Many years back, I remember my dad hollering from the family room. I was engrossed in some book or other but must have wanted a break because I wandered out. Dad looked up and said that Singin’ in the Rain was coming onto TCM in a moment and he’d thought I’d like it. I’d only been tapping for a year but I’d been in some form of dance since second grade and Dad often called me down when musicals were coming onto one of the movie channels. He thought Gene Kelly would impress me. Impress me might be a bit of an understatement. All these years later, Singin’ in the Rain remains one of my all-time favorite movies and I still marvel at the talented duo of Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor every time I watch it on my beat up old DVD.
Sadly though, I’ve never watched many of Kelly’s other films. I blame An American in Paris. I watched it right after Singin’ and was primed to be in love with it but just didn’t like it as much. I didn’t like the lead actress and the ballet at the end seemed excessive and over long. True, there are many unnecessary dance sequences in Singin’ (a trait I realize Kelly musicals just seem to have) but they always held my attention. An American in Paris just kind of bored me.
Because of that, I never got around to Kelly’s other films really. At least ones he starred in. Hello, Dolly remains one of my favorite movies as well and his choreography is a major part of my love (Imagine my squeals the first time I saw the Wall-E trailer. They were fan-girlish). But his other major musicals? Never got around to them.
So a few weeks back, I was watching Singin’ for the first time in a long time and thought maybe it was time to try out a new Kelly picture. Anchors Aweigh is the other seminal one that came to mind so I added it to my Netflix list, moved it up towards the top and then promptly forgot about it. In the middle of a Doctor Who craze, Anchors Aweigh showed up in my mailbox. In mourning for one companion and not ready to start the next season to get used to a new one, I thought it might be a good time to finally sit down and watch.
In many ways, it’s not so different from Singin’ in the Rain. A man about town and his sidekick in Hollywood get tangled up with an aspiring actress and hi-jinks follow. Include several unnecessary dance sequences and a few more songs then really fit the plot and there you go. I enjoyed the film overall; the dancing was superb and the dance sequence with Jerry that is so famous did not disappoint (Seriously though, Disney made a miscalculation there – Mickey would have made a much better dance partner). I particularly found the use of children in the film to be fun and interesting. The dance scene with Kelly and the young girl in front of the Mexican restaurant was one of my favorite scenes of the whole film, perhaps one of my favorite Kelly dances ever. However, I found Frank Sinatra a lackluster partner for Kelly. I missed the comic character and superior dancing of Donald O’Connor who made a much better foil for Kelly. Sinatra seemed to just be there to look handsome and croon some love songs.
Also, I found Kathryn Grayson to be rather dull and couldn’t quite figure out why everyone loved her character so much. I like a more spunky heroine and she was just sort of pretty to look at with a great voice. But then again, that is really all the character called for so I guess I should blame the writers more than the actress. The film is entertaining but it wasn’t fun if that makes any sense. I never laughed with glee at any line or moment or felt a real connection with any of the characters.
So apparently Singin’ in the Rain will remain my favorite Kelly musical, and my favorite movie musical period. Nothing wrong with that at all.