom fame) teaching him how to dance (the first of its kind). Filmed in lavish technicolor and directed by George Sidney. (133 minutes). Rather long but lights up when the two male stars are on screen together and during the dance sequences.
'ON THE TOWN': MGM 1949. The perfect vehicle for Gene Kelly who starred, directed and choreographed it (with Donen). Three sailors disembark from their battleship in Brooklyn at 6am and spend the next 24 hours looking for girls and fun. A bright technicolored comedy. Kelly was joined by Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin to play the three sailors and the love interest was supplied by model Vera-Ellen, cab driver Betty Garrett and anthropologist Ann Miller pursued in that male-female order. The dance sequences were new and exciting from the expressive 'Miss Turnstiles' ballet to the top of the Empire State Building where the three couples rendezvous. 'Prehistoric Man' is danced by Ann Millar in a museum and there is a rousing 'New York, New York' from the three male leads. Other songs include 'I Feel I'm Not Out of Bed Yet' (Sinatra), 'Come up to My Place' (Sinatra and Garrett), 'Main Street' (Kelly and Vera-Ellen), 'You're Awful' (Sinatra and Garrett). Notable for its use of on-location filming in New York City using tourist sights as backgrounds and extensive use of a 'moving camera'. Great fun. (98 minutes).
A highly recommended collection from Gene Kelly with Frank Sinatra thrown in and some truly great dance partners and dance numbers. All at a bargain price.